The world’s newest profession: clocking

O. O. McIntyre // Metropolitan congestion has spawned a new and odd profession that may soon become a part of the correspondent school curriculum. It is known as “clocking” and requires no office, no personality whatever and only a rudimentary education.

It pays from $50 to $100 a week. All the equipment a clocker needs is a rain coat, rubbers, an eye for preciseness and a calloused thumb. Clockers work chiefly for chain store magnates, and it is their job to flush out suitable spots for branch stores.

Branch stores are located by science of mathematics. Even a busy corner may be a poor place for a certain type of shop, and a lonely neighborhood the ideal spot for another sort. The clocker’s job is to tabulate the crowds and characteristics.

A new store, obviously, is opened up where patronage is assured. With the clocker’s statistics it is now almost possible to tell precisely how much patronage may be expected at a given location. The antiquated method of “trying out” a neighborhood is as dead as King Tut.

The clocker stands on the street corners early and late with one hand in a side pocket working a clock—a compact recording device that is cousin to a stop watch. He counts autos, men, women and children—and the proportionate number of each in a given period.

He can tell neighborhood shoppers instantly, as the result of a practiced eye, from men and women who are merely on their way to terminals or other passenger conveyances.  He knows a couple wearing evening clothes in an important limousine are not likely to stop at a chain grocery. But they may need cigarettes or gasoline.

Merely counting passers-by will not suffice. A woman wheeling a baby carriage is not likely to patronize a man’s hat store. The clocker must record types and, if he holds his job, must make astonishingly accurate guesses whether they are neighborhood folk, train catchers or casual passers-by.

Syndicated column, August 22, 1929

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