Phone of the Day: Aiphone Marketcom MC-60/4A Intercom at Dollar Tree

On a visit to central Indiana this weekend, I spotted this Aiphone Marketcom Intercom only handset at the checkout of the dollar store.  An analog regular telephone broken cordless handset is also sitting on the front checkout area as well.  Do you know how cheap it would be to get low cost Cisco SPA SIP phones and a Snom pa1 and tie that into paging and intercom in these stores instead?   You could buy one unit instead of separate wiring for the dollar store and use VoIP for the central office phone lines and save big money!

The Aiphone device could be found a lot in the late 1970s and 1980s in retail stores across the country, when mechanical 1a2 telephone systems with primitive intercom features proliferated the market.  A product like Aiphone was specialized as the fill in need when a 1a2 system couldn’t handle intercom paths.  

This setup was quite common in older 1980s Wal Marts.  F&M distributors, a defunct discount drug chain, used the Aiphone devices for paging and intercom.  I also spotted these in the old days at TJ Maxx stores, ToysRUs stores, Ultra Foods in Indiana, Jewel Osco stores in the early 1990s and Martins Supermarkets in the South Bend area. 

So with the advent of modern electronic and digital key systems in the 1980s, retailers pulled these Aiphone intercoms alongside 1a2 systems out in droves.  Why wire for two separate systems and have different equipment when a key system such as the Nortel Norstar, ATT Partner/Merlin, Toshiba Strata, Rolm Redwood,  Tie Meritor, or other 1980s and 1990s key systems combined the intercom/paging into the phone system.

With that said, I still see countless retailers who haven’t migrated to the latest era of retail telephony. The crazy thing is that these retailers buy a key system or even a PBX for their stores, but they do not use the page output from the phone system, nor do they use the intercom extension dialing built into the phone system, but instead they use the separate intercom units.   

Today’s retailers include some Roundys supermarkets in Wisconsin with Toshiba and Aiphone, Marsh Supermarkets in Indianapolis with Nortel Norstar and Aiphone and Lucky Supermarkets in Petaluma whuch uses Cisco 7900 IP phones and separate Aiphone intercoms for paging and intercom.  

Seems like a waste to me, especially when you look at a retailer like Strack and Van Til with the Cisco 6900 phones in my earlier post who has a very advanced Cisco IP system and paging and internal dialing is done from any phone instead of some old school handset.