Solving POS Problems: Cash register systems & equipment

Accepting credit cards is a great way to increase the amount of the average sale for your business, offer customers more payment convenience -- and send your blood pressure through the roof from time to time.

Accepting credit cards is a great way to increase the amount of the average sale for your business, offer customers more payment convenience — and send your blood pressure through the roof from time to time.

What merchant among us hasn’t looked up at a line of customers, growing more impatient by the second, when the credit card terminal suddenly decides it can’t read the magnetic stripe on the back of a customer’s card? As the machine digs in its heels and rebuffs attempt after attempt to swipe the card, there’s a flurry of gratuitous watch-checking down the line and now-audible grumbling about how well your competitor’s credit card machines work. What would Joe Retail Whiz do?

Simple: Abandon the swipe machine to its moodiness, call for an authorization, obtain an imprint of the customer’s card, and have the customer sign the sales draft. “Thank you. Next, please?”

Ah, you don’t have an imprinter? Get one for just such situations. According to Bank One’s Merchant Services resource center, “Getting an imprint of the card and the signature reduces your chargeback liability.”

To assure you’re as prepared to troubleshoot at the point of sale as you can possibly be, make sure you have seven areas covered:

  • Correct hardware — any terminals, swipers or imprinters necessary
  • The correct software if you’re using computers
  • Data entry service or data entry function
  • Sufficient on-site training for your employees
  • Telephone support in case there’s a sticky problem
  • A quickly-reached hardware service agent
  • Sufficient supplies — paper receipts, pens, etc.

With those in place, you’ll minimize problems. However, life will remain interesting. Here’s what Bank One recommends you do in tight spots:

First, ensure that you review all procedures with new employees — even if they may not immediately be responsible for processing sales. Make sure that your policies and practices are consistent, fair and efficient.

Problem: A customer wants a cash refund for merchandise purchased on a credit card.

Answer: “I’m sorry, ma’am, credit card purchases can’t be returned for cash because processing requirements for credit cards and cash transactions are different. I can give you a credit card voucher, though.”

Problem: How much money should you keep in your account to cover such things as chargebacks, discount fees and annual fees?

Answer: Bank One recommends keeping at least twice your average ticket amount plus your normal balance. Your account shouldn’t overdraw.

Problem: “Boy, we’re getting a lot of problems with returns.”

Answer: Post a clear return policy near your register, and include your return policy on the sales receipt. Your customers know what the deal is, and it gives your sales staff something to back them up with customers.

Problem: “I had a guy the other day whose card stripe was worn, and he insisted I manually enter the number. I did, and it was fine, but it was just a little suspicious.”

Answer: Any time you swipe the card and it won’t go through, key-enter the card number and expiration date. But be sure you make an imprint of the card and have the customer sign the sales draft. Suggest that the customer request a new card from their card issuer. If it looks fishy, call for a Code 10 authorization — voice authorization for suspicious transactions.

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