Friday, September 28, 2012

Question number 8 of 10 when buying a cash register

When you buy a cash register you need to ask yourself this very important question "Do I want to program on my own or have it done?"

Well do you? Regardless of whether you buy a SAM4s or Sharp Cash Register it is going to need some level of programming. Some registers require a great deal of programming depending on what application you will be using it in. Restaurants require more programming in most cases however a retail store that wants to bar code scan can also require many hours of work.

In my humble opinion if you are cost conscience as most of us are than you should do as much of the programming as possible. Doing your own programming will save you money now as well as in the long run. However keep in mind we cash register guys charge for programming because it can take a lot of time! Do you have the time to program the register yourself? Here are a couple of estimates based on my experience for an average end user to program a cash register.
  • Simple 10 department machine with alpha, 2 tax rates, discount and text logo = 2 to 3 hours
  • 20 departments with alpha, 2 tax rates, 2 discount keys, 4 payment keys, graphic logo, macro key and a few misc items = 4 to 5 hours
  • 20 departments with alpha, 300 PLU / UPC's (without software and import file), 2 tax rates, 2 discount keys, 4 payment keys, graphic logo, macro key and a few misc items = 7 to 9 hours
  • 20 departments with alpha, 3000 PLU / UPC's, (with software and import file) 2 tax rates, 2 discount keys, 4 payment keys, graphic logo, macro key and a few misc items = 5 to 6 hours
  • 100 menu item fast food register with no kitchen printer = 3 to 5 hours
  • 300 menu item fast food register with no kitchen printer = 5 to 7 hours
  • 100 menu item fast food register with with kitchen printer requiring modifiers  = 8 to 10 hours
  • 100 menu item table service register with kitchen printer requiring modifiers = 12 to 15 hours
You get the picture, it takes lots of time to get a cash register ready. Some of the items being programmed are specific to cash registers and you would probably never have encountered any of these items before but a lot of it is just the time consuming work of plugging in hundreds of names, prices, status, etc.

A cash register with a large multi-line display is almost always faster to program. You can accomplish more line of data in one program job opposed to a register with a one or two line display it is one program for name, another for price, another for status, another for link, etc etc.

So one way or another you are going to pay for programming either with your time or with you money! Cash register dealers have to charge for their time or they won't be around long. No one would expect a professional CPA to install Quick Books for a couple hundred bucks just because quick books is cheap!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Help me select my new cash register part seven

Here is my question seven of ten from our series "Help me pick the right cash register for my business" Question number seven is"Do I need integrated credit card / gift card?"

In my humble opinion in almost 100% of the case if you take credit card and/or gift card in your business you should interface your cash register with the credit card payments. Why you may be asking since it can be expensive? There are three huge reasons why you want to interface and each one can and should make you more money.

  1. Speed, your cashiers have fewer buttons to press and no waiting for a terminal to dial out or another cashier using the credit card machine
  2. Reduced errors. Because the cash register and credit card are fully integrated the cashier does not have to re-enter the amount of the sale. They simply press the credit card button, swipe the card and the register gets the auth at high speed. No longer does the cashier have to get a subtotal from the register, move to the credit card terminal and key in the total and swipe the card. More often then you think a cashier will enter a $19.75 dollar sale in as $9.75 or $1.97 etc etc. The customer never seems to notice when it is in their favor. The cashier is not stealing they are just trying to be quick and make mistakes.When interfaced even if the cashier over-ride the amount the cash register will error until the entire amount is satisfied.
  3. Reduced Theft. Cashiers will often not ring a credit card sale into the cash register and take out the cash from the register from another sale of the same amount that they did ring in. When interfaced the ONLY way to get an auth on a card is to have a sale rang in. Many merchants are being stolen from like this right now and they have no idea because your register will still balance if a thief is good and believe me some of them are that good!
Integrating a private label gift card is just as important. Most good merchant services companies will offer you a free gift card program when you process with them. That allows you to sell your own private label gift card instead of paper gift certificates. People us gift cards as real gifts far more often than paper certificates, they come in and spend more than the card quite often and often they don't use them and the beauty is YOU HOLD ALL THE MONEY not a credit card company!

So should you buy a cash register that has the ability to interface credit card and gift card YES you should!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What to look for when buying a cash register installment number six of ten

So question number six that you should ask yourself when buying a new cash register is simple but very important. Do I need more than one machine in the store? It is simple of course however the answer drastically changes which machines you should be looking at. I'm approaching these answers as yes you need two registers or more in your store and what features you should be looking for in a register.

The number one feature you should be looking for in a cash register when you are going to have more than one register in your store is Inter-Register Communications otherwise known as IRC. With IRC you will be able to network your cash registers together for the purpose of a single program and consolidated reports.

A single program allows you to change prices once on one register and download it to the other machines in the network, which can save you a ton of time and possible errors. If you have a register system with IRC and computer interface you can change items/prices etc on the PC and the registers will distribute those changes via the IRC. If you use kitchen printers the registers will share the kitchen printer via IRC (with a few exceptions in lower end models). If you use interfaced credit card payments most registers will share the interface via the IRC.

Reports are made much easier with IRC as well. When you run reports on a register system with IRC you can do all your reporting at one register and it will use the IRC to collect data from the other registers and produce a consolidated sales report of all the registers as well as individual reports for each register again saving you a lot of time.

So when buying more than one register for a single store you will want to investigate IRC which most advanced SAM4s cash registers as well as mid level and advanced level Sharp cash registers include.

In the case where you can't cable for IRC in your space the feature that might be most important to you would be whether the register has a SD card port. Many newer registers include a SD card port that will allow you to back up, store, and transfer programming databases in most cases. Many of the registers with SD card ports will also allow you to download reports to the SD card and transfer to a PC. Another very important function is many machines with an SD card will allow you to upgrade the firmware of the register to the newest version!

To wrap this question up you should answer the following questions when buying multiple registers for the same store.

Question: Are my registers going to be programmed the same? Is it a medium to large program?

Answer is Yes: You should select a register with the IRC feature or SD card as a minimum.

Answer in No: Than IRC maybe not be useful to you at all unless you want to consolidate reports still?

Question: I'm I going to be sharing and peripheral devices like kitchen printer, kitchen video, or maybe credit card interface?

Answer is Yes: You will be much happier with your system if you get a system with IRC. In some of the options listed in this question you will have to have a register with IRC.

Answer is No: IRC maybe overkill unless you are looking at the programming/reporting issues addressed in the first question

Think it over before you make the purchase. If not having IRC cost you even 10 minutes a day than having IRC could save you an hour and ten minutes a week, four hours forty minutes a month or fifty six hours a year!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Help me find the right cash register question number five

This should be an easy question to tackle today. When selecting a cash register you will have a choice of keyboards. There are only two types of standard keyboards available for Sharp Cash Registers and SAM4s Cash Registers and they are the raised keyboard or the flat keyboard.

The raised keyboard is made of individual buttons also known as tactile keys much like a computer keyboard or most desk top calculators or desk phone. Where this keyboard is crucial is in an environment where you will be entering lots of characters whether prices, PLU numbers, UPC numbers etc. Raised keyboards are hands down FASTER when keying in numbers such as a price or 12 digit UPC number. If you are hand entering prices and you do any volume at all never buy a machine with a flat keyboard even if you are a food service outlet or retail. So simple rule, entering prices and/or UPC/PLU numbers raised keyboard EVERY TIME!

The flat keyboard also know as the restaurant style keyboard is a great keyboard for any scenario where you are using preset prices. A preset price is a button or location on a cash register keyboard that is pre-programmed to sell a specific item. This is the most popular method for restaurants with cash registers. For example maybe you have a row of buttons that you program for your hamburgers. Button one being Hamburger, button two is Cheese Burger, button three is Bacon Cheese Burger, etc etc. When the clerk wants to sell a cheese burger you press that button and it registers that item, instead of you entering $3.49 than the food button. No two ways about it this is far faster and you will have fewer errors. Want to tighten it up even further than add a kitchen printer but that is a topic for another post.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Selecting your next cash register question number 4 of 10

Number four on my list of top ten questions to answer when looking at your next cash register is "Do I need a bar code scanner?"

Of the  top ten questions this is one of the easiest to answer. If you run a C-Store or Grocery store it's a no brainer yes you want to bar code scan. If you don't need to bar code scan read no further and just skip to question number five. If you are going to employ bar code scanning pay attention to the following list of additional questions or concerns

  1. Make sure the register you are buying has enough standard memory or optional memory for your UPC file. Remember a UPC file can grow to 2000+ quickly. I have sent machines out the door with 20K UPC's so understand your needs and match it to the register plus an error factor.
  2. How many expansion ports does your new register need? A bar code scanner takes a port, a credit card interface takes a port as does a scale, PC interface, coin changer, DVR interface etc etc. Standard registers only have 1 to 2 ports. Again understand your needs and match to a register
  3. Do you plan to manage your UPC file directly on the register or via back office software. Hands down managing the UPC file from a PC in most every case is far easier than at the register. Some registers are easier than others but hard to compete with the PC interface. If PC interface what type? Directly via rs232? Ethernet? Internet? How many machines? This option opens the door to many challenges that must be overcome. Don't skip this over lightly and talk to someone about it that knows what they are doing.
  4. What type of scanner do you want? Single line laser, cheap CCD single line? Laser Omni Directional? Hand Held or In Counter. Take the time to look at the options and understand what will work for you.
  5. Back up plan. How will you back up your UPC file? If PC interface then that might be taken care of. What do you do if you manage UPC file directly on the register? Easy answer make sure you buy a register that has an on board port for backing up like SD card port or CF Port. All cash registers are not created equally.
  6. Will you have multiple cash registers in the same store with the same UPC file requirements? If so you will want a register system with IRC (inter-register communications) or at least a SD of CF port so you can transfer program if not interfacing to a PC.
  7. Remember if multiple registers and you interface to a PC the interface is between the PC and one register and the registers talk via IRC. It is rare that you would connect one PC directly to separate registers in the same store. Seek a pro here to make sure you get the right equipment.
OK the overall theme here, match your requirements to the equipment. Do not try to buy a tiny cheap register and want all the above requirements IT WON'T WORK!

You will find the higher end Sharp Cash Registers and many of the SAM4s Cash Registers will handle even the most challanging requirments.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Question number three when selecting the right cash register for you

The third important question you need to answer in order to find the correct cash register for your business is "How many sales tax rates to I need to charge/track?"

Maybe it has not affected your local area yet however many cities, counties or States have multiple sales tax rates. In the county I work in we have one sales tax rate for retail goods and a higher sales tax rate for restaurants and bars. So in the case of the restaurant or bar that sells shirts or hats they must have a register that calculates two tax rates in the same sale. Grocery stores face the same task as ready to eat prepared food from the deli is one rate, taxable non-grocery is another and than of course the non-taxable grocery items and in my counties case it also differs on whether or not your business is on a public bus route. So first check with your local/State department of revenue regarding your sales tax rates.

Most SAM4s cash registers and Sharp models can handle 4 sales tax rates and we have not yet encountered a taxing problem we could not solve with one of those two cash register lines. I know there are many smaller consumer grade registers on the market that can only calculate one or two rates so be aware of your needs and the features of the register you are looking at.

We will be blogging more tomorrow about selecting the correct register for your business.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Selecting the right cash register

OK still going into more detail regarding the top ten questions you need to answer when you buy a new cash register. Today I'm addressing question #2 "How many departments do I need?"

I often find many people I'm speaking to about buying a cash register have no idea what a department is much less how many they need. So first I think we should talk about what a department is and how are they used.

The primary function of the department is sales reporting. Also we need to look at groups and for the sake of this blog Departments and Groups are the same thing. There are cases where they are not but in this case they are! Sharp cash registers still use the term Department however SAM4s refers to them as groups. Department is the older cash register term and is still used in our shop.

On smaller cash registers where the cashier enters the amount of the item and presses a button on the register to make that sale that is entering the sale directly into the department. All cash registers have to have at least 1 department period! So on the smaller cash register we normally have the department buttons on the keyboard and cashiers make sales directly into them. Lets look at a small c-store that does not use bar code scanning and their departments may be as simple as the following
  1. Taxable Grocery
  2. Non Taxable Grocery
  3. Cigs
  4. Milk
  5. Beer
  6. Wine
  7. Candy
  8. Deli
  9. Lotto
  10. Misc
That is an example we see all the time. The cashier enters the amount of each item and presses one of the buttons to register the sale. That is selling directly into what is known as "Open Departments" Most cash registers can have 10 to 20 departments and some are capable of 99. Not all departments need to be physical buttons on the keyboard but we will cover that in bit. Departments almost always can be programmed with the following:
  • Taxable or Non Taxable
  • Open, Pre-set or both
  • Name
  • Sale or non sale item (means counts towards toward sales not ON SALE.)
  • several other items not often used.
We also can use departments in more complex method which we normally run into when people are bar code scanning or a restaurant register with lots of pre-set menu items on the keyboard. Most people using their cash registers in any of these methods on a daily basis want to know their total sales per day, not that they sold 5 cheese burgers, 15 double cheese burgers etc etc. or for retail sold 25 snickers, 35 butter fingers etc etc what they want to see is how much Candy did they sell today, or how much in burgers did they sell. So in this case you will have menu items on the keyboard or PLU list or UPC's in the case of retail. Remember earlier I said every cash register must have at least one department? Here is where this all ties together. Every UPC or Menu item must be linked to a department. Yes even if you don't care about departments nor want them 99.9% of all cash registers require a department be linked to every UPC or menu item (PLU). In this case more often than not the department IS NOT ON THE KEYBOARD.

If we look a a fast food restaurant as an example. Lets say they have 120 menu items including burgers, sandwiches, drinks, ice cream etc. Lets say they have 12 different burgers but at the end of the day they don't want a report of 120 items. Each Burger PLU is linked to a department so in this example you may have the following departments
  1. Burgers
  2. Sandwiches
  3. Sides
  4. Drinks
  5. Desert
  6. Misc.
So every burger PLU is linked to the burger department and every time one is sold the burger department sales increase by that amount and quantity. Example today we sold 55 Hamburgers at $2.00 each,  75 cheese burgers for $3.00 each, 50 double cheese burgers for $4.00 each. Our sales report at the end of the day for burgers would be Quantity of 180 sales for $535.00 So see how that works? That is not to say you can't find out how many individual menu items were sold as you can but that is a different report and most places want that info once a week or month and some never!

So that is what a department is and yes you must have one. Sometimes people tell me I don't need any departments I only need a taxable button and a non-taxable button! What they need is two departments one taxable open, one non-taxable open!

Hope that helps!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Help me buy the right Cash Register

Yesterday I blogged about ten important questions you need to answer in selecting a cash register for your business. Now we are going to go deeper into the questions and answers starting with question number one. Do I need a cash register with a receipt and journal?

Many people buying a cash register today have no idea what the journal is so lets address that. Back in the day all cash registers came with a two station printer or could use two ply paper. The two stations are made up by the receipt and the journal printers. The receipt of course is printed and fed to the exterior or the register for you to tear off and give to the customer. The journal is the second tape that also prints all the details of the sale but is rolled up inside the cash register and must be removed and stored time to time. Why does it do that you may be asking? Well a Journal Tape is also known as an audit tape allowing the owner/manager to audit the transactions one at a time if needed. That is not the same thing as a sales report. A sales report (X or Z) are totals for the entire day NOT a transaction by transaction audit of sales. The journal/audit tape does not really have anything to do with sales reporting but all about auditing. Why is that important you may be asking now? Well for a couple reasons is can be nice to have an audit tape. Let's say as the manager you are closing the register for the day, you take an X report and notice the report indicated you have about a thousand dollars more than normal in sales and you know that can't be the case. With the audit tape you could begin to investigate what happened at the register sale by sale until maybe you find a cashier made a sale for 100 items @ 10.00 each when they meant to be 10 @ $1.00 and rather than fix the mistake they just cashed out and started another transaction. With the audit tape you can find that and make the changes on your register before  "Z'ing" out! That is just one example of a journal tape use but I'm sure you can now see the possibilities. In my opinon I would always buy a machine with a journal printer in most cases. A journal or audit tape may seldom be used however when you do need one they are worth their weight in gold! They help you run your business with more security, make it faster to correct mistakes and possible to rebuild records after a catastrophic failure.

Modern machines will either have a receipt and journal or they will have a receipt and Electronic Journal (E/J) which is a topic for another day. An E/J is a very close substitute for a real journal but falls a little short in some cases.

In my 20+ years experience I have never come across a city or state law requiring you to have a journal, receipt yes journal no but always check your local laws and regs!

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to pick a cash register

When picking out your cash register there are a a minimum of ten important questions you should answer before beginning your search.
  1. Will I need a receipt and journal?
  2. How many departments/groups will I need?
  3. How many sales tax rates to I need to charge/track?
  4. Will I want to use a bar code scanner?
  5. What style keyboard do I want? Restaurant style flat or retail style raised?
  6. Do I need one register or multiple?
  7. Do I need integrated credit card / gift card?
  8. Do I want to program on my own or have it done?
  9. Do I need a commercial grade cash register or a consumer grade register?
  10. Do I want to track inventory or just sales?
Of course there are many more questions but answering the above will get you started in selecting the correct type of register. We will try to address each of these questions over the next couple weeks on the blog.

Friday, September 14, 2012

SAM4s SPS-500 series of Cash Registers

The SAM4s SPS-500 series consist of 4 different models however the biggest difference is the keyboard. here is a list of the four models

All of the RT models feature Raised Keyboards designed for retail. The FT models feature flat restaurant style keyboard. The other difference is that the 520 line (520RT and 520FT) have a receipt and journal printer and the 530 line (530RT and 530FT) has just a single receipt printer.

SAM4s SPS-530RT Cash Register

SAM4s SPS-530FT Cash Register

SAM4s SPS-520FT Cash Register

SAM4s SPS-520RT Cash Register


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sharp or SAM4s Cash Registers which one is the best

Are you looking for a cash register? Wondering who makes the best one? There are really only two good cash register makes in the United States now in the commercial grade category. They are the following

  1. SAM4s Cash Registers
  2. Sharp Cash Registers
Sharp can be a bit confusing because they offer both commercial grade registers and consumer grade models. I'm only talking about the commercial grade so please don't mistake my endorsement as favoring the XE models that Sharp makes. Any consumer grade machine should be avoided unless you are a tiny store with very little volume and always owner operated!

Both SAM4s and Sharp make models that interface to credit card payments and gift cards. Both make bar code scanning machines and models with kitchen printers and touch screens. Right now for the entry level cash register I think Sharp has a clear advantage with the ER-A247 and the ER-A347 models. Both have a unique PC interface as well as an interface tool to Quick Books that is included in the price. However in the higher end models I don't think anything can compare to the SAM4s SPS-530FT Cash Register right now which features a touch screen and a flat keyboard at a great price.