American Metro Blog

The Pros and Cons of Bluetooth Devices with iPad POS

Posted by Bryan Mueller on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 @ 10:07 AM

wireless credit card terminalWireless technology is great, isn’t it? There are all kinds of devices that are now free from cables and cords for communication. In the point of sale world, Bluetooth is usually associated with receipt printers and barcode scanners. Using this short-range wireless technology as part of your point of sale setup has some benefits as well as a few challenges. Here are some things to expect out of your Bluetooth devices, and a few methods for troubleshooting connection issues.

The Benefits of Bluetooth

Organization and Presentation – When your point of sale system is sitting on your counter, it looks far more professional when you can eliminate some cords, and organize the rest. You might have to keep a power cord, but at the very least, you can get rid of the communication cables.

Higher Mobility – Feel free to move around with Bluetooth devices connected. Take your POS with you when you put your iPad on a hand strap, a scanner on a lanyard around your neck, and a printer on a belt clip. No more being tethered to the sales counter. It’s perfect for helping out as a line buster.

Self-contained – One advantage Bluetooth has over WiFi, it’s wireless counterpart, is the communication method is direct between devices. Wireless devices that communicate over WiFi rely on a separate router, adding to the cost. It is also another point of failure. If the router gets bogged down or loses power, your peripherals won’t work either.

The Challenges of Bluetooth

Single Connections – There are some cases where the ability to share a printer between systems is required. Bluetooth devices must be uniquely paired to a single iPad at a time. For example, if there are six registers on the counter, and they all need to send orders to the kitchen, a separate Bluetooth printer would be required for each register. On the flip side, a single iPad can send to multiple printers, so there wouldn’t be an issue sending to bother a receipt printer and a kitchen printer.

Interference and Dropped Signal – The nature of Bluetooth is such that it continuously scans for signals. Due to the relatively short range of the signal, this usually doesn’t cause issues. When a large number of devices are in a small space, interference can cause the connected devices to get bumped off. We have seen cases where large crowds at festivals or conventions, most with Bluetooth enabled cell phones, cause printers to disconnect.

Touchscreen Keyboard Disappears – There are some occasions where a Bluetooth Socket scanner overrides the ability for an iPad to display an on-screen keyboard. This usually only occurs when the scanner is first paired with the iPad, and the fix is easy if you know what to do. Instruction are found below.

Troubleshooting Bluetooth Devices

Star_TSP650II_300x300.jpgBluetooth Printers (Star Micronics TSP 650II) – The Bluetooth printer we typically use with our iPads is the Star TSP650 II. This is a very common printer for iPad POS Systems. If you are using a different model printer, there may be some slight variations in procedures.  Printer issues are usually accompanied by a message in the POS system saying something like, “Failed to Open Printer Port” or “No Printer Connected” or “Failed to Activate Drawer Kick”. Generally, here are is the order of troubleshooting.

  • Verify the printer has been set up within your POS App.
  • Check the iPad settings and verify the Bluetooth printer is still connected.
  • Toggle Bluetooth off and on.
  • Attempt to re-pair the printer.
  • Perform a factory reset on the printer.
  • Switch to a backup printer. Here is the step by step guide for each stage.

scanner_on_white_bkg.jpgBluetooth Scanner (Socket Mobile CHS 7Ci) – There are only a couple issues that seem to pop up with the scanners. See the following list for the tricks and the solutions.

Issue:        The on-screen keyboard won’t pop up if the scanner is on.
Solution:    Press the scanner power button two times twice quickly.

Issue:         The scanner will beep or vibrate when scanning, but doesn’t register in the POS app
Solution:    The scanner mode needs to be set to iOS mode. The configuration barcodes are found in the ScannerSettings app. Turn off Bluetooth. Scan the factory default barcode. Scan the iOS configuration barcode. Turn on Bluetooth then repair the scanner. Detailed instructions are found on our Troubleshooting pageIssue:        The scanner has been restored to default settings, is new or is moving from another iPad.

Solution:   The scanner needs to be paired with the iPad. While the scanner is powered on, enter pairing mode by holding the scan button and power button simultaneously. Press the power button to turn in on and it will be ready to pair. Full instructions are found on our Troubleshooting page.

Request a Quote Button with Register Background

Tags: Service, Point Of Sale, Maintenance, iPad

 What is the Cost of Saving Money on a Point of Sale System?

Posted by Tim Mueller on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 @ 08:12 AM

balancing_options.jpgWhen people come to us with questions about our event rental systems, they are often very excited about the range of capabilities. We use industrial grade hardware with hand-picked, easy-to-use software, and we program everything weighing our customers needs with our decades of experience. Occasionally we’ll have someone tell us they can get a system for less than we’re charging. I always agree with them because I know it’s true (on the front end). This is where we need to look at both cost and value. Let’s look a little deeper at those savings with a real-life example.

The Basic Parameters

For one comlete unit using our Special Event System, the price is around $270. That includes the terminal, printer, drawer, and chip card processing device plus online reporting. One could find a similar set of hardware components elsewhere for approximately $150. Feel free to check my math here, but so far, the other system looks like it will save you $120 per unit.

The Event Variables

How Does a Custom Designed System Increase Speed
  • Is pre-programmed and ready to use right out of the box.
  • Is easy to learn and use
  • Has the keyboard layout optimized for speed
  • Uses integrated credit cards to reduce input errors

The sample event is a two-day music festival, and requires 40 points of sale used at the concession stands. That’s an inital savings of $4,800. That’s a lot of money, nobody would deny that.

For a two-day event, we are looking at an average of 20 hours of selling. According to data taken from events over the last 3 years, the average transaction amount at a festival is $10.91.

The Real Cost

Our custom-designed systems realistically get 5-9 more people per hour through the line at each terminal than other, off-the-shelf systems. 

Let's look at two cases. The first will use the ridiculously low number of just 2 more people through the line per hour. The second uses higher, but still very attainable goal of 7 extra customers per hour. Here is the Math:

Option 1: $10.91 per sale X 2 Sales/hr X 20 Hours X 40 terminals = $17,456 extra income
Option 2: $10.91 per sale X 7 Sales/hr X 20 Hours X 40 terminals = $61,096 extra income

The additional revenue gained from option 1 (which was the extremely conservative) not only pays for the difference in initial cost, but more than covers the entire system rental. The more likely number, using the typical 7 more transaction per hour found in option 2, is over $61,000.00 in additional revenue. That means the $4,800.00 they thought they saved, actually cost them $56,200.00. At Harvard Business School, I believe they refer to that as a negative return on investment.

For more information about how a specifically designed system can impact your event, contact us to set up a free, no-hassle event analysis.

Tags: Event Planning, Point Of Sale

POS Reports: The Value of Actionable Intelligence

Posted by Tim Mueller on Tue, Jan 09, 2018 @ 10:57 AM

colorful_brain.jpg

Are you making the most of your point of sale system? Like many pieces of technology, most people don't use them to their full potential. Even some standard features are under-utilized. You are already paying for your point of sale system. Whether you make a large capital investment on a purchase, or you rent a POS for your event, you deserve to get the greatest return on your investment. There is so much great information being tracked with a well-designed system. Wouldn’t it be great to have actionable data both during and after your event?

Think of your point of sale system like Alexa or Siri. It can get you some great information, if you ask it the right questions. Sales data is tracked by product, location, time sold, category and more. With a little analysis of this information, you can optimize your selling strategy. So often, even a small adjustment makes a huge difference. Here are some examples of how answering the right questions will lead to actionable intelligence. Making these adjustments results in providing your guests a better experience and your vendors a more profitable one.

Question to Answer Resulting Action
How many purchases were made every hour? You will be stocked properly at every hour of the day. You will reduce food waste by not overproducing prior to when sales taper off. You will better manage staffing.
How does the time of day affect the percentage of water vs. beer sales? There is only so much room to chill beverages. During the hottest part of the day, when the temperature is going to be over 82 degrees, water sales overtake beer sales. Dedicate those resources accordingly.
What are your 3 best-selling locations? Run a product mix report. See if they have a hot selling item. If there is one, it’s most likely the right product at the right time. If there isn’t a standout product, is there signage that highlights that item inspiring guests to try it? If not, it’s most likely location.
What are your 3 lowest selling locations?
   •  Why are they lowest?
         -  Is it location?
         -  Is it their offering?
         -  Is it signage?
Same as above. If they have product(s) that are way underperforming, suggest they make an adjustment. Try changing signage to make them stand out more.
  • *Observe at a distance and assess their process. Often times, the answer becomes all too obvious. Better to discover a challenge right away.

This was just a small sampling of the data available with a well-designed point of sale system. We can compile a detailed event analysis report. You’ll discover trends that will let you stage and manage more effectively. Patterns will emerge letting you know what types of foods are trending. Giving the attendee’s their favorite dishes will increase concession sales dramatically. After all, there is a big difference between “That sounds OK” and “Wow, those are my favorite!”

When it comes to point of sale, there is a marked difference between off-the-shelf and custom-designed. The good news is, custom-designed doesn’t cost more. If you would like some help coming up with the right questions to ask your point of sale system or would like a free event analysis, please contact us.POS Consult

Tags: Events, Rental, Point Of Sale

Get a PhD in POS

Posted by Tim Mueller on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 @ 11:02 AM

Learn from the Point of Sale Professionals

Our unique area of expertise is Special Event Systems (such as temporary fireworks stands). In the Special Event environment, speed is king. The more people you can get through the line, the happier your customers are and the more money you make. It really is exactly that simple.

Because our emphasis is on Special Event Systems, we ask ourselves these 3 questions every day:

How can it be faster? How can it be simpler? How can you get better information?
1. How can we make it faster? 2. How can we make it simpler? 3. How can we give you better information?

In 2008, when we really made fireworks our focus, our efforts were on increasing speed and simplicity. The best way to increase speed at checkout we learned from the grocery industry back in the 70’s. Scanning was and still is the single greatest way to increase speed. Back then, almost no one was scanning fireworks. Having all products barcoded in the fireworks industry was the bigger challenge. The term Universal Product Code (UPC) wasn’t very universal in China in 2008. Creating an accurate product database was a little like sorting snowflakes. Today’s cloud based solutions allow you to add or edit products in seconds. Whether you select individual terminals or 100 at a time, the ability to do so just multiplied your efficiency.

The next hurdle was how to accept credit cards in the middle of a cornfield? The answer was simple, the implementation was not. Cellular technology made it possible, however it was very cost prohibitive. There were systems out there costing thousands of dollars. For a very short selling season, it just wasn’t feasible. When we introduced the M-box system, which made it possible to do it with a system integrated into simple, inexpensive cash register, it was a complete game changer. No internal connectivity required! No re-entering amounts. People that hadn’t previously accepted credit cards saw increases in sales by as much as 26%.

Along with integrated processing, the sales data was sent to the cloud for you, so you didn’t have to visit the middle of the cornfield any more. Way better information at the touch of a button. Reporting from anywhere you can get on the internet. Financial Data, Item Data; by register, by location or your entire operation.

2 years ago, brought about a big shift. E.M.V. Chip card technology. We in the industry called it a giant step backwards. We all remember the early adaptors; transactions taking 30 seconds or more. It was about a death sentence in our Special Event environment where speed is king. Today’s EMV devices are nearly as fast as a swiped transaction. We now have wireless (cellular) systems that processes a chip card in under 3 seconds. You have the security of the chip with the speed of a swiped transaction.

About the same time, tablet technology really began to snowball. And for good reason. The third question got answered in a big way; How can we give you better information? With an app that addresses the unique requirements of the retail fireworks industry, the information is all there. Unfortunately, very few apps fit well into the fireworks mold. Make sure whoever you decide to partner with for your point of sale needs really understands the retail fireworks business. There are some unique elements to your business.

Tracking all the different discount types:

  • Mix and Match
    • Buy 1, get 1 free
    • Buy 1, get 2 free
    • Buy 3 of these, get 1 of those free
    • Buy 1 of these, 1 of those and get 1 of the other free
  • 10, 20, 30, 50, 100% off an individual item
  • 25, 50, 75, 100% off an entire sale

Inventory Tracking

  • Tracking product from the warehouse to each location
  • Tracking product movement between locations
  • Knowing current stock levels at every location
  • How much is due back at the end of the season

Tablet technology is here to stay. The reporting is amazing in many ways and helps your business be much more efficient. We will continue to look for ways to make it faster all the time.

 

Tags: Event Planning, Cash Registers, Rental, Credit Card Equipment, iPad

Will Wireless Work At My Event?

Posted by Bryan Mueller on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 @ 04:50 PM

“I love the idea of using iPad equipment at my event, but what if the WIFI goes out?”

We hear this question almost every day. We get a similar question with cellular technology. What happens if there’s a WAN failure?  It’s exactly the question you should be asking. A savvy event professional knows you can’t take that chance. There is way too much at stake to leave connectivity to chance.

It’s always a best practice to test signal strength prior to your event. If you’re relying on cellular and the signal strength is weak to begin with, don’t expect it to miraculously get better when the gates open. Any time you rely on WIFI or cellular, you can expect the bandwidth to degrade when the massive crowds arrive. Even if you’ve got a strong signal, bandwidth is still a major factor.

2 years ago, at a very large airshow, we experienced this firsthand. Everything was going along great until the Blue Angels made their initial pass. All of a sudden 150,000 people had their cell phones out, sending a video to Uncle Lester back in Flatbush Springs. The bandwidth went from a 4-lane freeway to a garden hose with a knot in it.

Whether it’s WIFI or cellular, we call it relying on Air. You are relying on connectivity that is subject to outside elements. The solution is, “Have a Failsafe Backup”. It saved the day when the Blue Angels came to town. Make sure your equipment can run in an offline mode. If you’re accepting credit cards, make sure you’ve got a backup plan for that as well.

This philosophy has saved us more than once; Plan for the unexpected!

For more ideas on how to avoid the pitfalls of relying on air, send us an email at:

greatideas@americanmetro.com or call our information line.  (651) 645-2005 Ext. #7441

Tags: Event Planning, Rental, Point Of Sale, Wireless Credt Card Processing, iPad

Accepting Credit Cards on iPad Point of Sale Systems after the Introduction of EMV

Posted by Bryan Mueller on Tue, Feb 02, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

ipad_sales_floor.jpgBy now, most merchants are aware of the transition to an EMV enabled form of accepting credit card payments. The mandate has come and gone for the credit card companies to setup the infrastructure required to make chip technology work on their end. This shift in liability has hardware manufactures busy creating equipment that works with the new standard. Then these EMV readers need to integrate with existing POS hardware. And finally, updates have to be made to each POS software. It’s a lot of moving parts that all have to work together.

Some of the major point of sale app developers hit the challenges head on. Companies like Squareup and Shopkeep recognized the complexity of the situation and developed their own proprietary EMV card readers. Taking that approach made it easier to build a fully working system. These type of readers continue to use either the audio port or lightning jack and look similar to the previous swipers. They have the addition of another slot that holds a card in place throughout the transaction while the chip is read. These readers are also limited to signature verification and don’t have a way to input PINs.

z9-side.pngOther app developers like Vend and SalesVu have maintained a focus on software and left hardware development to established third parties. Equipment vendors like Ingenico and Dejavoo have developed PIN pads that can be used with a variety of apps. These kinds of readers are separate, stand beside units that connect though WiFi, Bluetooth or ethernet. The tricky part comes with the interactions between the software, the processor and the hardware. The software is usually configured to be used with a select number of processors. In turn, the processor needs to configure the card reader with their specifications. This setup offers more choices than a full proprietary system. You can run into situations where your software might dictate which processor and brand of hardware you can use or vice versa. While that was the case before the transition, it will be more specific going forward.

The main change the chip and pin enabled merchants will notice is some extra hardware. One of the nice things about the iPad as a POS system is its mobility. When a card swiper is attached to the iPad, it becomes very easy to go to your customers. You can check customers out on the sales floor or easily bring the system to shows or events.  With a stand beside terminal, there is a little more work involved keeping everything in sync. Without being able to access the cellular functions of the iPad, the credit card terminal will need a network. Depending on the model, you’ll need either a WiFi or hardline internet drop to get it to work. You will also need to be connected to the iPad through that same WiFi network or BlueTooth.

For many merchants, this stand beside setup is nothing new. Other than a quick software update and swapping out the table top card reader, business will continue as usual. Whatever your point of sale situation, we at American Metro are happy to help you find and keep a solution that’s right for you. For help going through your options or questions about EMV or any POS related matter, contact us at the link below.

Ask a Question      iPad Rental Quote  

Technology Stand-off: Traditional Cash Register vs Tablet POS in the Event Industry

Posted by Bryan Mueller on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 @ 11:42 AM

register_vs_ipad.png

While it seems everything is getting smaller, faster and more technologically advanced, you may ask yourself how these changes affect the point of sale industry. Does the traditional cash register still have a place in today’s business environment? Are iPads the solution everyone has been waiting for?

Portability

This might not be a big deal for most businesses, but for the event industry, portability matters. The nice thing about iPads is they are small, light and easy to pack. Compared to using a cash register, you can pack 10 times as many iPads in the same space. Granted, you need to be a little more careful in how you store them.

Where the portability factor balances out is in the extras that are used with the iPad. If you don’t plan on constantly holding the tablet, you will also need to pack a stand for each one. Plan on accepting cash? You’re going to need a cash drawer. Handing out printed receipts? Guess you’ll need a printer too. Once you add in all the other stuff, packing needs are much the same. For some instances, going cashless and only doing emailed receipts will work fine.

Setup time can vary between the options as well. Pull a register out of the box, set it on the counter, plug it in, and it’s ready to go. The iPad on its own simply needs to be placed on the counter and turned on. If printers and cash drawers are involved, it takes a little more time. Bluetooth devices need to be matched to the corresponding, pre-paired iPad, or will need to go through the pairing process for each device.

Security

Portability is also tied into keeping your equipment safe. At most events, product and equipment is left in booths or tents. When a cash register is left out, it isn't necessarily a desirable item for someone to take. The primary concern would be someone wanting to take whatever cash might be in it. Since very few people actually leave money in a register when no one is around, it makes sense to leave the drawer open. Would-be thieves won't have to break it so see there is nothing in it, and they won't walk away with something as conspicuous as a big cash register.

Tablets, on the other hand, are more of a temptation. They are easier to stuff into a jacket and no one would think twice about seeing somebody with one walking down the street. That means that each night, you'll need to take more precautions to keep them safe. Whether you hide them under the counter, lock them in a secure cabinet or room, or take them back to the finance office, they are going to get moved. 

Power Independence

One of the great things about mobile payment platforms is the freedom to go to your customers. That includes not being constantly tethered to an electric outlet. A cash register doesn’t have that luxury. In outdoor environments, where running power to remote locations is tricky or costly, iPad have the advantage. The battery life on an iPad with moderate to heavy sales will last 6-10 hours. Be sure to take your hours of operation into account when making a decision about power.

Don’t forget that any peripherals you use will also need power or a place to charge batteries. Printers, barcode scanners, and the like typically have a longer battery life because they aren’t in constant use. However, these pieces of equipment will need a spot at a charging station, too. This can create extra work by requiring several items being moved from a charging location to sales area, especially if multiple terminals are used throughout an event.

Reporting

Traditional cash registers rely on paper reports to convey information. Financial data, PLU data, time reports, clerk reports and more are all available in printed form. Tablet applications take full advantage of their connection to the cloud. Sales data is stored online and consolidated for easy access. Given the number of POS apps, these reports are represented in different ways. Colored graphs, tabular data, selectable date ranges all make sales data easy to read and sort.

Online reporting is also available with a cash register using a special wireless modem. The same technology that transmits credit card transactions can be used to send sales data to an online portal. This is a separate piece of hardware and therefore is an additional expense. Many point of sale apps also charge a small monthly data maintenance fee. This fee is assessed only if you require access to the data months after the event or sale.

Cool Factor

There is definitely something to be said for looking modern. Perception is a huge motivation for many events. Music festivals and youth oriented conferences in particular go to great lengths to achieve a specific aesthetic. The sleek, clean look of an iPad is a show of technological relevance and familiarity. This also makes it easier for cashiers to acclimate to the touchscreen interface.

While cash registers have made improvements to their look over the years, they focus on function over form. The commercial grade registers are built to withstand some harsh conditions. They can take a little more abuse moving from venue to venue.

Price

Everyone tries to keep an eye on the bottom line. Juggling between price and value are a concern. You want to make sure your system does everything you need it to for the lowest price.

A standard cash register is about the same price as an iPad on its own. A little less or a little more depending on the model. The difference grows quickly for a full point of sale iPad setup. Add in the software, a stand, cash drawer and printer, and the cost jumps up.

Summary

What features are most important to you? How do each of these factors influence your decision? Here’s how we ranked each system per category.

  Cash Register Cash Register
(with Online
Reporting)
iPad
(no peripherals)
iPad
(with printer &
cash drawer)
Portability ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Security ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Power
Independence
 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Reporting ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Durability ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Visual Effect ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Price $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Tags: Events

EMV and Credit Card Processing Changes

Posted by Bryan Mueller on Fri, Mar 06, 2015 @ 10:10 AM

EMV_chip_closeupThere is a lot of buzz going around concerning the changes in credit card processing procedures. Beginning in October, the U.S. will adopt the  standard used by the rest of the world. This process is designed to clarify who the liable party is when fraudulent credit cards are presented. As a result, the technology required will shift the way credit card readers interact will cards. This transition may seem uncomfortable, so let us try to ease your mind. Here are a few key points on what this new regulation entails with further explanation below.

  1. The U.S. implementation only requires compliance by the credit card processor.
  2. The regulation DOES NOT require individual merchants to upgrade equipment.
  3. It is estimated to take credit card issuers up to 3 years to complete the replacement of all 2.1 billion credit cards in circulation in the U.S.
  4. You have time to figure out when is the best time to upgrade.

In an effort to reduce the amount of credit card fraud, the U.S. is adopting the same credit card technology used throughout most of the rest of the world. First introduced in 1995, EMV was named for the three companies that developed the technology; Europay/Mastercard/Visa. Since that time, there have been a total of six credit card networks to share in the ownership. The new system uses a microchip to create a dynamic verification code for each transaction processed on the card.

The magnetic stripe found on the back of most cards contains the credit card number, customer name, address, zip code and a static 4 digit verification (CVV1) code that the point of sale system uses to authenticate the card. There is also a 3 digit code (CVV2) printed on the back of the card that can be used to verify hand entered transactions. The problems involved with this type of system occur when the data on the cards is intercepted or hacked from a store’s database (like what happened to Target) and all that information can be recoded or cloned onto another card. After all, it is the same technology as an old cassette tape and it was easy enough to record over those.

With the addition of a microchip, a new verification code is generated for each transaction. This virtually eliminates the possibility of cloning a working card. In addition to the built in safety measures of the chip, there are also customer verification methods (CVM) available. These options include entering a PIN when using the card, requiring a signature or enabling Near Field Communication (NFC) for paying with a fob or smartphone. These options are programmed into the chip based on preferences set by either the card issuer or card holder and can vary based on total transaction amount, location, etc.

creditcardfraudchart_1The Electronic Transaction Association (ETA) has compiled the following concerning credit card processing. In the U.S., credit card transactions comprise $1.2 trillion and there are a total of $8 billion of fraudulent charges. While that number comprises only 0.67% of total credit card revenue, $8 billion is still a lot of money. In fact, 47% of all credit card fraud occurs in the United States. EMV implementation could eliminate 78% of US fraud cases by eliminating cloned cards.

creditcardfraudcharts_1and2

Since most of the rest of the world is already on the EMV system, the primary reason for delay in the U.S. conversion is due to the infrastructure. The US was a very early adopter of credit card technology and right now there are approximately 8 million merchants using the swipe style card readers. To force that many merchants to switch over involves a significant investment in technology upgrades on the processor side as well as hardware upgrades for businesses.

emv_card_readerThe new hardware will require the card be inserted into the reader for the duration of the transaction. This is because the microchip doesn’t have a battery and therefore has no method of transmitting data on its own. The gold casing over the microchip is powered through induction by the card reader. This will have the most impact on the restaurant and service industry. When a card requires a PIN or signature for confirmation, a mobile reader will be necessary or the customer will have to accompany the card to the host station.

Starting in October, the credit card processors are required to have the infrastructure in place to accept EMV payments. So, how does this affect liability? After that time, liability will be split between the card issuer and the merchant and will fall to the party responsible for not allowing the EMV transaction to take place. For Example:

  • If a merchant has the EMV reader in place, but the customer has not receive a card with the chip from their bank, the liability for a fraudulent transaction is on the issuer.
  • If a customer attempts to use an EMV card at a merchant who has not upgraded to the EMV reader, the liability will be on the merchant.

There will likely be an overlap of technologies for quite a while. Many card issuers will wait until the expiration of their current cycle of cards until they upgrade. There are a total of 2.1 billion cards in the market at the moment, and to replace them all is expensive. Cards with just a mag stripe can be produced for about $.10 per card while cards that have the EMV chip in them cost between $1-2 to produce. New cards issued will continue to include magnetic stripes for several years, knowing not every merchant will upgrade equipment right way.

There are also some exceptions to the liability rule. Gas stations have been allowed more time to implement the conversion. Most card readers are built into the pumps and require a complete replacement. ATMs will also have extra time to upgrade for the same reason.

As you consider the options indicative with upgrading, you may come up with more questions. In such cases, American Metro is happy to help you find answers. Use the button below to contact our resident credit card expert or email your question to nadya@americanmetro.com.
.
Ask a Question

Tags: Credit Card Equipment

Remote Reporting at Events: What's It Worth?

Posted by Bryan Mueller on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 @ 02:23 PM

ipad_wIcons_SMOne of the great things about technology is the time saving capacity associated with automating mundane tasks. Everyone is looking for ways to squeeze as much time out of the day as possible. As most event coordinators know, time really is money. When you rely on making your money over the course of a single week or maybe just a weekend, you have to breathe productivity. It has to be second nature.

When you’re up against the clock, every minute of the day, what are your options for saving time? At the end of a 14…15…16-hour sales day, the last thing you need is to spend hours going from register to register, stand to stand running reports, hand entering data into a spreadsheet, and calculating inventory numbers to do it all again tomorrow. That seems like the perfect place to implement a time saving, technological advancement.

Granted, the technology to perform remote reporting has been around a long time. A system that allowed inter-terminal communication was first implemented by a chain of department stores in 1973. The earliest microprocessor used in a point of sale system was developed for McDonalds in 1974. This allowed for price changes and reports to be performed from any terminal if changed to manager mode.  After several iterations, POS systems became much more accessible when they were integrated into a Windows platform in 1992. Until very recently, all these options required a great deal of infrastructure to operate. This left short-term, pop-up retailers with no alternatives in locations that didn’t have the necessary hard lines already in place.

In the last few years, cellular data transmission and cloud based storage have leveled the playing field for the event industry. Now, connecting a compatible wireless router to a cash register can facilitate sales data transmission. Tablet-based POS software offers an even more mobile option for making sales and consolidating sales figures in the cloud.

retail_event_SM

Now, let’s do a little real world analysis of what using a technology like this does to the bottom line for a few sample events.  These examples represent a events of differing scopes.

Scenario #1 – Merchandise sales at a 3 day conference.  Eight cash registers are used to keep track of the sales of 450 items that include clothing of various sizes and styles, reference materials, books and CDs or digital download cards. All the terminals are set up in the same store area.

Scenario #2 – Concession sales at a week-long festival. In this instance, there are a total of 120 registers in 30 locations spread out across the fair grounds. Each stand has between 10 and 50 items they are selling, with an average of 24 items. There are also 18 different vendors, some overseeing multiple stands, which need to receive their own reports as well.

To collect and record the information from paper reports, here are some reasonable estimates on the time it takes for each step.

The average travel time between locations is 2.5 min.

Printing, gathering and organizing the reports at each stand can be done in 5 min per stand.

Entering the data from each report into a spreadsheet takes about 2 minute per report.

The item report takes time to find each item on the spread sheet, match it to the printed report and record the number of items and dollar amount. Short lists mean items are easier to find and take less time, around 18 items per minute. Long lists take more time to match items and cuts productivity down to 10 items per minute.

Scenario 1  

To gather the reports, here is the time required. 2.5 min to get to the register area + 5 min to run/collect the reports + 2.5 min to get back to the office = 10 min
To enter the data from the financial reports; 2 min x 8 registers = 16 min
To enter the data from the item reports; 450 items/10 items per min x 8 registers = 360 min or 6 hours
In total, that’s 6hr 26min per day x 3 days = 19.3 hours of time spent.

You may have someone to do the running around and entering data for you, for maybe $15-20/hour. More than likely, you would want a trusted individual on the financial team or even yourself doing this type of work.

aerial_veiw_of_festival_SMScenario 2     

To collect reports for the festival, here is the time involved. 2.5 min x 30 locations + 5 min x 30 locations = 225 min
To enter data from financial reports: 2 min x 120 reg = 240 min
To enter data from item reports: 24 items/20 items per min x 120 registers = 160 min
When we total this time, we get 225 min + 240 min + 160 min = 625 min or 10.4 hours per day
Over the full 7 days of the event that comes to 72.8 hours spent on reports.

Again, who is designated to perform these tasks? To make sure they are done in a timely manner, it may take several people.  There are cases where the festival organizer needs to know overall totals and each vendor wants to know their own sales numbers. In this instance, data entry efforts would be doubled, or one party is stuck waiting for the other to pass the info along. There is also a good chance you will want to know what the sales are after the lunch rush or after a certain session lets out. That means another round of running and collecting reports.

How much more could you get done if you had an extra 6 to 10 hours a day? How much could you save if you could reduce payroll by one or more people per day? How beneficial is it to you not to add a few more hours to your already long day waiting for reports? Consider the value in tracking your inventory, and verifying you are getting paid for each item.

laptop_wBridge_SMThe alternative is using electronic data transfer and cloud based reporting. This all but eliminates the time spent collecting reports and manually entering data. At any point during the day you can get an up-to-the-minute snapshot of your sales, segmented however you like; by vendor, stand, register or the entire event. The only time involved is in pulling up the website and selecting the type of report you want to see.

The reality is, during your event, there simply aren’t any “extra” hours. Therefore, it either becomes someone’s full time job to enter all the inventory data overnight or the next day, or it doesn’t get done. The ability to continuously check your sales, see what your top sellers are and preemptively coordinate restocking means you greatly reduce the risk of customers not getting what they want. It also speeds things up when they don’t have to wait for product to be delivered. Selling more items, and selling them faster means an increase in revenue. The bottom line, you’ll save on staffing and increase sales.

For a complete analysis of your specific event, contact American Metro for a Free Point of Sale Project Profile. With just a few simple questions, we will provide you with a cost/benefit comparison and help determine the ideal point of sale solution for you.

Tags: Events, M-Box, iPad

Online Tee Sheets: When Free Isn't Really Free

Posted by Warren Bailey on Thu, Feb 05, 2015 @ 10:16 AM

As golf courses close all around, the ones that remain must work harder and smarter to make sure they are maximizing all potential income and revenue sources. Many golf courses make the mistake of cutting or slashing payroll, forcing fewer people to do more work, to maintain a level of service previously expected from the golfers who play at your golf facility.

proshop-SMIt’s amazing how many golf courses that are still using cash boxes or cash registers to take in money. Using stand-alone credit card terminals that are so old, they are most likely no longer PCI compliant and now your customer’s data is more susceptible to a breach from hackers.

With the advent of PC-based point of sale systems, the ability to track customer/member information improved, inventory received and sold is more accurate, ringing food and drinks, plus keeping bar tabs became easier, and golf courses had a better way to track revenue.

But along the way, it was pointed out that the main way a golf course receives revenue is tee times. Tee times in the form of green fees and cart (pull or power) fees. A golf course has a fixed number of tee times each day, each week, each month, and each golf season. Barring bad weather and of course, the geographic location of a golf course, each golf facility needs to make as much money as possible by filling those open tee times.

How Do Third-party Online Tee Sheets Work?

With electronic media integrating into the golf world, the 3rd-party online tee sheet company was born. Simply go to a golf course website, pick an open time, enter in your e-mail address, contact information, and your credit card number, and the time is reserved. Easy, right? But did that information go only to the golf course or did the 3rd-party tee sheet company also receive access to that golfer’s information? And what are they doing with that information? Why, sending that golfer e-mails about other golf courses, not yours, that are offering discounted pricing. Or where to purchase merchandise at a lower price than what is offered at your pro shop.

How is this on-line tee sheet software being paid for by the golf course? Well, you only need to provide them with one or two tee times a day that are sold by the 3rd-party company, posted on your tee sheet and their own website, at a discounted price, and the golfer(s) show up with a coupon or printout saying their golf (and cart) are paid. The only chance the golf course has of generating any revenue is to sell food and beverages at the snack bar or the grill. The 3rd-party tee sheet company is likely “giving” golf courses the software in exchange for those one or two times per day.

How Much Does "Free" Cost?

sunrise_golf-SMWell, let’s do some simple math. The average round of golf with cart fee runs $40 per person. The third-party company offers these times at a discounted rate of $25 per person. They fill two time slots with four players each. That means 8 golfers x $25 equals $200 per day.

Suppose your golf season runs about 200 days each year. For reality sake, say 50 of those days are washed out due to weather or maybe the tee-times were not filled. That leaves 150 days where two tee times a day were filled and sold. 150 days x $200 equals $30,000.

Your “FREE” software allowed $30,000 of revenue not going to the club. Oh, and for this “FREE” service, you are being asked to sign a multi-year contract. No wonder a golf course does not have to pay much up front. The really sneaky part is how virtually invisible the whole process is for a golf facility. The golf course does not see money not coming in; they only have a bottom line report of sales. Who sees that revenue in their reports? The 3rd-party tee sheet companies.

And just how good is the point of sale system?  How many buttons and menu screens are needed to ring up a single item? Or a series of items? Ringing through golfers should be as fast as checking out at a Target or Walmart. See how fast they scan products, or touch a button to ring in a non-scannable product? Your pro shop or snack bar should be doing the same speed. Faster rings means more golfers moving through the line.

What is the Alternative?

The other option is to use a golf course managment software with built in tee sheets. The software we use is called AIMsi, but there are others. Using a point of sale software like this allows for a great deal of flexibility.This is because we build customized point of sale programs for your specific facility. All golf courses are similar in many ways, but also very different. Do you sell green fees/cart fees as a combo price? Do you offer multiple prices based on a golfer’s specific membership or patron type? All customer/member data is yours to keep. All your inventory tracking is yours.

How are online tee sheets in golf course software different?

The difference is you set the price for all the tee times and sell those times as you see fit. What the golf facility pays for is the hosting fee for the online tee sheet and the web security from data breaches. Hosting fees start at $6 a day or the price of one pull cart. Adding the ability to book times on a smartphone or tablet means your cost is $10 a day or about half a power cart rental. That means your cost for hosting an online tee sheet, which the golf course controls ALL the times, is roughly 200 days x $10/day or $2000 per golf season. 

What causes golf courses to pause is that the cost is NOT invisible. You are being asked to pay a monthly fee. But again, the bottom line is by controlling the price on all your tee times, the golf course earns all the revenue. The next trick is having a person control marketing those tee times. This is where an updated website, using Facebook, Twitter, and all forms of social media come into play. It costs a golf facility ZERO to market your golf course with social media, and yet it barely gets used.

Call American Metro to learn more about the AIMsi software. American Metro is ready to handle your software, Hardware, and integrated credit card solutions. Cost-effective and with a strong sense of customer service.

Call us at 651-645-2005 or use the button below, to receive your free quote. for more information, you can also download the AIMsi product brochure.

 AIMsi Quote Request  

 - AIMsi for Golf Courses

 

 

 

Tags: AIMsi, Golf, Online Tee Sheet

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