What kind of cash register does a small business need?
January 26, 2005 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Cash Register N00b - looking for pointers on what to get a brand new small business Re: cash register, inventory control, etc.
posted by petebest to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What will you be selling? How often do you expect to make a sale? Will the sales people be manning the cash, or will a dedicated person be manning it? How many different items do you expect to sell? Do the prices change a lot?

These are all things that will determine what you need. There's probably more questions I should have asked.
posted by shepd at 11:51 AM on January 26, 2005

Response by poster: This is a small bowling alley / bar venture (roughly six lanes, maybe room for 30~50 at the bar). Looking for something to do standard cash transactions but also integrate with inventory, monitor stock, act as a time clock, do the tax return and turn into a stand-up arcade Spy Hunter when the correct key sequence is pressed.

My knowledge of this subject hovers between zero and "tried to draw a UPC and scan it once".

Thanks for any help.
posted by petebest at 11:53 AM on January 26, 2005

I'm have zero knowledge in this area, but were it me, I'd pay a small business consultant to come out and give me advice. It'd be worth it to know I was doing things right.
posted by jammer at 11:59 AM on January 26, 2005

petebest, as much as it really burns me to reccomend a Microsoft solution ... look into Microsoft Retail Manager. There's probably a consultant in your area that can set it up for you... or you can buy the components and do it yourself. A local rock gym that I go to uses it to manage all of their systems and has for years, and it works great for them. They've even got it integrated with a bar code scanner for membership information & self-check-in on a separate monitor.
posted by SpecialK at 12:03 PM on January 26, 2005

(and the front counter person plays solitare on it when it's *really* slow there.)
posted by SpecialK at 12:04 PM on January 26, 2005

Response by poster: Ack! M$? . . hmm . . it's a thought i suppose. I'm just imagining an hourly reboot and phone-book sized manuals that say nothing. I don't suppose there are any open-source retail solutions? I'm not a *nix guru by any stretch either though.

Thank you for the suggestions!
posted by petebest at 12:28 PM on January 26, 2005

Well, petebest, it isn't exactly what you want, but I use quasar.

I think you will find that for a bowling alley, it isn't a perfect match, but you could probably shoehorn it in. It isn't opensource [on second look it just went open source, wow!], but it isn't M$ garbage either. :-)

It's basically a combo of Simply Accounting + a basic POS. I played with the POS module and decided I didn't need it -- it seemed more suited to replacing a standard cash register. It might work for a bowling alley, but I can imagine certain things being way more complex and requiring special work, like lanes being cheaper if rented longer, shoes included with rental being cheaper than just shoes by themselves, etc, etc.

Their customization rates seem reasonable, so perhaps if you contact them they may be able to do everything for you and give you a complete system for a good price.
posted by shepd at 12:40 PM on January 26, 2005

i just implemented a POS solution for our company - we are mainly a manufacturer, but we do a small volume of counter sales.

the one drawback of Microsoft RMS is that it's not end-user installable (that is, you need to get an MS-certified "Partner" to do it).

i looked at several other solutions, but in the end i went with Intuit's Quickbooks POS bundle; this included the software, cash drawer, barcode scanner, credit card reader and receipt printer. additionally you'll need a modest PC that interfaces with the POS equipment.
posted by modge at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2005

Response by poster: Ooo that looks tempting, thanks shepd. Is a cash register-interface a difficult thing? I ask because your "it seemed more suited to replacing a standard cash register" - do standard ones read bar codes and feed them in to a db etc, and this is a software equivalent?

I'm guessing with something like this (or the M$) the barcode reader and cash drawer and . . security . . stuff would be extra hardware components that may or may not work with these programs? Is there a standardized Cash Register Interface? (Do they come with USB cables? Do they have CD-R drives? HDD's? . . so much to learn)

On preview, thanks for the tip modge!
posted by petebest at 12:56 PM on January 26, 2005

petebest, we attached a bacode scanner keyboard wedge to our machine. It works great for looking up products, although outside of the POS software (which we didn't go with -- we just use the accounting half since we only do a dozen sales a day) the wedge action makes it a little cumbersome, since you need to select the correct field first, then scan to insert an item. The touch screen simplified this.

It does do all its stuff from a database. It uses either Sybase ($$$) or Firebird (Free). Firebird is the open source version of Interbase from Borland. I've never seen the database corrupt or crash, and we have over 2500 invoices stored in it (it does get slow if you are looking for back invoices, though, everything else is snappy). For reference, I've seen Simply Accounting absolutely choke on half this much (add in this half-assed multi-user crap along with the FIVE KEY authentication method and I charge through the roof to help you with it... :-)

For a cash drawer, I just got a manual one. The only two people using the POS system are myself (owner) and the other owner, so we're not worried about cash being stolen. I wouldn't be surprised if the POS addon to Quasar had automatic cash drawer support, though.

Sorry I can't give you much more information over that, because we didn't really go for a full-fledged POS with special printer, auto cash drawer, etc, just a cheap setup that does the job for us.

But, as far as scanners go, I'd go for one that supports being hooked to a keyboard wedge because of the versatility. They're often cheap on eBay, like under $100.

One little note about Quasar: Unlike Quicken or Simply, Quasar allows you to reverse/delete transactions. From an accouting standpoint, this is very bad. From a simplicity standpoint, it makes perfect sense. You could always not do it and use the G/L like you're supposed to, anyways.
posted by shepd at 6:13 PM on January 26, 2005

My knowledge of this subject hovers between zero and "tried to draw a UPC and scan it once".

You just made me shoot milk from my nose. I can recall, with a very steady hand, trying to do the same when I was a bagboy at the grocery store.
posted by furtive at 6:50 PM on January 26, 2005

I have a relative that tried out the Quicken POS product, and it was not a good experience (caveat: this took place in Canada...Intuit in the US may be an altogether different experience); the turnkey solution (i.e. everything: software, PC, cash drawer, scanner, etc. in a box) was purchased. Their "24/7" support was changed to "8am-6pm EST, M-F" two days after it arrived (an unfortunate coincidence, I think).

Upon booting the system for the first time, they were greeted with a startup error. They were asked to put in their Service Pack 2 CD; it wasn't included. After calling repeatedly to get assistance, they were told that the product was being discontinued.

The entire product was thrown back in the box and sent back. A poorly designed solution, IMHO. Crap service/support didn't help the situation : \
posted by bachelor#3 at 8:24 AM on January 27, 2005

Response by poster: thanks for all the help everyone! I'm planning to wade in and see if there's any such thing as a register forum or some such. I'll post back when a winner has been picked . . .
posted by petebest at 8:44 AM on January 27, 2005

petebest - Don't discount local software developers or consultants/companies. You might stop by some other bars or restaurants to see what they use. I know that my ex-girlfriend's brother writes and installs restaurant and bar POS systems in southern california. He's regional, but he's got something like 200 installations.
posted by SpecialK at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2005

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