Need POS software suggestions for local farmers market.
April 25, 2010 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I was asked to recommend a software/hardware solution that would enable our local farmers market to allow patrons to visit different vendor tables, choose their items and pay at a central pay station. Currently, patrons get handed a slip and present a number of slips at the pay station. I look to you, oh crowd, as this area of technology is not my strong suit.
posted by mjmcport to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Are you suggesting here that each vendor would have a work station that connects to a central computer/cash register?

I know this isn't an answer to your question, but....

This seems like overkill to me... your current solution seems like the best plan...

Plus, I love farmer markets, I love putting money into the hands of a small businessman/woman... this is going to start to feel a lot like a grocery store.. You might want those that are interested in this to do a little research/survey as to if this is really a good idea...
posted by HuronBob at 6:20 PM on April 25, 2010

This isn't a good answer to your question, but at a farmers' market, I would much prefer to hand over cash to each individual vendor I deal with. That's kind of the point of a farmers' market, isn't it? I mean, with all due respect to the 'Net and technology and software and whatnot, the less technology I have to deal with at a farmers' market, the better.
posted by bricoleur at 6:43 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

What's their goal? To speed up the pay station, or to reduce the amount of work for the individual vendors? To reduce error, or ... ?

If it's the first, you might just need to automate the vendor side. Instead of having what I'm assuming is a handwritten slip, have the vendors use a handheld (I'd recommend, frankly, a windows mobile handheld with the ability to connect to a receipt printer, like parking attendants use...) and then print out the slip with a barcode. The slips all get scanned at the main station; the barcode should encode the item description and the amount and quantity (use a 3d barcode...) so that you don't need to connect to a central station.

For your stated goal -- a way for the vendors to ring up the purchases and then total them at the pay station automagically -- you will need to have some sort of unique identifier for a customer, and then you will need to have the customer present that unique identifier at each station. In this case, I would recommend a barcode. The software will need to wirelessly connect to a central database, and the vendors would scan the customer's barcode and then key in their purchases. Then the customer presents the barcode at the pay station.

Either way, I don't know of a software package that does either -- but the two main problems are going to be training the vendors on the use of it, and ponying up for handheld devices capable of using it plus the main workstation. Any competent windows developer can write the two applications I've described above without much trouble.
posted by SpecialK at 6:45 PM on April 25, 2010

If the issue is having a credit card option, my local market gets around it the opposite way. There is a central station where one can buy wooden tokens with a credit card. The tokens can be used at any of the stands just as cash can. I assume that the vendors then cash in their chips with the central authority.
posted by OmieWise at 6:53 PM on April 25, 2010

Yeah, I'm curious about what the desired outcome is.

I bet money, though, that if it's a software/hardware solution, you're going to have a hard time getting farmers to learn to use the technology, and to use it reliably. These are busy folks with a lot going on and not a lot of patience for difficult things that don't seem necessary. (I say this as a sometime vendor who is sort of mentored by an established vendor, who we pretty much only ever get to see/talk to during the winter.)

One of my local markets got a grant (I think, or else is participating in a pilot program) to get credit card machines for all the vendors. It's working well. They also do a token system like OmieWise describes, which I personally prefer as a shopper. Just make sure the tokens/coupons are in reasonable increments -- $1 tokens would be cumbersome to carry around, but a combination of $2 and $5 ones might suit. Paper coupons might do better in $1 increments.
posted by librarina at 7:45 PM on April 25, 2010

As somebody who possibly sees being a farmer's market vendor in their future, I have to say I would find such a technological solution undesirable. It feels centralized and invasive. If CC transactions are the issue, I like the token thing.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:34 AM on April 26, 2010

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