Quickbooks and Point-of-Sale
March 30, 2004 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Small Business Owners: Any experience with Quickbooks or related software? Pros/Cons one system vs. another? How about the various 'point of sale' systems avaible, which might you suggest to a retail business about to start?
posted by BrodieShadeTree to Work & Money (11 answers total)
I think you'll have to provide more info: Computer platform? # of Employees? Depth of inventory? Type of retail biz? (rental store will require diff things than straight sale store, etc.) Will you want to do online banking? Connecting your inventory to the web?

I've used Quicken for Home and Business and liked it quite a bit, but it's not available for OS X and I have no employees. Quickbooks is also good but doesn't allow online banking, last time I checked.
posted by dobbs at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2004

online banking=no.
no employees but wife and me
sales=floor retail/yarns fiber arts/knitting
platform=pc (wish for mac)
would like to link to POS system with book keeping
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 2:20 PM on March 30, 2004

For my computer consulting business (in which I am the sole employee), I use Quicken Home and Business and find it quite nice. But I'm not exactly a demanding user.

My brothers and I use Quickbooks for our million-dollar a year manufacturing business. We hate it.

For the first few years, the business used home-brewed software on an Atari ST. It was clunky and DOS-like. When I returned to the business (from college) in the early nineties, I convinced my father to go with the DOS-based Peachtree Accounting system. Our bookkeeper liked it. Everything seemed keen. Except it was DOS-based.

We upgraded our computers a few years later (in 1998), and as all of us were sold on Quicken for our personal finances, and as Peachtree seemed to be lagging behind in the GUI department, we switched to Quickbooks (and boy was that a headache).

Not a smart move.

What's wrong with Quickbooks? For many people, probably nothing.

Our biggest complaint is the viral money-sucking nature Intuit exhibits. They out-Microsoft Microsoft, if you get me drift. Quickbooks also requires several background processes, often for no apparent reason. To use the software, you have to pay monthly and yearly subscription fees for various tax tables. Intuit is always trying to push new products and services, too: pre-printed checks, payroll services, on-line this and on-line that.

For more information, I just went to Nick, the person who actually uses Quickbooks every day.

He says that the advantage to Quickbooks are that it is easy to use (especially if you've used Quicken before). Nick says this is its only advantage, though it's a big one.

The ease-of-use is also a disadvantage, though. Why? "Because you don't do typical accounting things like close out a month", etc.

Nick claims the greatest disadvantage to Quickbooks is "advertising, advertising, advertising". "Shit like this," he says, and he reaches over to grab a mailer about another new payroll service. (Much of this advertising is in-program, I think.)

Another disadvantage is all the "autocompletion" stuff in the program. Good god! I hate that stuff. (It's in Quicken, too, and it drives me nuts. I can't ever get all of it turned off.)

Intuit also "features" fast sunsetting of products. Our version of Quickbooks (2002) won't be usable after April of 2005. Why? Because Intuit wants to make us upgrade, that's why.

We're not saying you shouldn't choose Quickbooks, or that everyone who uses hates it (though many do). We're just saying that there are some things to consider before you purchase it.

We haven't tried Peachtree in five years, but we've come to a point where we're ready to give it a chance. The only thing holding us back is the thought of all the work it'll take to switch over...
posted by jdroth at 2:49 PM on March 30, 2004

We use MYOB and are about to add MYOB Retail Manager for a business a little larger than yours. I find it pretty easy to use and it is also quite accountant-friendly, which can save you money at the end of the financial year. I think it is more expensive than Quicken/QuickBooks, though. MYOB does not have any issues with the package not being useable after a certain time, but you will need to update your tax tables when tax rates change and I think there may be a limited time (a few years/versions) that the tax tables will work for on the version you buy.
posted by dg at 3:03 PM on March 30, 2004

I'd recommend that you stay away from having your bookkeeping integrated into your POS system. The POS should provide flexible reporting that allows you to enter correct data INTO your bookkeeping program, but removing a human filter as a final check is prone to disaster.

Despite their half-ass website, I wholeheartedly recommend using POSIM for point of sale. It runs on either Mac or PC and with an upcoming release for OSX, you'll be able to mix and match server and workstation platforms to your heart's content thanks to a sybase backend. The mid-atlantic representative for the product is amazing.
posted by machaus at 3:28 PM on March 30, 2004

If your business typically revolves around projects or jobs (e.g. advertising agency, engineering firm), check out JobOrder. It's a stuninngly complete multi-user project management and tracking application with integrated accounting system. It's pricey compared to QuickBooks, but it's far more powerful. As an added bonus, it's developed by a small, very responsive developer.

Disclaimer: I used to do the documentation for this product.
posted by kindall at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2004

If you're using linux at all, I heartily reccomend Quasar. Unlike Simply & Quicken, it doesn't go down as often as a $2 whore, yet it provides pretty much all the functionality a small business needs.

Oh, and it's extensible to Point of Sale, etc, etc. Unless you have an unusually high volume of customers, the basic package + a wedge scanner (get it from eBay for less than 1/3 list price) will do. It works well for my company.

If you find the database getting slow, you can also upgrade to sybase.

One other suggestion: Create a terminal using LTSP to run it on. Then if it manages to blow up, you can just cold boot it without having to worry about any data loss.

The windows version probably sucks, though.
posted by shepd at 5:16 PM on March 30, 2004

Oh, and if you like the Mac, you might want to try the demo version on Linux for Mac, or OS X if it has any Linux capability.
posted by shepd at 5:18 PM on March 30, 2004

InfoWorld's Ed Foster writes about what jdroth was talking about.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:20 PM on March 30, 2004

It figures that this question would come up after I spent four hours in QuickBooks last night trying to reconcile an unexplained discrepancy.

I use QuickBooks for my business (technical consulting), though I'm in the market for a slimmer solution.

QuickBooks is a wonderful tool. It's profoundly robust, and is quite versatile as well -- all of which can make for some miserable, headscratching sessions for non-accountants like me.

I spent the first few months of my self-employed life reading up on bookkeeping and basic accounting, and I can still barely get by in QuickBooks.

After having used it for a year, and now knowing what I need for my business (your milage may vary), I've seen that I could probably just have used Excel to do the majority of the work.
posted by oissubke at 7:44 AM on March 31, 2004

Well, the more I explore the Quickbooks/POS system the more frightened I get of the whole thing. I was on the phone with Intuit last night talking with a sales rep, and holy cow, all he did was read off the screen and read and read...."Ok ok!!! STOP, " was all I could think. The company just seems so evil to force sunsetting so quickly. I do wish I had more experience in Linux, so I could go after the Quasar option. But in all, and I think this is where quickbooks excels, I need a Newby-Friendly 'turn key' package for 1 computer to keep the books and 1 computer POS.
If anyone has a solid turn-key option, please share. I am school teacher who will be changing careers and I am not too accounting saavy.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 8:14 AM on March 31, 2004

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