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Cash register setup


#1

Hello all -

I’m going to reveal my ignorance of this subject, but that’s OK. For
those of you with a retail location, may I ask how you went about
selecting your:

a. cash register
b. cash drawer (is it separate, or attached to a.)
c. credit card swiper
d. merchant account
e. related software, if used?

I’ve heard from two established local business owners that it’s much
better to OWN your CC equipment, not lease it.

I’m inclining toward Quickbooks and I see on their website that they
have related merchant account, hardware and software. However, that
convenience may not be affordable, or may lock me into a system I
don’t like.

Please tell me not only how you found your present system, but if
you like it or not, and what you would do differently if you could.

Thanks in advance,
Kelley


#2

Hi Kelley,

We don’t have a cash register, we do those tasks manually. It takes
about five minutes a day with online banking and QuickBooks.

We have a cash box that we keep in the safe, mainly for making
change up to $100. We keep cash over $100 under a separate
lock-and-key elsewhere.

We used to own our CC machine, but after having to buy two new ones
in four years due to “improving technology” and changing of merchant
accounts we now rent one. Merchant accounts won’t use each other’s
machines, so if you buy one and find the company is not as good as
you thought, you have to buy another one to change banks. They might
also require you to update your equipment from time to time to keep
up with technology, they did with our six month old machine and it
wasn’t optional. These guys are pros at maximizing income (theirs,
not yours), not customer service.

How to find a merchant account is an entire subject on it’s own. I
would look for one that has a short initial contract as you will soon
find what’s important and what’s not for your business and will
probably want to change in a year or less anyway. For instance, the
first one we signed with allowed us to scan checks. The service and
machine cost a bit more but we figured that the fact that it debited
the customer’s account instantly and if payment was refused after the
fact for whatever reason we were covered by the merchant account.
After installing it and getting it up and running we found it only
covered checks up to $100 (not one dime on a check over $100, not
even the first $100! It wouldn’t even scan them!) and our checks
consistently were over that. We also found that we didn’t take in
very many checks anyway, and very, very few bounced. Most people
nowadays pay by CC or cash.

Merchant account lesson #1 - (stomp stomp stomp) - Read the fine
print and there’s a lot of it. Don’t go by what your sales rep says,
they don’t know what they’re talking about half the time and the bank
isn’t locked into or bound by anything a sales rep tells you unless
it’s in writing. They’re commissioned sales reps after all, not
business people or bankers. They have their best interests at heart,
not yours!.

We don’t have it yet, but we are going to get either The Edge or
Jewelry ShopKeeper. Both are great programs that interface with
QuickBooks and offer some really cool add-ons that allow you to take
photos that follow the piece everywhere, adjust your inventory
instantly (even melee and metal - they can even tell you when to
order more and who to order from!), figure COGS and GMROI accurately,
print tags, easily manage your customer lists, etc. They are both
somewhat pricey (especially when you add in all the extras you will
need to take full advantage of the system like updates, a good
computer network, tag printer and scanner, separate job envelope
printer and special three-part paper, the plastic bags - boy, are
those expensive, camera interface, etc), but they are worth the cost
for a business of large enough size.

We currently use plain old QuickBooks Basic and numbered manila
paper envelopes and do take-in and tagging procedures manually. I was
afraid that customers would view that as being somewhat amateurish
and unprofessional, but no one seems to mind hand-written claim
checks or price tags. Incidently, I always write down exactly what
the customer leaves with us on both the job and claim check. If they
have a diamond set in 18k that’s what I write, not “clear stone in a
yellow metal ring”. To me, that seems to be a far more unprofessional
practice than using hand-written job envelopes.

The QuickBooks add-ons are generic and not designed for the custom
jewelry business, consequently they won’t work well for us. We use
QuickBooks for keeping up with our various bank accounts, keeping
track of payables and receivables, printing invoices and statements,
some inventory control, financial reports, and our accountant set up
some custom reports for his use. We just give him a back-up copy on
CD every month which he then uses at his office to do our books. Not
a perfect system, but it works pretty well for us right now.

We found our current system by evolution. We also got there by
having limited cash to buy stuff. We didn’t (and still don’t)
consider top-of-the-line management software and the related
peripherals to be as good at producing income as tools, metal and
stones. And right now, that’s the bottom line with every dime we
spend. If it doesn’t produce income, it takes a back burner.

One last thought. David Geller has a system for setting up
QuickBooks for a custom jeweler. If I was starting over, I would set
it up according to his system from the first day. It will make
conversion to one of the industry specific management programs much
easier down the line and also makes it possible to generate reports
like GMROI that you will need and that aren’t easy to do by winging
it. Changing all of the classes, categories, items and accounts later
can be really complicated and will get harder to do as time goes by.
I would also get his latest Blue Book. That is an income producer
well worth it’s cost. (Standard disclaimer)

Dave


#3
We used to own our CC machine, but after having to buy two new
ones in four years due to "improving technology" and changing of
merchant accounts we now rent one. Merchant accounts won't use each
other's machines, so if you buy one and find the company is not as
good as you thought, you have to buy another one to change banks. 

I have changed banks over 5 times in the last 18 years and when I
change banks they have reprogrammed the credit card machine with no
problems. They have at times wanted me to upgrade, but I was able to
continue using what they considered an outdated machine. You just
have to ask them to help you reprogram the machine you have.

With the experience I have had over the years, if a credit card
processor told me I needed a new machine, I would not use them. I
have never had to buy a new machine. I did choose to upgrade, and
when I did, I bought one on Ebay and called up and had it
reprogrammed.

Richard Hart G.G.
Jewelers Gallery
Denver, Co.


#4

dave said -We used to own our CC machine, but after having to buy
two new ones in four years due to “improving technology” and changing
of merchant accounts we now rent one. Merchant accounts won’t use
each other’s machines, so if you buy one and find the company is not
as good as you thought, you have to buy another one to change banks.
They might also require you to update your equipment from time to
time to keep up with technology, reply i think you are being scammed!
where i live the bank likes me to have my own stuff in fact they will
reprogram any machine i buy.

about four years ago you could see a booming business on ebay selling
CC terminals and there were deals to be had if you were lucky and or
patient i am not trying to argue with you just trying to tell you
what goes on in columbus ohio - goo


#5
They might also require you to update your equipment from time to
time to keep up with technology, reply i think you are being
scammed! 

Gee, Really? A bank involved in a scam??? Imagine my stunned
amazement.

I kind of figured that was a scam, Goo. That was exactly the kind of
thing I was trying to warn Kelley about. The charge to re-program the
machine with company number two was about the same as buying a new
one, but the other costs associated were lower over time which is why
we took the advice of the sales rep and went with them and bought the
new machine. Then they hit us with the requirement to upgrade. They
did pay the fees for cancellation of account number one, though, just
like number three paid off number two. All of this was in the
contract, and if I had paid a bit more attention to it, I probably
could have avoided some extra costs. We are now on our third merchant
account (that also requires their own machine or charges heavily to
re-program someone elses) and I think we finally have it sort of
under control. Sure glad I didn’t take advantage of company number
one’s “generous offer” and sign a five year contract. Companies
number two or three might not have wanted to pay to get me out of
that one, even considering the profit generated by the two new
machines.

With the experience I have had over the years, if a credit card
processor told me I needed a new machine, I would not use them. 

You might not have that option if you had taken advantage of their
"generous offer" and signed a five year contract, like I almost did.
Now, I know better. Thank you, Richard. Thank you, Goo. No arguments
or bad vibes taken or extended. Both of you are my highly respected
Orchid friends.

But again, that’s exactly what I was trying to warn Kelley about.
Until you’ve been a store owner for ninteen years, like Richard, you
may not know where the rocks are in a merchant account contract and
what services are worth paying for and which are not. Some charge
extra for charges when the card is not physically swiped, some for
charges over a certain amount, some for too few charges, others for
too many charges in a month, etc. They are not unlike cell phone
providers in that you don’t know exactly what you’ve signed up for
until you have a problem, and then it might be too late to do
anything about it if you’re are in a long-term contract. Until
you’ve been in business for a while it’s hard to know exactly what’s
going to be good specifically for your business and what’s not. I
sure as heck didn’t know starting out, and I still don’t have a full
handle on it five years later, obviously. That’s why the admonition
to READ THE FINE PRINT! There are good companies and bad ones (at
first glance they all look good), and you can’t count on the sales
rep to steer you safely around the rocks, or for that matter, even to
point them out to you.

The whole merchant account research and decision making thing could
be made into a full-time job if somebody wanted to. I prefer to make
and sell jewelry, so I probably didn’t spend enough time to find all
of the intricacies and hidden charges of different merchant accounts
let alone research what charges were fair and what wasn’t. My guess
is that Kelley will be too busy doing other things to spend three or
four weeks full time researching merchant accounts, and if I remember
threads on this subject from before, there are a myriad of pros and
cons to sort through, tons of fine print rules and each bank has
several of their own unique variations.

So I’ll let my advice to avoid long-term contracts, read the entire
contract and change things as you need to later, stand. Kelley has to
start somewhere and knowing a little about her background, my guess
is that she will want to decide fairly quickly and move on.

You may also notice in my first response that I didn’t tell Kelley
what to or what not to do, I would never do that. I merely told of my
own experiences concerning her questions, good and bad, and I
generally don’t like to keep my bad decisions hidden. That is where
the lessons are and if I didn’t own up to my own ignorance and
mistakes, I wouldn’t be providing all the useful I have,
however limited that might be.

One thing I do know for a factual certainty; a merchant account is a
profit center for the bank, regardless of what their policy is
regarding CC machines. If they can’t get money out of you one way,
they will find another way. There is still no such thing as a free
lunch (or free re-programming) when it comes to merchant accounts.
Anything that’s free, you will be paying for somehow. They are banks,
after all, and as we are finding out in the news every day, that’s
what banks do, make money.

Dave


#6

well - now that i know more about where you are comin from with this
(thank you for the generous compliments) any bank that wants to
charge you to reprogram your machine is too be vigorously avoided in
my book. i got into a big dirty fight with a company out of waltham
massachusetts a long time ago and they almost ruined me over terminal
rental, i had to go to court and fight and then they refused to clear
my credit even after i faxed copies of a judgement in my favor to the
credit reporting company and to the my problem rental company, until
i used the phrase "you are in violation of the truth in lending act"
i dont know what that meant except it got them to clear up things
with equifax in about one day so… all please write that phrase down
it gets results

goo


#7

My advice on credit card machines is to use a small, local bank for
all of your business, including the credit card end. They are
usually much more open about the way the charges are set up and,
since they’re making money off of you in other ways, don’t need to
charge quite as much. Over the years I’ve been approached repeatedly
by c/c companies. When I actually compared all of the charges (not
just the percentage) they were never really any cheaper. These days
thinking local is better for most everyone on this list. Quite
frankly, even if they charge a little more, the fact that you have a
small, local place, where they will actually know you, is always a
much better option. More personalized service. Easier to communicate
with. Quicker to resolve problems. And maybe the employees will
become your customers too (something that will never happen when all
problems have to be dealt with through an 800 number).

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com