Hand-held Registers Take a Swipe at Long Lines

Discussion
Nov 28, 2005
Rick Moss

By Rick Moss


Portable technology that allows for acceptance of credit cards on the sales floor, rental car lot or, as portrayed in a NY Times article, on the golf range, is not new. However, recent improvements in wireless networks and the lower cost of hand-held devices is beginning to inspire increased usage.


The potential for improved customer service and increased efficiency in running a small business is highlighted in Jennifer Kingson’s article for the Times. Michelle Dubé, a golf instructor doing business in California, carries a Blackberry device equipped with a card swiping attachment to accept payments, as well as for scheduling next week’s appointment.


According to the article, the idea has also taken hold with some plumbers, limo drivers, flea market vendors and restaurant wait staff. The technology is even being tested on parking meters in Coral Gables, Florida.


For retailers, the opportunity to “bring the checkout to the customer” is tempting.


“If you’re buying a couple of dresses, a retail store wants the ability to walk up to you at that time, read the tags on the clothing items and create a sale right there,” said O. B. Rawls IV, president of the North America region for Hypercom, a company that sells payment card terminals and technology. “In a wireless mode, you can take advantage of impulse buying and line-busting, and I think that’s pretty slick.”


For example, Apple, never known to be slow on adoption, is trying out the “line-busting” technique at its retail locations to reduce chances of lost revenue from customers who abandon purchases on long holiday lines.


Although, for many retailers, use of portable checkouts will require a costly upgrade from outdated dial-up systems to wireless networks and hand-held devices, it could often be factored into an overall technology upgrade for overall systems that involve everything from inventory tracking to loyalty programs.


Moderator’s Comment: What are the relative merits of wireless credit card acceptance for small businesses and retail chains?


Domino’s reportedly tested wireless terminals, but decided to hold off on implementation because devices failed to meet durability requirements. It’s easy
to imagine that, in the hands of delivery drivers, hand-held equipment is subject to considerable wear and tear.


However, for small entrepreneurs who would carry their own equipment — think dog groomers, masseuses, appliance service people — the convenience offered
to clients could help encourage spending. And if it becomes the norm, maybe freelance designers, writers and consultants will actually get paid at the end of a day’s work, instead
of enduring a 45 to 60 day payment cycle. (Yeah, right.)

Rick Moss – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

9 Comments on "Hand-held Registers Take a Swipe at Long Lines"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Ummm, excuse me please, but if you use a handheld device to get people to pay anywhere on the shop floor, what’s to stop them picking up more afterwards and walking out without paying?

Tim Duthie
Guest
Tim Duthie
15 years 2 months ago

Where I have seen hand-held registers used, it has been a stellar experience. From restaurants to the wholesale club, it makes my life easier and eases a sometimes frustrating experience due to long lines and waits.

The consumer is becoming more aware of identify theft and moments when a credit card is out of sight can lead to anxiety. Hand-held credit card authorization in restaurants will soon be a must.

Businesses that have large yards for large merchandise will be able to more quickly close a sale without having to ask the customer to go inside and come back. The sale can be closed right there and merchandise loaded as needed.

Retailers dealing with long lines can overcome physical limitations during busy times and quickly add more “lanes” by using hand-held registers.

Ron Margulis
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

This may be a little off topic, but when I was in Europe in 2000, a few restaurants and retailers were using wireless units. When I was there in 2003, nearly every restaurant I went to used wireless units for ordering and payment. These restaurants ran the gamut from pub/bistro to white glove service (a client’s choice, not mine). I also went on several store visits in Germany, Holland and the UK, and found wireless payment units in use at both grocery and houseware retailers. I’ll be in France and Belgium next week and will report if this trend continues.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 2 months ago
I’m interested to see others’ comments because I have a feeling that this use of hand-helds may be another of the many “cool” ideas that gain a fair amount of use but that turn out to not make a lot of difference. Why I say so is this: if the real value of the hand-held is reducing checkout lines and improving customer access to checkout (where a check-out point is too far away or inconvenient), then wouldn’t we expect to find that the reason for long checkout lines is that there are too few checkout terminals? Our studies show that long checkout lines are caused by too few checkout personnel, not too few checkout terminals: for example and on average, only half of the available checkout terminals in grocery stores are in use at any one time, even when the average checkout line is 4 or 5 shoppers long. Do any of you others see a common retail process (like checkout) where a SIGNIFICANT bottleneck occurs because there are too few points of access for… Read more »
Herb Sorensen
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

This is further evolution in the direction of the “connected customer.” When products, too, are connected – via RFID – checkout will be eliminated altogether. Give it 10 years.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 2 months ago

Lots of potential benefits for this type of wireless technology, but what about retail? Line-busting makes sense, but as Race notes, often the problem is too few checkout people. Another issue may be deactivating anti-theft devices. How does that work on the sales floor?

I can see these working in retail locations when lines get quite long, and a single checkout person with a handheld cherry-picks patrons with one or two items stuck in a long line if they don’t need a bag. That keeps those patrons happy, moves the lines along so others are happy, and creates a perception that the store is working to make the experience better.

Matt Werhner
Guest
Matt Werhner
15 years 2 months ago

If you haven’t already faced the fact that cash and checks are on their way out, you are so far behind you are going in reverse. These wireless payment options are just the beginning of a budding industry. Some small businesses will embrace this technology depending upon their individual ROI and larger businesses will employ this technology for speed and convenience. What retailer would pass up additional customer impulse buys? What company can afford lost sales due to long wait lines, especially when the competition is capturing these sales with this technology? This offers great benefits to businesses with high peak sales times. Traditional cash registers and dial-up technology will still have their place, but I see many businesses, both big and small, embracing wireless sooner than later.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Like, Ron, I’ve seen these terminals commonly used in Paris sit-down restaurants since the late 1990’s. And we’ve all seen them used for years in American car rental locations. I can’t see potential uses everywhere (supermarkets, for example) but saving time at a restaurant makes sense. I agree with Bernice that procedures and technology need to be applied to the shoftlifting issue, in some cases. With all technologies, I agree with Race, the clueless will find no return on investment.

Blazing Fox
Guest
Blazing Fox
15 years 1 month ago
There are many technical, logistical, and economical reasons why mobile “registers” are problematic it stores. As many have pointed out, there is often a one-to-one tradeoff on the personnel required to operate these mobile registers. It is hard to show that line busting actually provides significant benefit over just opening up another standard register. Utilizing mobile registers can also result in increased support costs. Instead of supporting an additional register (of the same make/model as other registers), the retailer ends up supporting a new breed of device and related peripherals. Often, hand held devices and their related OS’s do not provide the same level of remote administration that desktop PC’s do. Mobile devices also have special support requirements because they requiring charging and sometimes wireless configurations. Finding mobile POS software is also an issue. It is often quite difficult (if not impossible) to make an existing POS application operate on a mobile device. This means that the retailer ends up running a separate application (complete with separate business rules logic) on the mobile platform. If… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Will wireless credit/debit card terminals be a major influence in the movement towards a cashless society?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...