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POS World Help Guide
& Glossary Terms

POS - Point of Sale

Point of sales (POS) or checkout is both a checkout counter in a shop, and the location where a transaction occurs. Colloquially, a "checkout" refers to a POS terminal or more generally to the hardware and software used for checkouts, the equivalent of an electronic cash register. A POS terminal manages the selling process by a salesperson accessible interface. The same system allows the creation and printing of the voucher.

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This page was designed to not only inform, but also to allow one to quickly go to the POS that the information is talking about.  So if you feel like the description represents the type of POS you need, then just click on the linked heading and it will take you to the category that has the POS with that feature. 

Benefits of a Point of Sale (POS) System

  • Save money with a POS system: A computerized point of sale system can cut down on shrinkage (the inventory that disappears from your store or restaurant) due to theft, waste, and misuse. It can also ensure that every item in your store or on your menu sells for the correct price and generate detailed sales reports that can help you focus on higher-margin items.

  • Get more information with a POS system: Know where you stand at any point of the day. A POS system can instantly tell you how many of a particular product have sold today (or last week, or last month), how much money you have in your cash drawer, and how much of that money is profit. Detailed sales reports make it much easier for you to keep the right stock on hand. Track inventory, spot sales trends, and use historical data to better forecast your needs. Often, POS software can alert you to reorder when stock runs low. Plus, it allows you to collect the names and addresses of your best customers as part of standard transactions, which you can then use for targeted advertising and incentive programs.

  • Increase productivity with a POS system: POS systems can dramatically reduce the time you have to spend doing inventory, sales figures, and other repetitive but important paperwork. The savings here: time and peace of mind. In retail settings, barcode scanners and other POS features make checkout faster. Restaurants will find their order process greatly streamlined as orders are relayed automatically to the kitchen from the dining room. In both cases, your customers get faster, more accurate service.

Evaluate Point of Sale (POS) System Hardware

Most basic POS systems consists of a cash drawer, receipt printer, monitor, and an input device. Employees can use touch screens, programmable keyboards, scanners, or handheld terminals to enter data into a POS system.

Cash Drawer

A cash drawer is generally a compartment underneath a cash register in which the cash from transactions is kept. The drawer typically contains a removable till. The till is usually divided into compartments used to store each denomination of bank notes and coins separately to make counting easier. The removable till allows moneys to be removed from the sales floor to a more secure location for counting and creating bank deposits.

A cash drawer is usually of strong construction and may be integral with the register or a separate piece that the register sits atop. It slides in and out of its lockable box and is secured by a spring-loaded catch. When a transaction that involves cash is completed, the register sends an electrical impulse to a solenoid to release the catch and open the drawer.

Cash drawers that are integral to a stand-alone register often have a manual release catch underneath to open the drawer in the event of a power failure. More modern cash drawers have eliminated the manual release in favor of a cylinder lock, requiring a key to manually open the drawer. The cylinder lock usually has three positions: locked, unlocked, and release. The release position is an intermittent position with a spring to push the cylinder back to the unlocked position. In the "locked" position, the drawer will remain latched even when an electric signal is sent to the solenoid.

POS System Touch Screens:

Many users find touch screens more intuitive to use than keyboards and touch screens provide flexible user interfaces and programming. Most touch screens are sleek flat-panel LCDs, which cost slightly more than traditional CRT monitors, but last longer, use less electricity, and take up less space. With both CRT and LCD displays, avoid "overlay" touch screens added on to regular monitors. They can be prone to breakdowns.

POS System Keyboards:

Grocery stores often prefer programmable POS keyboards that allow you to program individual keys for specific item codes and prices. Some POS keyboard models are standard 101-key models that you find with any computer. Others are smaller, more POS-specific devices, such as the flat-panel membrane keyboards common in fast food outlets. Often, POS keyboards come with built-in magnetic stripe readers for processing credit cards.

POS System Scanners:

Scanners read a bar code and send the resulting numbers back to your POS system computer, improving speed and accuracy during checkout. They typically connect to the system through Y-connectors called wedges that make them function as an extension of the keyboard. Choose a scanner based on your average customer volume at checkout.
  • Several customers: If you do not usually have more than a customer or two in line, CCD scanners or entry-level laser scanners should meet your needs.

  • Constant flow of customers: A fairly constant flow of customers might call for auto-sensing CCD or laser scanners. Auto-sensing CCD and laser scanners turn themselves on when an item is placed in front of them, scan the code, and then turn off again.

  • High-volume businesses: Very high volume businesses should investigate omnidirectional scanners and embedded scanners. Omnidirectional scanners send out 15 or 20 lasers simultaneously, letting you scan a bar code from any angle. Top-of-the-line embedded scanners, popular in supermarkets, are omnidirectional scanners installed below a counter.

POS Receipt Printer:

Every POS system needs a printer to create credit card slips and receipts for customers. Many restaurants also use POS printers to send orders to kitchen and bar staff. You'll find dot matrix printers and thermal printers. Inexpensive dot matrix printers, also known as impact printers, use pins and an ink ribbon to print on regular paper. They are better suited for kitchens where ambient temperature can prevent thermal printers from working effectively. Thermal printers use heat and special heat-sensitive paper to generate receipts. They cost slightly more than dot matrix printers, but are faster, quieter, and generally more reliable because they have fewer moving parts. Over several years of use, the higher costs for thermal paper are just about balanced out by the need to buy both paper and ribbons for dot matrix printers.

Customer Display:

Also known as pole displays, customer displays show item and price information to the customer and some support advertising (often called secondary displays). Compare size and display appearance and make sure your software is compatible with the display's emulation.

Cash Registers:

A cash register is a mechanical or electronic device for calculating and recording sales transactions, and an attached cash drawer for storing cash. The cash register also usually prints a receipt for the customer.

In most cases the drawer can be opened only after a sale, except when using a special keys, which only senior employees and the owner have. This reduces the risk of employees stealing from the shop owner by not recording a sale and pocketing the money, when a customer does not need a receipt but has to be given change (cash is more easily checked against recorded sales than inventory). In fact, cash registers were first invented for the purpose of eliminating employee theft or embezzlement, and their original name was the Incorruptible Cashier. It has also been suggested that odd pricing came about because by charging odd amounts like 49 or 99 cents, the cashier very probably had to open the till for the penny change and thus announce the sale.

Magnetic Stripe Reader:

POS software processes credit cards, but you'll still need a magnetic stripe reader to read the credit cards. Keyboards and touch screens often have built-in readers. If your input device does not, you'll need to purchase a standalone magnetic stripe reader.

Finger ID Reader:

For added security, you may also want to add a fingerprint ID reader to your POS system that limits which employees can access the POS terminal. Unlike PIN codes that can be read over someone's shoulder or magnetic swipe cards that can be forgotten by employees, stolen, or lost, fingerprint ID boxes read thumbprints and ensure the right employees can log on.

POS Features:

"Point of Sale (POS) Systems Buying Guide". Retrieved 2009-07-23.
Wikipedia.  Retrieved 2009-10-26.