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MerchantOS – Point of Sale Goes to the Cloud

Tmerchantos.pnghe opening of our new shop brought with it several challenges, one of which was how to handle payments for our new “residential clients” who are walk-ins for PC repair.  It was never an issue in the past, as we’d simply email invoices to our business clients, and the few residential users who brought their PCs to my home office presumed they would be paying by check. With the shop, it is assumed that we will take credit cards, as we had 4 different clients within the first week present a card for payment (which, sadly, we were not prepared to accept). We were in need of a tech solution for ourselves, so we started to look into affordable point of sale.  The first contender was Quickbooks Point of Sale, which does everything we would want and then a lot more… so much more that it was almost too complicated for our little shop.  It would have been great to grow into, but the price tag was prohibitive.  Quickbooks also make a program called Cash Register, which would have been perfect if it didn’t only work their authorized printers, barcode scanners, and cash drawer. We explored a few other free/cheap software packages, but just weren’t able to find that elegant, feature-rich program that would work with our hardware.  MerchantOS popped up somewhere along the line as a web-based Point of Sale solution. It’s clean, easy to use and configure, and because it’s all web-based and running on outside servers, we can load it from any computer in the shop in a regular web browser (they actually prefer Firefox… woot)!  Aside from basic inventory tracking, customer information and user accounts, etc, MerchantOS has a built-in Work Order tracking system.  For us, it means that while computers are on the bench being repaired, the work order system can be open in a web browser, allowing technicians to log their work and add prices to it on the same system that will eventually ring up the customer. In terms of hardware, all you really need is a computer(ours is a little old Dell box), USB receipt printer(~250), USB credit card scanner(~60), and USB barcode scanner(~160).  The printer installs as a regular printer (though you may need to do some digging to find a windows driver), and the barcode reader and credit card reader all send data as if they were keyboards.  For the record, we had the barcode scanner hooked up for a 2 weeks before ever getting any point of sale software, and had a ton of fun just scanning everything in sight.  It’s just cool.  We don’t accept cash, but you could add a cash drawer just as easily. Setup was a breeze, and the only mildly annoying part was registering for a merchant account with their preferred partner.  It takes a few phone calls an email confirmations, but one you’re up and running, it just works.  This is an excellent example of software as a service (saas), and for about $50 a month, we have a full-featured point of sale system that works on any computer from anywhere, with so-far excellent technical support. We’re still trying to figure out if it can print our logo on the receipt! -Chris

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