How to use a cash register

An ‘old school’ cash register used to help businesses accept and store cash payments, and that was pretty much it. A modern cash register – or point-of-sale (POS) system – accepts all kinds of mobile and card payments, gathers and analyzes customer data, manages inventory, automatically calculates tax, and stores everything safely in the cloud.

Choosing the right cash register for your business

There are several types of cash register systems available in the market, each designed to cater to specific business needs. One common model is a traditional cash register, which includes basic functions like ringing up sales, calculating totals, and providing a cash drawer for storing money.

However, modern cash registers for small businesses have evolved significantly, offering a variety of features and capabilities. Typically, many businesses opt for POS systems, which are comprehensive solutions that integrate hardware and software. They often include touchscreen displays, barcode scanners, card readers, and detailed inventory management.

POS systems are ideal for businesses of various sizes, from small shops to large retailers and restaurants.

When selecting a cash register system, consider the following factors:

  • Required features. Identify the features you need. If you require a card reader, make sure the selected cash register system includes one. Additionally, consider features like inventory management, reporting capabilities, and compatibility with your business type (e.g., restaurant-specific features for food service establishments).
  • Scalability. Think about the future growth of your business. Will the chosen cash register system accommodate your expanding needs? Ensure that it can scale with your business without requiring frequent upgrades.
  • User-friendliness. Training employees on the system should be straightforward to minimize errors and improve efficiency.
  • Technical support. Consider the availability of technical support and maintenance services. Reliable customer support can be invaluable in case of technical issues. No business wants to lose out on sales simply because the POS system malfunctioned.

If your business is setting up a cash register for the first time or adopting new POS technology, learn how to get it ready for action and start accepting fast and easy payments from your customers.

How to use a cash register

Once you’ve chosen the perfect spot for your cash register, it’s time for cash register set-up. You’ll need to connect it to your power supply, configure it, and then connect it to other POS devices.

  1. Unbox and assemble the cash register

    You’ll need to place your POS System or cash register in a convenient place in your premises. It should be on a flat surface where you and your staff can operate it on one side and customers can pay on the other.

    When it comes to positioning, think about where and how you want your customers to move through your business’s space. Depending on the kind of business you operate, the ideal POS counter space could be close to the entrance to greet customers, at the back of the store, or in a comfy consultation space with seating.

  2. Connect the power supply and plug in the register

    Your cash register needs power, so make sure it’s connected to the power outlet safely without trailing wires. Your cash register might have a battery too, which will provide backup energy in case there’s a power outage. You’ll be able to keep taking payments while the battery has charge. This is made even easier if your cash register comes with a portable card reader.

  3. Configure your cash register

    Your cash register needs to be configured next. This means setting the date and time, adding your inventory and pricing, and specifying which items include sales tax and which don’t. You should be able to access this from your laptop or mobile because your data is stored in the cloud.

    Once the details are configured, your POS will start saving time and energy for you and your staff by automatically tracking inventory and calculating totals and tax.

  4. Connect with other POS devices

    Your cash register works with all kinds of other devices, from card readers and barcode scanners to cash drawers and receipt printers. They can be synced remotely with Bluetooth technology or connected manually with a USB cable.

    Connect everything you’re going to need and make sure they’re all working together. Try to keep wires and cables hidden from customers, as well as out of the way of staff, to prevent accidents and to keep it tidy.

Setting up a cash register

If you’re working a cash register for the first time, the good news is touchscreen cash registers and POS systems are designed to be simple and easy to use.

A quick training session will be enough to teach you and your team how to use a cash register, take payments, issue refunds, add discounts, and more. Before you open for business, or a team member starts their shift, they should turn the register on, log in with their employee ID and PIN, and check everything’s working well. The cash drawer should open and close effectively and the receipt printer should contain paper.

  1. How to make a sale

    This is the first thing you’ll want to learn – how to use a cash register to make a sale. Depending on the cash register settings, staff might need to log in every time they need to make a sale. Alternatively, the POS could be automatically logged in.

    The second step is to select the items the customer wants to buy. If the cash register has been configured correctly, these should be available to tap on the POS system. The POS will add up the total for you and add any relevant taxes.

    Next, ask the customer how they would like to pay. If they choose cash, the register can automatically calculate the change, and the cash drawer will open so cash can be safely stored and accessed.

    If the customer wants to pay by card, the synced card reader will fire into action and be ready to take either a contactless, a chip and pin, or a chip and sign payment. Customers can add a tip here too by following the instructions on the screen. When the payment is complete, the customer can get a receipt if they need one.

  2. How to void a sale and issue refunds

    It’s important to know how to void a transaction in case an order is canceled, duplicated, or a customer asks for a refund. Each POS will work slightly differently, but there should be a button that says ‘VOID’ or ‘CANCEL’. Press this to cancel a transaction and remove it from your POS.

    If you’re giving a cash refund, choose this option on the screen, enter the pricing information, and the cash drawer will kick open so you can give the customer their money back. A card refund will usually be given through the card machine. Choose the option on screen, enter the amount that needs to be refunded, and the customer can use their card as normal to receive the refund.

  3. How to use discounts

    Your cash register will automatically calculate discounts when they need to be applied. This could be a percentage or a specific amount.

    It’s up to you as the merchant whether you make this function available to all staff, or if each discount requires manager approval. You can also specify why the discount was applied, which is essential for your own record keeping. When a discount is added, the customer will be prompted to pay the reduced amount.

Cash register maintenance and troubleshooting

Like all technology, cash registers can go wrong. Regular maintenance can make this less likely and keep your POS running smoothly.

Cleaning the cash register

Keep the touchscreen clean by wiping it down daily with antibacterial spray. This is essential especially if there are lots of people touching it every day. Dust, old receipts, and even dollar bills can jam your cash drawer too. Keep it clean with regular dusting, check everything is in the correct place, and don’t let the cash register to get too full. This can make it hard for the drawer to close and may cause damage.

Just like any other electrical equipment, check the wires aren’t worn or unsafe, and that the power outlet is undamaged.

Changing the paper roll

Your card reader and receipt printer contain a paper roll which prints the receipts. You’ll know when this runs out because they’ll stop printing and alert you.

Open them up, unwrap a new roll, remove the empty cardboard roll, and insert the new roll. Next, pull a section of the roll out of the machine through the serrated slot, close the flap, and print a test receipt to check it’s working. If nothing prints, you might need to turn the roll around so it can print on the other side of the paper.

What to do if the cash register is not working

Common cash register errors include cloud sync errors, information not being displayed properly, connected devices failing, and the cash drawer not opening. If all your cash register troubleshooting comes to nothing, calling tech support can help you get things working again.

Contact the company that makes and maintains your cash register, tell them what the issue is, and they’ll likely be able to help. They may even access your POS remotely (with your permission, of course) to troubleshoot for you.

Troubleshooting during a busy shift is no fun, so it’s important you identify issues out of hours, if possible. This should help you avoid that awful moment when the POS goes down and you have a line of customers standing in front of you.

Outages are sometimes unavoidable, however. If you can’t fix the issue immediately and need to get on with your day, remember that some of the individual components connected to your cash register can work independently. For example, the card terminal may still be able to take card and contactless payments, but it may not sync up to your POS.

Difference between a cash register and POS system

Traditional cash registers and modern POS systems serve the same purpose of processing sales transactions and managing cash. But they differ significantly in features and capabilities.

Traditional registers are basic, offering transaction processing and cash storage. They generally lack advanced features such as inventory management and integration with other business systems.

In contrast, modern POS systems deliver a wide range of functionality beyond transaction processing. They include features like inventory tracking, customer relationship management, employee management, sales reporting, and integration with accounting and e-commerce systems. POS systems serve as all-in-one payments solutions, helping businesses manage various aspects of their operations effectively.

While traditional cash registers may suffice for very small businesses with limited growth potential, POS systems are scalable and adaptable to businesses of various sizes, providing room for expansion.

No matter where you sell, learn how to accept payments in-store or on-the-go with PayPal POS system.

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