Point of no sale

I talked about this in my Beacon column the other day, but I thought I should share it with you folks – particularly since a number of you are in the software biz.

I had the most bizarre experience today in a store here in the Flathead.

Large locally-owned retailer. I stop in to pick up an order for a local sports team and manage to stumble across a department manager when trying to find someone to fetch the order for me.

She found the order pronto.

What happened next completely blew me away.

I told her and the other person behind the counter that the order was on account, and that we’ve been handling them this way for some time (years).

They couldn’t find the account. The ticket on the box had my home phone # on it, but that didn’t lead them anywhere. They tried the other number on the ticket – my wife’s work #. She’s the one who actually manages the purchases from this store for the team.

No dice. That number doesn’t work either.

They ask if I have another phone number. I’m a little stumped at this point.

I ask if they can look it up by the team name.


I ask if they can look it up by my wife’s name.


I ask if they can look it up by the account number if I call my wife and get it.


Eventually, we guess the right phone number (the former team president’s # – in fact, 2 presidents ago). They find the account on a list somewhere using that number, but …. can’t do anything with it.

Let me be clear about this. These 2 folks were competent users of the system placed before them. It simply wouldn’t let them do what they needed to do. Find an account by name and post an order on account pickup to it. I really felt sorry for them.

I’ve worked on point of sale systems as a software developer for over a decade. Thousands of users, over a thousand sites. Seen and tinkered with lots of competitive systems. I’ve yet to see a system that doesn’t allow you to look someone up by account (business or organization) name. Not too many leave out the ability to find an account by the contact name.

This one appears to offer neither. Mind-boggling.

So the bottom line is that this large retailer has a point of sale / accounting system that only works if you know the right phone number, and even then, you are unable to tell the system that the customer is taking their order. In fact, they weren’t even able to see our order and as such, had to look at every item in the box and write it down by hand so that the items would be properly billed.

This is not a point of sale system. This is a point of no-sale system.

Maybe it was a training issue, maybe not. Regardless, it shouldn’t have been this hard to do.

One of the most valuable things for figuring out stuff like this is simply to be a fly on the wall. Watch a couple of users use your product – both novice and experienced users. The things you learn are likely to surprise, and possibly embarrass, you.