Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Although QuickBooks POS ships with a box full of hardware peripherals, attaching them to your PC and installing the program itself is a breeze. We connected the cash drawer, receipt printer, credit card swiper, and bar code scanner to our PC and got the program ready to rock in less than an hour. The resulting setup is compact and intuitive: the cash drawer makes a nifty monitor stand.
Setting up the software is just as easy. A wizard walks you through the setup and start-up configuration process, and the simple interface resembles a slick Web site: you navigate by clicking buttons--no traditional menus--and there's even a Back button that returns you to previous screens. Although you can start using POS immediately, you should spend some time setting up customer, supplier, and inventory lists. Depending on the extent of your inventory, this up-front setup can take just a few minutes or many hours.
Hidden treasures galore
Once it's installed, you'll use POS primarily to ring up retail sales. Even a rookie can select purchased items from a list or scan the products' bar codes (UPCs) and choose a payment method: cash, check, or credit card. When the transaction is done, a receipt prints and the cash drawer opens automatically. Processing credit card purchases requires a merchant account, available through most banks. Fortunately, if you don't have a such an account, you can sign up for QuickBooks POS Merchant Service on the Intuit Web site. This service is aggressively competitive: there are no monthly fees or setup charges, and each transaction costs 23 cents, plus 1.69 percent of the total charged to the card.
More integration, please
But POS is more than just a $1,500 cash register. Its back-end features provide complete customer histories, which is a great marketing tool, and real-time inventory; as items are rung up at the register, they're deducted from the stock on hand. And you'll get an even greater return on your investment if you integrate your QuickBooks 2002 inventory, customer, and vendor data with POS. However, after the one-time-only import process, you can enter inventory options only from within POS. You can't reimport from QuickBooks, which we think would be a nifty option.
At the end of the day, or, if you wish, more frequently, POS exchanges data, such as customer and vendor information, sales receipts, and receiving data (for instance, purchases you made to stock low inventory), with QuickBooks 2002. However, although POS automatically updates your inventory in its program, it won't do the same with QuickBooks, a major flaw. So, if you sell some items and decrease your inventory, the changes won't show up in QuickBooks. In effect, you must do all inventory-related work, including adding new items and receiving inventory, in POS. If you use QuickBooks in the back office, for example, you'll have to step up to a POS terminal to check inventory. Ugh.
POS offers solid if expensive tech support. In addition to the extensive online FAQ file, you get two free calls to the help desk after you register POS. An annual support plan ($979) gives you unlimited toll-free access to the help desk, which is available 16 hours each weekday, 9 hours on weekends. The only alternative is a per-incident fee of $60 for each 10 minutes on the phone with a tech rep. When we called for assistance, a rep came on the line within two minutes and answered our questions quickly and concisely.
POS's ability to let cash register-equipped shops automate and link sales and accounting wins it a hearty thumbs-up. But if your inventory changes rapidly, wait until a fully integrated version comes along.