Are you up to speed on technology?

I must congratulate Tony Barlow, who runs the Mount Service Station in Shrewsbury, for employing such an observant cashier named Robert Fox. Robert works for Tony during the week and for another business, called Claremont News, on a Sunday. On Tony’s urging, Robert sent me an email entitled ’Torex/Micros Iridium vs Supernews anomaly’ as both businesses use Torex epos systems.

"On the Iridium system," noticed Robert, "an age warning applies to all restricted products such as tobacco. On entering a new line into the system, the age warning automatically applies."

He adds: "On Sunday I sold a packet of Golden Virginia Yellow (a relatively new line) and noticed the age warning did not appear on screen, which struck me as odd. Soon after a packet of Carlton same thing. Further inspection revealed that about 30 lines on the gantry had no age restriction. All were newer lines. It transpires that on the Supernews software, age restrictions do not apply to product groups and have to be manually entered in by the shop (by going into ’stock’, bringing the item up on screen then ’more’ to bring up the relevant sub-screen to apply)."

And Robert concludes: "Shop owners need to check their stock because if no age warning appears it strikes me that it may be the owner rather than the cashier who is held liable for an under-age sale."

I can’t help but ask: don’t you wish you had staff like this? Maybe you do let me know as I don’t get to hear this all that often.

I put Robert’s point to Colin Reeve, director EAME development, convenience and fuel solutions at Micros Systems UK, and he replied: "We believe you are referring to Superstore rather than Supernews. Superstore came later."

He adds that, either way, both are seriously obsolete products.

"In fact even Iridium 1 is now being replaced by Iridium 2, so any expectation that Superstore can be modified is akin to asking if you can see a dinosaur at the zoo."

In this world of technology, upgrades and speed seem to be even more important than they are for cars. So, best to keep up! I had a look at the list of benefits offered by Iridium 2 and while I didn’t understand some of them (like the one cracking on about it being written in the latest lingo: pure Java) others made a great deal of sense, even to never-been-a-retailer me. These included real-time transactions to the back office; a more resilient database meaning data corruption is less likely. Iridium 2 also copies each transaction so if you have hardware issues, the data won’t be lost. Media screens replace standard customer displays and not only show what is being sold on the POS but displays adverts between customer sales.

The one I liked best is rather than having a single PayPoint terminal for the shop, it is now possible to have the function on each POS so you can do mobile top-ups, e-vouchers and bill payments on each.

A clever scam

About a month ago Huw Griffiths, who runs a Texaco station and Nisa Local at Bridgend, rang with a pertinent warning about a scam that cost him more than £500.

It was a busy Saturday and his PayPoint terminal had been acting up so when ’the call centre’ rang up Huw’s cashier believed it was a genuine call, particularly as the caller ID showed that it was coming from PayPoint’s contact centre. So the cashier keyed in the pile of numbers, which then transferred money to a pre-paid voucher. "Within seconds it was gone," says Huw. It turned out to be a ’clone’, a very clever scam.

PayPoint’s spokesman Peter Brooker says: "We recently discovered that the phone operators allow anyone to programme their phone with a different phone number to show up on the display of the phone they are calling. It even records the fake number on 1471. Fraudsters can use any number they like and it is completely out of our control."

He adds: "We can see no reason for allowing this to be possible other than for fraudulent purposes and to deceive. We are lobbying Ofcom to ban the practice and would encourage multiple and symbol groups, as well as individual retailers, to do the same."

And he also says: "The phone number of calls from our call centre is blocked so will not show up on the recipient’s display. So are calls from our office (ie, if I call a retailer from my desk) as they go through our switchboard."

Huw does not blame his staff in any way but all readers should take this on board as a lesson and train staff to never process any such transactions over the phone.

No one can afford to lose lumps of money like this.

Dreaming of a tight Christmas?

They say you can talk things up or down and I personally believe that a lot of people tightened their belts when they heard we were in the pit of a double-dip recession even if they didn’t need to. They wanted to join in. Now the new Canadian governor of the Bank of England, the Chancellor and all his cronies, and the media are all talking it up. Things are looking better. Hopefully this will mean a better Christmas for the retail scene than last year.

In fact analyst company Verdict is predicting this to be the best Christmas since the beginning of the recession, so make sure you get your share. I wish you all a busy, safe and sound season.