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POS Systems: Don't Take Them for Granted

Updated on June 11, 2012
Point of sale
Point of sale | Source

PO-what? POS. Point of sale.

Also known as POP, or point of purchase. Others call it checkout.

It is something that we encounter on a regular basis, perhaps even on a daily basis, but I think I am not wrong in saying that it is also something that we take for granted.

When was the last time you went grocery shopping? Or when was the last time you went to a fast food joint for a meal? The chances are that it was not so long ago. If so, then you have encountered a POS system in the last x number of hours.

I don't know about you, but usually, the last thing on my mind when waiting for the cashier to process my purchases is the POS system. After all, this technology is fully incorporated in our lives that we barely pay any attention to it.

Unless you are a business owner, or you simply have a curious mind. If you belong to either group, this hub is for you. Bear in mind that it is being written by one belonging to the latter group, so it is mainly information for the curious.

The Origins of POS

For purposes of this hub, I prefer to use the term POS. It is, in my experience, the most commonly used term.

So what exactly is a POS? As mentioned earlier, it stands for Point of Sale. That means that it is simple a system where a person - the cashier - processes sales. This system is composed of hardware and software components, which together act to document and track sales.

POS systems these days are very efficient and easy to use. It was not always the case, however. The earliest systems were created and used in the early 70s. Unsurprisingly, it was IBM who first introduced such systems. Back then, they were called Store Systems.

By the 1990s, with the widespread use of computers and Microsoft, more POS systems were created. This also resulted in more entities relying on them for more efficient operations. It didn't take long for the industry to install standards that made these systems more or less uniform, especially in terms of software.

The result of many years of work and innovation: the POS systems as we know (or don't know, as we tend to take them for granted) today.

Checkout Counter
Checkout Counter | Source

Industries Where POS Systems Are Used

Have you ever wondered which industries use POS systems heavily? Probably not.

Let's take this time to actually quickly take a look at the industries which make use of this technology. Chances are you will think "Oh, yeah!" once you read each industry.

  • Retail. The retail industry is definitely one of the heaviest users of this system. As such, there is a high demand for high quality and reliable retail POS software. The monitors, computers, credit card machines, etc. that you see when you go to practically any store - those make up the POS system.
  • Hospitality. Oh, the joys of traveling! I hate checking in/out of hotels, but can you imagine just how much more complicated and time consuming it can be if they didn't have those automated systems? In this industry, the POS system is usually integrated with other software specific to their functions, such as property management.
  • Hair and Beauty. This may not apply to the mom and pop salon you find at the corner of small neighborhoods, but even those with POS systems are becoming rarer and rarer.

The bottom line is this: for any business, it is crucial that a reliable POS system is installed. It is the most efficient way to keep track of sales, and tied together with other software, the overall operations of the business will be more cost-effective as well.

So, the next time you feel yourself becoming impatient because the cashier at the grocery store is taking forever to scan your purchases, amuse yourself by looking at their POS system. Appreciate how it has impacted your life as a consumer.


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    • profile image

      Stellar Phoenix Review 5 years ago

      This article is spectacular! You obviously know how to keep a reader sustained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost..aha) Great job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool! Stellar Phoenix Review

    • grizzlyff profile image

      grizzlyff 5 years ago from Sugar Hill, GA

      I would quibble about IBM being the earliest POS even though some sources support that premise, when the truth is that POS systems are a natural progression of the much earlier work done by National Cash Register (NCR), Sweda, and many others, although IBM certainly contributed significantly as well. First commercial use of a POS scanning in the 70's was actually by an NCR system.