Follow The Money
Many states have laws addressing how school employees can accept money from students. Blue Bear Software profits from this vertical market with proprietary software and receipt printers.
Accepting money from school kids used to be simple: take the cash, hand over the merchandise. But in California and many other states, schools must now provide a receipt when accepting money from a student. For many schools, this proved to be quite a chore. "Handwritten receipts often resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome for folks who had to write hundreds of receipts on a daily basis," says Carol Martin, VP and majority owner of Blue Bear Software (San Diego). Other problems schools encountered were misspelled names, the recording of wrong amounts, and illegible handwriting. Schools also found the whole process taking too long. "When there are 100 kids waiting to buy football tickets, hand writing each receipt can take forever," notes Martin.
Receipts, Audit Trails Required
Most schools make a large number of products and services available to students. In addition to sporting event tickets, there are dance tickets, school clothing items, yearbooks, and student clubs. When schools accept money from students, several things must happen. In addition to a receipt, there also has to be a record showing which students purchased a particular item. When yearbooks are delivered, the school would need to know who purchased them. "Even though you are handing the student a receipt, receipts can be lost," states Martin.
There is also the issue of an audit trail. "The audit trail is critical," adds Martin. "Some secondary schools have bank accounts in the six figures." School districts must be audited, and the results are made public in their financial reports. Examiners will often audit the funds of the student body, which are held in separate bank accounts. If the totals on the bank statements don't match the totals on the books, an audit trail (statements and receipts) is necessary.
The Right Software For The Job
To help schools deal with these requirements, Blue Bear Software created Tracks, a software package specifically designed for schools. The software is installed on a PC, which is then connected to a receipt printer. A cash drawer plugs into the bottom of the printer, and a handheld scanner hooks onto the same connector as the keyboard.
"When Johnny comes up to the window, he has his student ID card with a bar code on it," says Martin. "When the bar code is scanned, the student's name and information will come up on the screen. The computer also stores a list of items available for sale. Those items are listed on a sheet of paper, each with its own bar code. If the student wants a pair of extra-large gym shorts, that bar code is scanned and the item and its price also come up on the screen."
Receipt Printers Speed The Process
Once a transaction is complete, the clerk will hit a few buttons and a receipt will be printed for the student. "Students do not have to wait while the cashier writes a receipt," says Martin. "They have only a few minutes between classes and before and after school to take care of purchases." The printed receipt also eliminates errors. The printer prints two copies of the receipt. The white copy is handed to the student while the yellow copy provides the required audit trail.
Blue Bear also sells users the receipt printer used with the solution. However, Martin does not give the customer any options. "We tell them which printer they need, and they seldom question our judgment," says Martin. The printer she recommends is the CITIZEN 3550 from CBM America (Torrance, CA). "We started out using a different brand, but after two installations we switched to CITIZEN and have never used anything else," she states.
One of the reasons Martin likes the CITIZEN is its ease of use. "We take the printer out of the box and it is ready to go," she says. "The printer comes with a roll of single-ply paper, which we remove and replace with a two-ply roll so the school has a double receipt. Other than that we simply plug it in, connect a printer cable, and it's ready to go."
In fact, the printer is so easy to install that Blue Bear will often ship the printer directly to the end user and walk them through the installation and maintenance right over the phone.