Bookkeeping For Dummies
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Have you gone into a store or restaurant lately and had your order handled with a tablet or other mobile device? That's the new trend in retail. Such systems help improve control over the tracking of sales and the management of cash as well as the collection of data that can be used to generate future marketing and promotions based on customer purchases.

In the past, your server took your order on paper, brought it to the kitchen, and handed you a handwritten check at the end of the meal. Then there was a shift to computer ordering, where there were a few stations throughout the restaurant where the servers entered the order on the computers and a printout was generated for the kitchen. Bills were then calculated and printed at the end of the meal. That prevented a lot of errors in calculation and provided better information that could be used to plan future food ordering based on the most popular dishes.

Today mobile devices have taken all this to a new level. There are restaurants where servers take orders on their smartphones right at the table and it is then printed out. Mobile devices are helping to speed up the order process, improve accountability for the sale of products, and track the cash that changes hands. There are restaurants that have kiosks at the table for paying the bill. When you're ready, you hit a button on the machine that says Pay Bill and you can swipe your credit and be done. If you do want to pay cash, you can ask for a written bill, and a server handles the cash transaction.

Retail stores are catching up to the mobile age as well. Cashiers must scan every item purchased, which is then priced automatically by the cash register (if still being used) or the tablet or other mobile device used by the salesperson. This strengthens not only the tracking of what items are sold, but also the amount of cash and credit card receipts that should be in the cash register or cash drawer at the end of the day when proving out the day's receipts.

Some retailers have even set up video cameras that automatically record all transactions at the checkout counters. If a problem is suspected, a manager can review the footage and determine whether someone is not following the cash-handling rules.

Tracking and managing cash sales in retail environments are becoming easier and safer thanks to mobile devices. The information collected by mobile apps helps storeowners know quickly what items are popular and when they should reorder those items. They also can track what a customer purchases, collect that customer's email address, and enable a customer relationship program geared to what the store owner knows each customer likes to buy.

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Lita Epstein, MBA, designs and teaches online courses in investing, finance, and taxes. She is the author of Trading For Dummies and Bookkeeping Workbook For Dummies.

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