Starbucks recently experienced a massive glitch in its point-of-sale (POS) systems which disabled cash registers at thousands of stores. Starbucks was forced to give away products for free before it finally shut the affected stores down. Starbucks closed 60 percent of its stores across USA and Canada, or 13,500 locations.
While point-of-sale systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated, this glitch reveals an unfortunate truth about POS platforms — they are only as good as the technology that supports them.
POS systems were once simply known as cash registers. They rang up tabs and stored cash, and that was about it. Today's registers are full-fledged systems that process credit cards, send orders, run loyalty programs and collect large volumes of sales data.
It is the latter that has truly made POS systems invaluable to companies.
"Data is the holy grail of retail," said Craig Bahner, former chief marketing officer for Wendy's. "We always thought of the POS system as a tool to be able to get to know your customer."
Not only does collected data help companies understand their customer base, it can be used to predict how much of a product needs to be manufactured in the future or how many employees need to be scheduled next week or next month.
Starbucks said the outage was the result of an "internal failure during a daily system refresh," but would not expand further on the problem. The outage only lasted for a few hours, but according to industry experts it was an unprecedented glitch.
It's important for companies to stay up-to-date with their payment processor software, to avoid glitches and other unexpected issues.