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Also known as the point of service or POS, the point of sale is the exact point in a transaction when goods or services are provided to the customer and payment is rendered for those products. While the specifics of a POS system will vary somewhat from one situation to another, the final outcome is always the same. Today, there are professionals who analyze and develop tools that help to create an environment for the exchange to take place, many of them related to specific retail situations.
One of the most basic point of sale systems is found in the supermarket. This system consists of the check out counter, a scanner, and the cash register. As each item is scanned, the system notes the cost. Once all the items selected by the customer are scanned, the system calculates the taxes applicable to the purchases and provides the customer with the total amount due. The customer renders payment, which the hardware logs, generating a receipt of the transaction for the customer.
Today, there is a new twist to this type of point of sale strategy. Self-serve kiosks are increasingly used in supermarkets and other retail outlets. The POS terminal allows the customer to scan each item before placing it into a bag, automatically applying discounts or sale prices to each scanned item. Once the customer has scanned and bagged the purchases, the system calculates the taxes and offers the customer several choices in payment method. When cash is used, the software logs the amount of cash deposited and issues any change due the customer. As with the more traditional POS systems, this self-service model also provides the customer with an itemized receipt of the transaction.
Point of sale hardware and software are found in other retail situations. There are retail systems designed for use in bookstores, flea markets, and airports. Restaurant sale equipment includes automated ordering kiosks that the customer can use to place an order and submit payment. The restaurant POS is very popular in many drive-up style fast food restaurants, but can also be used to place orders in a few family style restaurants as well. As with the retail POS, the restaurant model is capable of accepting credit and debit cards for payment. However, it is unusual for such a device to accept cash.
Over time, automated point of sale devices have become increasingly popular, showing up at hotels, casinos, sports stadiums, and similar venues. Technology has also made them an option for online purchasing, making it possible to purchase goods at online stores and pay for them immediately.