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Smart Safes vs. Cash Counters

Nick van Noorden TellermateAs I talk with people about cash counters, a frequent response is that we already have or are currently looking at Smart Safes.  My first reaction is that you are comparing apples and oranges.  Let’s take a look at both options and see if we can reach a logical conclusion.

Smart Safes

Smart Safes are terrific.  When used correctly, they provide a measure of protection to your staff by ensuring excess cash is “skimmed” from your POS stations and deposited in the safe.  That minimizes the loss you will have if robbed and should encourage staff to hand over any cash to a robber rather than playing the hero  for a small amount of cash.  But, that raises the question of where do you place your Smart Safe; in the front or in the back office?

save_vs_cash_counterI put a survey on the LinkedIn forum for Smart Safes asking whether the safe should be in the front or in the back office and later conducted a wider survey of cash handling practices asking the same question.  In both cases the responses were split. Approximately half of the people advocated back office and the other half advocated putting them at the front.  The only conclusion I can come up with is that there is still some confusion in the market as to the role of the Smart Safe.

Safes at the POS

People who have been using Smart Safes for a few years understand the value, when a safe is located near the point of sale. It allows for immediate validation of large denomination bills.  You can validate a bill before you accept it, not after the customer has left the store/restaurant.  In addition, it is more convenient to conduct skims (aka drops) if the safe is near the POS.  In speaking with a loss prevention director at one of the world’s largest QSR brands, he relayed that the level of compliance in doing frequent skims went up when the safe was conveniently located next to the POS.  The cashiers saw the value without having to involve busy managers.  Voluntary compliance from cashiers, sounds like a winner to me.  Or is it?

In a QSR environment where a grouping of the POS locations are near each other this is a no brainer.  One safe up front and one by the drive through.  But what about in a retail environment where the POS locations are scattered around the store or even on different floors?  It can get quite expensive putting a Smart Safe at every POS. In fact it can get prohibitive.

In Europe we are seeing several manufacturers coming out with much smaller safes that can economically be located under each POS.  They can easily hold a day’s takings.  To a certain extent we are starting to see the same trend in North America but the units are not yet as small as the European models; nor can they match the price point.
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Safes in the Back Office

What about putting the safe in the back office?  My view is that you just wasted money on some of the highest quality bill validation there is.  At the end of the shift or the end of the day, you feed in the bills to the safe and surprise, you have $100 in potentially counterfeit bills.  What does that do to the ROI on your safe?  Naturally Smart safe manufacturers have a range of options to meet their customer’s requirements.  You can buy extra-large cartridges that could securely hold several day’s takings and high speed bill acceptors that take sixty or seventy bills a minute.  That may seem compelling for a back office scenario, but does it protect your staff out front, and does it validate high denomination bills at the time of acceptance?  If you are considering using them in the back office, ask yourself why you are considering Smart Safes.

Cash Counters

If we accept the role of a Smart Safe is security and currency validation, then we can take a more objective role of cash counters.

Do you:

  • Count the cash at the start of every shift?
  • Count the cash at the end of every shift?
  • Count the change safe at every manager change?
  • Prepare bank deposits?

Now count how many times each day you perform each of those tasks.  Ask yourself what takes longer, to count bills or change?  Yes, it is all those blasted pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters; they are the time wasters and they are something that can’t be counted by a safe.

Electronic cash counters, those that count bills and coins, have a very short ROI just in handling the tasks listed above. They are relatively inexpensive when compared to current models of Smart Safes and can be used both in the front of house for skims and audits, as well as the back of house to count all the drawers and deposits.

Back to the response I get about already having a Smart Safe when talking about cash counters. Simply put, whether you use a Smart Safes (placed in the front or back) or are thinking of using one, you most likely will not be putting all of your cash (and especially not your coins) into your safe. There is still cash needing to be counted throughout the day. Using an electronic cash counter, like Tellermate, can not only perform those tasks, but also speed up the process, giving your staff more time with customers and to focus on other profit generating activities.

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T-ix Cash Counter

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