Wednesday, September 7, 2011

a little information about handheld credit card machines

It seems at first like a godsend.  No more coaxing guests from their seats to join you at the credit card machine to process yet another chip card.  Often hard-wired machines are located in service areas that the guest rarely sees up close.  These areas tend to get messy, cluttered and generally unpleasant to behold during a busy service.  The last thing you want is to force your guest away from their conversation to stand in a line-up to process VISA cards en masse at 7:30pm.

Onto the scene arrives the wireless, handheld, credit card terminal!  Hooray!  Now you can approach the guest and stand awkwardly over their shoulder while they fumble through the options and hopefully leave their intended tip (god forbid they miss the decimal place and leave $0.12 instead of $12.00).

First let me start off by letting you in on a secret: the average server is not out to steal your card, you do not need to snatch it from the machine like you are saving a half-naked swimmer from a JAWS attack!  Be patient, these things take a moment to process - especially when the airwaves are bogged down pre-theatre and everyone in the city is racing to the show.  The card has to come out AFTER it says approved, so hang on to your socks, you can have your card back in a moment.

Unfortunately, instead of causing a decrease in the credit/debit card processing time, these little joys of technology have actually increased the time overall.  This is not due to the fact that they take longer to process, it's because of the human element.  People for some reason have an inherent problem following directions, instead they press the keys they assume to be correct which results time and again in a cancelled transaction or the need for correction.

The best advice I can give to those unfamiliar with these machines: FOLLOW THE PROMPTS!

You'll be amazed, if you'd simply read the information on the screen the process is quite simple.  Here are a few extra bits of information to make it even easier!

There are 3 coloured buttons on most machines: green, yellow and red.

1. Consider the green button to be the 'Go' button.  It will move you forward in situations where the machine prompts you to press 'enter' or 'OK'.

2. Yellow is the correction button (backspace) - have you left an overgenerous tip worth a few thousand dollars?  Press the yellow button to delete the last number entered (this works if you mess up your PIN number as well).

3. Don't press the red button!  There is rarely cause for a guest to use the red button.  This is the cancel key and will cause the entire process to be started over - so unless you are refusing to pay the amount listed on your bill, don't touch it - please!

Now the technical stuff - if you're a pro already you can stop reading...

The other important buttons are the F keys.  Most machines will start you off by showing you your total (press 'OK') followed by a prompt to leave a tip in either $ (dollars), % (percent) or $0 (nothing) - each of these options will have an assigned F key (F1, F2, F3).  You must first choose one of these options before proceeding.  If you choose $0 you will jump right to the final totals, press 'OK' (green button), enter pin, press 'OK' (green button), hand terminal to your server.

With a percent option simply key in the two digit number to make up the percentage you would like to leave and press 'OK'.

If you prefer a dollar amount, choose that option then key in the dollars and cents you'd like to leave and press 'OK'.

I hope this helps, both for the confused patron and for the server peeking over their shoulders waiting for the terminal.


  1. It is amazing how many different interfaces are out there for payment machines. While following the prompts is key, I've noticed that some do not tell you to remove the card when done. Given the variances in processing time, one never really knows when it is done.

    How about putting little cheat cards on the table specific to your machine? Maybe on the back of the business card (or do the machines change to often?).

    Does anyone know on what amount the "%" you entered is calculated against (pre-tax or post-tax)?

  2. It is true, there are quite a number of different machines, if only they would standardize it would be much easier!

    Thankfully most do have the F-keys and green/yellow/red in common so hopefully that will be helpful.

    As for the tip percentage, it is on the post-tax amount (at least any that I have worked with). I think it is done that way because that is the total we tip out on - or it could just be greed. Not really sure of the why just the how.

    Thanks for commenting, and I hope the post was informative overall.

  3. Should we leave tips on the machine, or in cash?

  4. This is an interesting question... cash tips are always better but it is by a small margin. We appreciate whatever you leave for us in any form!

  5. I personally liked the old way with the paper to sign although this new technology helps make my dining experience cheaper by using the % key. This may not be good for the server but it may average out positive for them as I most likely tipped too much anyway. I also do not like the "server in waiting" feel as they are "peeking" over my shoulder. Change is not always positive.

  6. Great post, couldn't agree more. Those machines are simple if you can read english and use a bit of common sense while taking your time. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great posting. Could not agree more with these machines. If you can read English and use very common sense at the same time. Take your time. Thanks for sharing..Credit Card Machines

  8. That was a really intresting post card payment machine thanks for the information. keep it up