Cash register question

Why do many cash registers open the cash drawer for no reason when you pay with a credit or debit card?

Is it just outdated software that nobody cares to update?

In many of the cases I see the cashier close the drawer and then put the receipt in a slot . The drawer does not need to open to use the slot.

Any number of reasons, from bad programming on the part of the manufacturer to an actual desire to have the drawer open.
It is odd when the drawer opens while there is already a deposit slot for the charge receipts and coupons. That could be bad programming or the store might have simply chosen a model that opens, regardless. They do make models that only open for cash.
We switched to a model that only opened when the payment or refund was cash–and then had to change our procedures when we remembered that we kept postage stamps in the cash drawers. (At $9.80 a tiny book, they are a bit too valuable to simply sit on a counter top or in an unlocked drawer next to the register.)

Whatever happened to the “No Sale” key that would open the drawer?

Damned kids. Think they know cash registers. Why, I remember. . . .

“No sale” triggers an audit to prevent cashiers from simply opening drawers and handling out money. It is not forbidden, because there are genuine reasons to hit “No Sale,” but if it is used it must be explained and we sell far too many rolls of stamps to have to explain each one.

I worked for a company whose product was a cash register application. It is certainly possible for the software to be programmed to open the drawer only for cash tender. Whether the programmers of other cash registers thought of that may be open to question. It’s certainly one of the simpler things for programmers to think of.

Better still, the register should be configurable. In our register, each individual type of tender (cash, check, credit card, debit card, etc.) was individually configurable with about 15 attributes that could be defined for each tender. One of them was whether to open the drawer.

If, for example, your drawer has a slot in the front, then you don’t need to open the drawer for checks because the cashier can just stick the check in the slot. Unless the check is for more money than the amount due (that is, the customer is getting some cash back). Then you have to open the drawer. And if the drawer doesn’t have a slot, then you open the drawer for checks.

For credit cards, you have to put the store’s copy of the credit slip (called the “drawer copy”) into the drawer somehow. If no slot in drawer, then open the drawer. For debit cards, you need to open the drawer if there is cash back.

I should really hope that ALL non-trivial cash register systems are configurable about stuff like that. If you see drawers popping open when the really don’t need to (as I often also see), then my first guess is that the register simply isn’t configured sensibly, unless there is some real reason the store management wants it that way (like the case with the postage stamps).

As for NO SALE: If the store management prefers, this function might require a manager. In our register, every function could be configured, if desired, to require the presence of a manager. For example, some merchants insisted that only a manager could ring up a refund while other stores allow any cashier to do that. Some store managers require that even voiding a line requires a manager.

In addition to what Senegoid said, lets not forget that if the register isn’t tied to the credit card machine then the register doesn’t know what’s going on. At my store that’s how it works. The register doesn’t care if you have a check or a credit card or cash, you push the button and the drawer opens. There are different buttons for the three options, but I don’t think I can program them to not open the drawer (for check and CC, nothing needs to go in the drawer).
So, you hand the cashier your credit card, she swipes on a credit card terminal, hits the Charge button on the register, the drawer pops open and she slams it shut again.

Or the store management/owner is lazy or isn’t technically savvy. Worked in a shop once where the manager/owner was clueless about modern tech. Unfortunately, she had some tech-savvy employees that, after being asked to configure things, configured them to enable some unauthorized dipping into the till.

We put our checks and credit/debit card receipts in the leftmost slot in the register so we have ours programmed to open the drawer. Big checks go under the drawer.

Are we talking about a simple stand-alone cash register like what’s sold at Office Depot, or a modular one that’s part of a large store’s multi-lane front end?

Ultimately, it does come down to programming, but the hardware plays a key role as well. Eons ago, I worked at a grocery store that had IBM registers and the drawer would only open if you keyed in a cash tender or a no sale. If you keyed check tender or credit tender (debit was a dream at that point) the drawer did not open, and you’d put the check or charge slip under the cash tray through the slot. This was about 35 years ago, so the idea of programmatically controlling the drawer behavior is not exactly a new idea.

Another shop I worked at had the registers configured similarly, but the registers had two drawers, enabling two cashiers to alternate using the same terminal while keeping the drawers separate. Oddly, only the top drawer had a slot, so the secondary cashier had to ring a no sale after completing a sale with check or credit in order to keep everything separate in their drawer. Good intents meet weird hardware.

I didn’t read all the comments, but at my store it seems the register opens to “reset” the system.

For example if you have a sale and te customer pays with a card which is not attached to the register, the register will keep adding unless the drawer is open to basically tell it the sale has been completed.

That doesn’t make sense. Who tells the drawer when to open?

Didja all also know that a typical modern cash register also starts a timer when the drawer opens, and can be configured to start beeping at the cashier and displaying a message “Close the drawer!” after a specified length of time has passed?

Also, a register can be configured to require that an open drawer be closed before anything else can be done. In particular, when the drawer opens, the cashier can’t start a new sale until the drawer is closed. This prevents the cashier from just leaving the drawer open all the time.

Some drawers have some kind of coding built into them, so the register can detect which drawer is present. When one cashier leaves and takes the drawer, and another arrives and inserts a different drawer, the register can identify the drawer.

Why would you put checks in two different places? Don’t they all get processed the same way?

Should have clarified, I meant big checks as in size not amount. Big size checks won’t fit in the slot.


I’m not kidding, we have a cigar box in a desk drawer for cash sales.

I love being a small business owner in a very small town that does mostly commercial work. :smiley:

Doncha ever get audited by Mr. Taxman?

I worked for a software company that made cash register software (as I discussed above), but also (wink, wink) I did a bit of moonlighting towards the end. A certain liquor store had a version of the register that no longer worked for him, containing a database with the full line-item details of every transaction for the last several years, which he could no longer access. And Mr. Taxman wanted to audit all that!

He also had stacks of cardboard boxes piled up in the back office, containing the printed receipts for everything for the last several years. (He was using a receipt printer, which used to be common, that printed two copies of every receipt, on two separate rolls of paper – one for the customer and one for the store to keep.) His bookkeeper had been laboriously going through those (many of them faded and hard to read), entering that stuff into Excel worksheets in order to produce reports.

He hired me to get the data out of the databases. I was able to write a stand-alone program that read all the data from the databases and wrote them to a text file that he could import into Excel, and it also produced detailed monthly reports for several years’ worth of sales. This was all supposed to save him a lot of sales tax money that the state seemed to think he might have owed.

Turned out, he owed even more. Oops.

At the farmer’s market the other day, Mrs. FtG crashed the POS software when she swiped the credit card at the exact time the clerk made an entry. (This apparently happens from time to time so they knew what happened.) They ended up doing a full reboot. (MS-Windows Embedded.)

Once the POS software finished restarting, the cash drawer popped open.

While that might not seem smart, it almost looks like a crook can open the drawer by power cycling the the machine, there’s a step where the clerk has to login beforehand.

I think this drawer opening is intended for the clerk to insert their money tray before their shift start.

One interesting thing: The machine resumed where it left off. No need to rescan our items.

It’s very possible that when the machine came back online it finished the transaction. What you saw as the drawer opening on it’s own (though requiring the cashier to log on), the cashier saw as a normal transaction from beginning to end with a power cycle in the middle.

OTOH, if the cashier has to log on, it’s not really a security hole, not anymore than the No Sale button is.

This is why the double-meaning of “POS” is so convenient.