After years of leading groups with hundreds of store owners, I can confidently report that ALL POS systems go down. Yes, all of them! So, what to do when your POS system goes down? There’s not one system that’s better than another when it comes to this. 

We always think the grass is greener on the other side, but switching POS systems can be a massive effort! I wouldn’t want anyone to go through a system switch only to be surprised when their new system experiences the same outages.

So if—scratch that, when—your POS system goes down, do you have a plan? 

If not, read on to learn your options and choose one to keep you and your team calm during an outage.

Your Internet Connection Is Down

Two main reasons your POS system will stop working are your internet connection or the POS system itself. 

If your internet connection is the source of the issue, you might be able to continue processing transactions through your POS system. Here’s how.

Use a Backup Internet Source, Like a Hotspot

Many mobile phone plans include hotspot tethering these days! 

If yours does, connect your POS system to your phone’s hotspot first. This is my go-to because I want to ensure credit card transactions are processed. 

Depending on your phone and plan, your hotspot might not be strong or fast enough, and you might still run into technical issues. Overall, though, a hotspot is a solid alternative when your store’s internet is out. 

Learn How to Use Offline Mode

Nearly all popular POS systems have an offline mode that allows businesses to continue accepting credit card payments without an internet connection. In most cases, payments are stored, encrypted, and then processed once the internet is restored.

When using offline mode, you take a risk and assume that customers’ credit cards won’t be declined. Consider setting a dollar limit for purchases in offline mode based on your personal risk tolerance. 

Additionally, payments can take up to 72 hours to process after the POS system reconnects to the internet. 

Learn how to use offline mode with these tutorials from Square, Shopify, and Lightspeed. If you use a different POS system, just Google the name of your system with “offline mode tutorial” to find the relevant help documentation for your POS.

what to do when your POS system goes down

Your POS Is Facing a System-Wide Issue

Sometimes, the issue is much bigger than just your internet connection. A POS system can go down due to a software bug, a cloud server connection issue, or a hardware glitch. Here are some options to consider when this happens.

Process Payments Later

Document each customer’s name, phone number, email address, and a list of products purchased with their respective SKUs. Remember to include tax if this applies to you. 

Next, you can either 1) get credit card information and process transactions once your POS is working again or 2) send an invoice once your system is running. 

Option 1 is best for customers who trust you to appropriately shred, erase, or cover up their credit card information before disposing of it. Option 2 is better for customers who prefer to keep their credit card information private. 

Process Now With an Alternative Source for Accepting Credit Cards

Instead of relying on your POS system, could you take Venmo, PayPal, CashApp, or Zelle instead? If yes, have your QR code printed out at the register. 

However, watch out for scams and know that you won’t have business protection if these are personal accounts.

Another option is to have a backup account with another POS company. If you’re a Square user, create an account with Shopify and use a simple handheld card reader (or vice versa).

Whether you process payments in the moment with an alternative source or through your POS later on, you’ll need to reconcile your inventory manually.

what to do when your POS system goes down

Go Completely Manual

As frustrating as it can be to run transactions manually, it’s better than the alternative—no sales at all!

A simple carbon copy receipt book is a great way to do this. Keep it at your cash wrap for those inevitable moments when technology is less than predictable.

Receipt Book Option 1: 

Receipt Book Option 2:

Accept Cash Only

Want to avoid all of the above? Go cash-only when your POS is down!

Have “CASH ONLY” signs to hang on your door and at your cash wrap, along with a list of the closest ATMs. 

With this method, you might have fewer transactions overall, but at least you’ll know that the transactions were completed. You won’t have to take extra time to reconcile, run, or verify transactions like you will if you choose to knuckle bust or process transactions in offline mode.

When your POS system inevitably goes down, check your email and social media frequently. Most POS companies will email users about what’s happening, add a banner to their website, update their help documentation, and post on social media about the issue. 

Decide On Your Plan and Document It ASAP!

Before another outage occurs, decide which backup plan(s) work best for you, your team, and your business. 

And please, don’t sit in indecision! Consider what I’ve mentioned for each option, then decide and document it. The next time you can’t process transactions may be sooner than you think, especially with the busy holiday season approaching.

So go ahead, DECIDE, and DOCUMENT IT. You (and your team, if you have one) will appreciate having answers and a clear plan for when this does happen. No one likes to be panicked! Most importantly, your customers deserve a good experience— regardless of what’s happening with technology.

Resources

Timestamps

  • [02:06] Your Internet Connection is Down
  • [06:23] Your POS Is Facing a System-Wide Issue
  • [14:57] Decide On Your Plan and Document It ASAP!

*Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links or codes, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I make recommendations because I feel they are helpful and useful to shopkeepers, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links or codes. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

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