Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scannable Price Tags

My bum leg and pain meds have had me in a weird place for being productive. I'm loopy enough that I can't risk making a big mistake in winding the black beam so I'm spending my time preparing for a new, more accurate, and faster checkout process.

The point-of-sale software that I already use has the ability to use the iPod's camera as a handheld barcode scanner. Because it can pack more information into a small space and has more error-checking, I chose to use the QR code format for my scan tags.

I tried really hard to use a pre-existing Avery label size, but found that there is enough jitter in the paper-feeding mechanism of my cheap printer that this wasn't feasible. They just wouldn't line up consistently, so I went with old tech: a paper cutter and glue sticks.

First, I used an iPod app to create the codes, then used Illustrator to lay out the sheets using the smallest code size that was consistently readable without errors.

After the sheets are laid out with the correct information and the correct barcode, they need to be sliced up and kept separate.

I then designed a sheet for the tag itself. The size is based on the barcode tags, leaving a margin around the edges and enough room at the top for the string hole. The front side contains a pared down version of my business card.

I used the inkle loom as a convenient way to measure out and cut lots of string to the same length, and again as a way to keep them from tangling after I tied the knots and before I threaded them through the tags.

Here's a shot of the final result: professional hang tags with the garment name, price, and a functional barcode on the back.

And here's my new labelling kit. There are blank hang tags, spare code slips sorted into separate envelopes, and a glue stick. This will travel to shows in case I need to repair or replace a tag on the fly.

The next thing to work out is a register scan sheet for sales. At the show, for instance, I'll be selling scarves at a steep discount to make more room in the booth for pillows and throws. Rather than change all of the tags, I'll hang up a sale sign and ring them up using a sheet of codes behind the counter. Simple! You see this sort of thing all the time at grocery stores.

The whole goal here is to compensate for a thing that happens at a wildly successful show where I'm so busy jumping from customer to customer that I sometimes forget to record the sale accurately and have a tough time reconciling inventory afterward. I've even made mistakes in calculating totals and undercharged people. One time I charged someone $30 for a $300 garment. Thankfully, she came back and paid the difference - minus a 10% discount that I gave her for being honest!

I'm hoping that spending a little extra time now will give me more time and energy to focus on customers at shows while improving the accuracy of my checkout and inventory management.

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