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New Client Setup w/ 3 Dedicated Tag Printers

We’re finishing up a two-computer network setup for a new client, Kismet in Downingtown, PA.  They’re utilizing a total of 3 dedicated tag printers for their store.  One for each style of tag/label they’ll be using.

If you print enough of any particular style of tag or label in your consignment store, then you can reduce the amount of issues you run into when it comes time to swap out your rolls of tags.  Having more than one printer isn’t for everyone and they do take up space, but if your consignment store sells enough jewelry + clothing + housewares, then a dedicated printer for each style is a huge time saver.

Kismet’s utilizing our refurbished Zebra LP2844 printers which have been professionally refurbished.  They include a new power supply + a new USB cable as well.  Any printer purchased from The Computer Peeps includes free installation as well.

How To Recalibrate Your Zebra Thermal Tag Printer [VIDEO]

One of the first troubleshooting steps when working with a Zebra tag printer, is performing what’s referred to as a Memory Dump.  For all intents and purposes, you’re re-calibrating the printer.  If you’ve just printed using a new tag format, the Zebra tag printer might skip tags and “fault”/go to a red light.

If tags were printing just fine a second ago and nothing has changed other than the tag format you select within your consignment software or the roll of tags in the printer itself, then the first thing we recommend is a Memory Dump.

The following is a video that demonstrates how to perform a Memory Dump.  This video utilizes a Zebra LP2824 tag printer.  The steps are identical for the the Zebra LP2844.

Common reasons to recalibrate your printer:

  • You just swapped out a roll of tags
  • You just switched from regular 2-across tags to jewelry tags

Common issues that arise when recalibrating your printer:

  • Documents are left waiting in the printer’s queue (e.g. you went to print tags but the roll ran out) resulting in “gibberish” printing on your tags during a Memory Dump
  • Printing is ‘paused’ or the printer goes ‘offline’

Here is a video that demonstrates what happens if you attempt a Memory Dump, while documents are still in the print queue:

Notice the “gibberish” all over the tags?  This is an example of how one issue can snowball.  Typically it starts with a roll of tags running out during the middle of a print job.  This leaves unprinted documents in the queue.  You swap out rolls, but the tags aren’t lining-up.  You then try a Memory Dump, not realizing there are unprinted tags in the queue.  A perfect storm.  🙂

So make sure and cancel all print jobs before attempting a Memory Dump.  For clients on our Monthly Support plan or for clients who have purchased computers from The Computer Peeps, it’s as easy as clicking the Printer Panic Button:

The Computer Peeps' Printer Panic Button
The Computer Peeps’ Printer Panic Button

For those of you without a Printer Panic Button, in order to cancel documents in the print queue, first view the print queue…

In Windows 7…

Windows 7 Print Queue

In Windows XP…

Windows XP Print Queue

Then Cancel All Documents via the Printer menu…

Cancel All Documents

Under the same menu, you’ll find the Pause Printing option and the Use Printer Offline option…

Pause Printing & Use Printer Offline
Pause Printing & Use Printer Offline

Notice how Use Printer Offline is checked and shows the same status in the title bar?

So it can quickly go from just running out of tags, to a printer stuck in Memory Dump mode, a paused printer,  queue full of documents and an offline printer.  You could reboot over and over again and the issue will persist.  So when the printer seems to have taken a turn for the worst, always try the following, in this order:

  • Power-off the printer
  • Cancel all documents in the print queue
  • Perform a Memory Dump
  • Verify the printer isn’t ‘offline’
  • Verify printing isn’t ‘paused’

The Computer Peeps have prepared step-by-step Memory Dump instructions you can print out and keep near each of your tag printers.

Click the PDF icon below to download and print your own copy of the Memory Dump instructions!

Consignment Software Tag Styles/Formats

One of the primary reasons a consignment or resale store uses consignment software, is to print price tags.  Once inventory has been entered into a consignment software program, you can then print tags.  Price tags include everything from the item description, to the price and even a bar code!

Each of the programs we’ll discuss support the direct thermal “2-across” tags.  Here is an image, courtesy of Forms Plus, Inc…

consignment software thermal tags
Forms Plus Direct Thermal Tags

Let’s take a closer look at each of the “basic” tag styles from some of the consignment software programs on the market…

Consignment Success

consignment software thermal tags
Consignment Success 2-Across Tags

ConsignPro

consignment software thermal tags
ConsignPro 2-Across Tags

Liberty

consignment software thermal tags
Liberty 2-Across Tags

There are myriad other formats, but the 2-across direct thermal tag is the most common in the consignment industry.  We’ll add additional tag styles from other programs very soon, along with actual images of tags printed with a Zebra LP2844 tag printer!

As always, let us know if you have any questions!

Windows Updates – The Good and the Bad

Windows is an Operating System, one that most of you are running – well, all of you if you’re running consignment software.  Just like any application software, Windows is updated from time to time.  I’m not talking about going from XP to Vista or 7.  Within each version of Windows, it is constantly updated.  The majority of the time, these are security updates (to help keep your computer protected from vulnerabilities).  This is “The Good” portion of Windows updates.

Some of these updates aren’t specific to Windows though.  Hardware devices (e.g. printers) can receive updates from Microsoft.  This is “The Bad” portion of Windows updates; well, at least it can be.

The reason I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the good and bad sides of Windows Updates, is because your tag printer can be affected.  You know, the little device that is basically the life blood of your business.  If you can’t tag items, you can’t put inventory out on the floor for sale.

In a recent update, I noticed Microsoft recommended one for my Zebra LP2824 driver…

Zebra + Windows Updates

Now, I’m not saying that installing this update is going to break everyone’s tag printer.  What I am saying is, any change to your printer driver (the software that makes your tag printer function) can lead to undesirable results.  Even the slightest change can cause alignment issues, skipping tags, etc.

So it’s a double-edge sword keeping your system up to date.  You want to make sure Windows is updated and secure.  You don’t want to just let any and all updates come down, not without your knowledge.

Recommended Consignment Hardware for Consignment/Resale Stores

Consignment hardware can be a difficult maze to negotiate.  When you’re just getting started, it can be confusing (to say the least) trying to weed through all the details.  Which computer should I buy, which printers do I need, is this scanner compatible, etc.  This post will discuss the consignment hardware that will make any consignment store owner’s life a little easier.  All of the consignment hardware items you see on this page can be purchased directly from The Computer Peeps.  Before you purchase from your consignment software vendor, compare their prices to ours.  Compare their consignment software to ours.  We can save you both time and money.  Why buy consignment hardware for twice the price?

I think most will agree, tags are where it all starts.  The tag is what the customer sees, so you want it to look nice, clean and professional.  Also, printing bar codes from your consignment software provides you with inventory control.  While you can print tags from a laser or ink jet printer, let’s get serious here – you’re running a business and you want to do things the right way.  It is for this reason that we think any consignment store should start out with a good thermal tag printer.

Consignment Hardware Tag Printer
Thermal Tag Printer

Many avoid purchasing a thermal tag printer simply because they tend to cost too much.  Unfortunately, you’ll find that many mark-up these printers way too much.  This is why we carry professionally refurbished thermal tag printers.

There are definitely concerns when you purchase a previously owned printer, but if you buy from a reputable seller, you can save a LOT of money!    Do we recommend just going out and buying any refurbished/previously owned printer you come across?  No.  There are some key questions that need to be asked and it’s important you buy from a legitimate seller/business.  We’ve had many clients buy 2 or 3 printers before contacting us.

Consignment Point of Sale Barcode Scanner
Barcode Reader

The next piece of hardware I think every resale store should have is a bar code scanner.  In case you don’t know what this is, it’s the little hand-held device you see at virtually any retail location.  Instead of the employee manually entering item numbers, you just scan the bar code and the item is entered into POS (or whichever screen you’re working in – you can use the scanner to post items, lookup items, etc.)  A bar code scanner makes checkout a fast and easy process.  It also reduces (if not completely omits) mistakes at POS.  You don’t want an employee selling one item when it’s really supposed to be another.  A bar code scanner really should cost more than about $100 or so.  Some are less than $100, some are a little more.  Again, and sadly, some mark-up these devices so much that many think they just can’t afford one.  The great thing about a bar code scanner is, it’s such a basic device – like a mouse or keyboard.  There’s no installation (just plug it in) and there’s very little configuration.

Consignment point of sale receipt printer
Thermal Receipt Printer

The last of the “holy trinity” of POS devices, so to speak, is the receipt printer.  This is one device that you can live without at first.  If it were me though, I’d go ahead and get all three – a tag printer, bar code scanner and a receipt printer.  The reason you can live without one at first is, most of the consignment software programs let you print receipts to any printer.  While it might not be a nice, slim receipt, it’s a receipt.  I think the main reason resale store owners avoid receipt printers (or hardware in general), is the cost.  That’s why we’re here though!  If you have the right consultant (eh hem, us!) you can get all of the core devices for what one would pay for a tag printer alone!  There’s a reason all of this isn’t nice and buttoned up in one place (well, until now) – because people make a lot of money of this stuff!  If we can help resale stores get the right hardware (used or new) and help get it setup the right way from day 1, it means more businesses can focus on providing a great service.  A resale store shouldn’t have to fork over $1,000 for hardware alone.  It’s just not worth it for the “assurance” that it works.

A cash drawer is pretty important piece to the POS puzzle.  Some might argue that it’s not needed at first, but where the heck are you going to keep your cash and checks!  🙂  Again, these can be purchased for far less than most are used to seeing.  It’s important to not just buy any drawer you see though.  These devices work directly with the receipt printer, so compatibility is paramount.

Don’t forget your reports/check printer either!  This isn’t as critical as far as, you don’t need to be too worried about which device you purchase.  Something that’s worth pointing out is, go with a laser printer vs. ink-jet.  You’re going to be printing checks and reports in black and white, so you don’t need to run out and buy a new color laser printer.  Don’t consider this printer an “all purpose” printer though.  You want to invest in a solid laser printer, one that will be dedicated to printing checks and reports.  They’re only about $100 so it’s not a huge investment.  Dedicating the printer to just those tasks, will extend the life of the printer and reduce headaches.  For printing everything else (e.g. notes to post around the shop, coupons for the front counter, etc.), grab an inexpensive ink-jet printer.  You could even go with a color laser printer if you want crisp, sharp printing.  They’re not as expensive as they used to be (now approximately $200-$300).  The key is, leave the black and white laser printer for printing reports and checks, that’s it.

One piece of hardware that many don’t consider (because it’s not one of the “obvious” pieces) is an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS).  This is basically a surge protector + an internal battery.  Computers do not like to be interrupted by power outages.  A power outage can corrupt data and lead to damages that can’t be recovered from (not for cheap, that is).  They’re so inexpensive – about $50-$60.  I have one on every system here in our home office – even our TV/entertainment center.  It’s one of the best investments you can make and it will save you from a major headache.

There are other devices – e.g. credit card swipe, PIN pad, pole display, etc. – which aren’t required.  The credit card swipe is so inexpensive though and if you’re going to accept credit cards, then much like a bar code scanner prevents mis-keyed items, a mag(netic) swipe will make credit card processing a breeze.

Whew!  That was supposed to be a quick rundown on POS hardware devices and look what it turned into!  Boy can I talk/type!  🙂  Just in case you missed anything, let’s recap:

[checklist]

  • Get a thermal tag printer.  You don’t need to spend upward of $500 – you can get great, refurbished printers.  It will make your inventory management much easier and it makes for a professional looking appearance.
  • Grab a bar code scanner as well.  For the price of an expensive meal for two, you can get a scanner that prevents employees from making mistakes during checkout.  It’s also another component that makes for a professional appearance.  Instead of wrestling tags to get the item #, just *bam* scan the tag and move on.  I know I don’t like to stand in lines and wait.  😉
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t afford a receipt printer!  If you know where to shop (and we can help you with that), you can get the final piece to the POS puzzle.  A nice receipt is the cherry on top of the inventory life/sales cycle.
  • Get a UPS!!!  You can’t afford to lose your data just because someone tripped over a power cable or switched off a power strip.
  • While you’re at it (and since they’re so inexpensive), pickup a credit card swipe (mag swipe).  Accepting credit cards is pretty much a given these days.  A mag swipe makes processing payments quick and accurate.

[/checklist]

I could get into backups (e.g. to USB Flash Drives) in this article, but I want to keep this to just POS hardware (the UPS being the one exception).  If anyone has ANY questions, feel free to ask!

I hope this sheds some light on the POS hardware selection fiasco most new store owners face!

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