POS Terminal Down…? Here’s a Trouble Shooting Checklist

Having a trouble shooting checklist will often save you from absolute panic when your POS Terminal goes down.

So picture it, Saturday afternoon and your store is brimming with customers.  And… your terminal goes down.  What now?  Well, the reality is, you never fully realize how important your terminal is until it’s not working.  And then, all of a sudden, you realize, it’s one of the life lines to your business.  And after spending half an hour looking for the helpdesk phone number, you sit in a queue waiting… as apparently every other merchant in the city (or so it seems) is having issues with their terminals as well.  So before you pull your hair out and scream at the poor helpdesk rep that finally answers your call, here are a few tips that you can try on your own first.

Now I’m going to preface this article with a disclaimer:

This article is by no means advocating that you start troubleshooting your terminal.  There are settings that can be switched on your terminal that will cause it to seriously malfunction.  Never perform a function on a terminal unless you are positive of the outcome.  You could end up wiping your terminal’s memory.  And the one thing you should NEVER do is try to take apart your terminal.  Let me stress this again…. NEVER try to take apart your terminal.  The reason being, each terminal and pinpad have tamper switches located in the unit.  If the terminal thinks that someone is trying to break it apart (and this is usually done for tampering reasons), the tamper switch will be thrown and the keys inside will be blown.

What does this mean?  No, your pinpad will not blow up in your hand but essentially all the data inside self destructs and your terminal/ pinpad is rendered useless (I know, very mission impossible like!).   And at that point it will be have to be replaced as no amount of troubleshooting can help a pinpad with blown keys.

Ok… so now that we know what not to do… here are a few quick tips that you can try before you go to wait on hold.

Actually, one more thing before you start self-troubleshooting… make sure that there are no outside issues that could be affecting your terminal.  So ensure that your communications are running properly, your internet is connected, the banks are not down and the Acquirer is not down.  All of these things will have an impact to your terminal.

Checklist Item 1:

The first thing to do is to check all your connections.  Make sure that every plug is in securely and that none of the plugs are damaged in any way.

The most basic of electronic trouble is the good ol’ unplug – replug.  Did you know that 80% of all issues can usually be resolved by a reset of the terminal?  And the easiest way to do this is to unplug the terminal and then replug it back in.  This is what is referred to as a hard reset.  And it’s likely the first thing the helpdesk rep will ask you to do when you call them anyway.

Checklist Item 2:

The second thing you can try is what is called a Handshake.  And what this essentially does is test the communications between your terminal and the Acquirer’s Host.  The Handshake functionality is different on every terminal so be sure to check your terminal’s manual and follow the steps.   The Handshake will tell you if there’s a problem with the communication and while you can’t resolve that communication issue yourself… you can let the helpdesk rep know so that they can better assess your situation.

Checklist Item 3: Call the Help Desk

If performing those two functions does nothing to help, call the helpdesk.  Do yourself a favour, ensure that the helpdesk phone number AND your merchant number is posted in a place that is easy to find, likely close to your terminal or to your phone.  This will save you a world of trouble and headache.  Also, keep that manual that your terminal came with and keep it in a safe place.  If you’ve already thrown it out, next time you talk to your Acquirer, request to have one sent or emailed to you.

These are little time savers but sometimes, bad things do happen to good people and your terminal may actually need to be replaced.  Just be patient with the helpdesk rep and revert to your downtime procedures which we’ll cover in another discussion.

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Matthew Hunt has been helping small businesses get set-up with Canadian Merchant Account Services since 2007 and helped 1000's do so. Join Matthew on Google+.

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