PDA? Oh, it's with the Band.
By Dave Johnson
Ben Taylor grew up in the shadow of two amazingly talented parents--Carly Simon and James Taylor. When your folks wrote some of the most recognizable songs of the 20th Century and your dad was discovered by none other than Paul McCartney, it's probably a pretty natural thing to pick up a guitar and learn to sing at an early age. I wouldn't know much about that; I grew up in Jersey City and can only claim two years of clarinet lessons. I'm nonetheless drawn to music like RIM to lawsuits. If I had only thought to buy a PDA sooner, I might be in a rock band by now.
Of course, you probably won't find a Tungsten T onstage with Ben during the show, but a PDA has indeed found its way into the lifeblood of the Ben Taylor Band, which is currently on tour in support of its first album, Famous Among the Barns. Like most working bands, Ben and company sell merchandise at shows as a primary source of revenue. And until recently, the band could only handle cash.
"We used to see other bands with the ability to take credit cards and print receipts right on the spot, and we were definitely jealous," says Dominic Keska, the band's merchandize coordinator. "Now we don't have to deny sales to folks that don't carry cash."
What's surprising is the solution that the band chose to take credit while on the road: rather than a traditional Point of Sale terminal, they chose a PDA-based system that includes little more than a Handspring Treo. It's sold by Merchant Anywhere (www.merchantanywhere.com), a company that is widely considered the leader of PDA-based mobile POS solutions.
The company's Pocket Merchant is a combination magnetic card reader and thermal printer that--when combined with a Palm OS or Pocket PC PDA--allows retailers to perform credit card transactions anywhere they can get a wireless signal. In all, the Ben Taylor Band uses a Treo 300, Pocket Merchant, and Merchant Anywhere's transaction software to sell concert merchandize on the road while the band tours.
"Merchandise sales are probably about half of our income right now. It's critical to be able to sell things at the shows," says Larry Ciancia, Ben's drummer. "We used to turn away a lot of people that didn't carry cash to the show, and so we lost a lot of sales opportunities."
They're not just getting back lost customers, says Larry. Sales per customer have gone up as well since adopting the Merchant Anywhere system several months ago. "People tend to buy more when they're using credit. They may not want to part with an extra twenty, but they'll add one or two items to a credit card receipt."
The band has few complaints with the new system. The wireless coverage provided by the Treo is usually adequate, and only a few times have they been unable to authorize a transaction on the spot. "We can defer an authorization," says Dominic. "It's slightly more risky for us to do it that way, but it's not like we're doing $500 sales. Since each sale is $50 or less, if we lose one or two, it's not a huge deal. The convenience of the system more than makes up for that for us."
Sounds great. Someone call the Rolling Stones and let them know I can work a PDA.
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