July 2010 – In recent years, serving customers who participate in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program has become a complex process for supermarkets.  Created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by individual states’ Department of Health Services, WIC provides individuals enrolled in the program with approved grocery items.

Tejas Grocery, which operates nine stores in Southern Texas and offers only WIC-approved merchandise, knew these complexities all too well when it turned to JPMA Retail Software Solutions, a point-of-sale software provider and VAR headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado, for assistance in automating the process of handling WIC transactions. Implementing a WIC-certified point-of-sale solution was a “must” for the retailer because the State of Texas had moved from a paper-based system to an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) configuration, wherein information on eligible food items is encrypted on a smart card.

“In the past, WIC participants were given paper vouchers they could bring to a store and exchange for approved grocery items,” explained Ryan Magee, JPMA’s Vice President – Client Services. “At Tejas Grocery, customers who wanted to do so could obtain their groceries by pulling up to a ‘drive-through’ window, handing store staff their WIC vouchers and waiting while their orders were filled and delivered straight to their vehicles.  However, with EBT systems, participants must physically insert the card into a reader at the point-of-sale and enter a PIN. “

Tejas management was concerned that the electronic system had a marked potential to slow down customer service by forcing shoppers into the stores and, in turn, rendering them frustrated enough to switch to larger, traditional supermarkets. The potential to maintain “drive-through” service—a major drawing card for the retailer–seemed low.

To meet these challenges, JPMA suggested that the retailer implement Pioneer POS Stealth-M5 all-in-one touchcomputers, interfaced with Metrologic Orbit hand-held scanners, Hypercom smart card readers and Epson printers. The Stealth-M5 units, 25 of which were deployed chain-wide, run JPMA’s PoS Designer software with WIC enhancement.  The total project cost was about $150,000

The Stealth-M5 units reside at each store’s walk-in counter, but are also found at all “drive-through” windows. When customers pull up to the latter they are handed a clipboard on which a smart card reader is mounted as well as a printed list of products from which they may select.  Orders are given to store personnel verbally, then scanned or input into the Stealth-M5 all-in-one touchscreen. Orders are checked against the software to ensure that each item appears on the list of all WIC-approved products and that prices to be paid are within the range deemed acceptable by the state.   At the end of each transaction, the system generates a second printout showing which items were bought during that particular shopping trip and which remain on the list for purchase during future visits.  Claims for reimbursement are automatically filed with the state reimbursement systems nightly, while updates to the approved product and “hot” (stolen) card lists are executed on a daily basis.

Not surprisingly, Tejas Grocery is reaping a wealth of benefits from the solution. Notably, swiping WIC cards in mobile fashion enables the retailer to continue to provide the desired drive-through service, without negatively impacting the speed or quality of customer throughput. In fact, fewer employees are needed to handle customer transactions, further streamlining overall operations.

Additionally, the technology promotes transaction accuracy, eliminates payment-related disputes and speeds payment collection. With the paper-based system, there was always the chance that the state would reject entire transactions based on the fact that an incorrect price had been charged for a single item. In many cases, these transactions were never collected, and even when it was possible to recover one, doing so necessitated several months of negotiation with the state.  Such disputes and negotiations no longer occur, and payment claims are paid within 24 to 48 hours.

While obtaining certification for the solution from the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture required time and extensive development activity, installing it was a simple process that took less than one day. With the reliability of the JPMA-Pioneer POS bundle, the retailer requires only limited ongoing support.

“For Tejas Grocery, there are no drawbacks; only advantages,” Ryan Magee concluded. “The ROI—from supporting the drive-through, to monitoring price acceptability in accordance with state allowances, to filing claims automatically and obtaining automatic payment confirmation—is significant. It’s a winning situation all around.”

For more information on Pioneer POS Solutions, contact us: info@pioneerpos.com

About Pioneer POS

Pioneer POS Inc., founded in 1994, is headquartered in California, with offices in Asia, and distributors worldwide. We focus on designing and supplying integrated/embedded touch screen solutions for various industries such as hospitality, retail, gaming, manufacturing, government, healthcare, and kiosk. Recognized as a 2009 Best Channel Vendor and 2009 Best Channel Product by Business Solutions Magazine, the Pioneer POS product line includes touch monitors, all-in-one touch systems, and kiosks that are available in 12″, 15″, and 17″ display sizes. Our products are designed to have a longer shelf-life (a minimum of 3 years) and service-ability (a minimum of 5 years). To contact Pioneer POS call 888.468.9757.

About JPMA

JPMA is a global supplier of software to the Retail Industry.  With more than 200,000 lanes operating software of JPMA design in more than 20 countries, JPMA is focused today on the challenging US market. JPMA’s PoS Designer software fits well into multiple retail verticals and ties seamlessly with its outstanding Extanse in-store kiosk solutions.  Contact JPMA at www.jpma.com or call Ryan Magee at 303.232.3700