Software -- and a little bit more

This retailer gets word from its point-of-sale vendor about a completely rewritten version of the vendor's software with lots of great new features -- and it sounds awesome, says a pilot fish on the inside.

"The vendor is also phasing out the older version over time," fish says. "So since it's a major change, I put in a tech support ticket to arrange a time for a tech to walk through the upgrade process with me."

Two days later, fish gets an update on the ticket: We just checked your account, and your server is an older model that will NOT support the new software version. You will need to purchase a new server.

Which fish knows will cost several thousand dollars, because the server with proprietary security software is only available from this vendor. Fish's boss isn't happy about that news, but the retailer is sort of stuck with it, right?

But wait, there's more: We also noticed you are running our older-model point-of-sale terminals. They will experience very poor performance with the new version of the software. You will need to upgrade them.

Never mind the server -- this is going to cost $1,500 a pop, times many.

And yet more news: We also see that you have our older-model payment terminals. (That's what customers use to swipe their credit cards.) Those are outdated and no longer in compliance with the PCI security standard, so you will need to buy new payment terminals.

At $600 each, times many.

And the list goes on: The new terminals will also require new mounting brackets, the server will require a new UPS, and the vendor rep is pretty sure that buying all new checkout scanners would be a good idea too.

"So basically, what they mean about this great new software release is, oh sure, you can use it, if and only if you buy all new hardware to support it," says fish. "Somehow they failed to mention that when boldly trumpeting the great things to come.

"The icing on the cake? Some features of their software -- like the 'worksheets' functions we use on a daily basis -- haven't been ported to the new version, and probably won't be for a year more. So we still have to use the old version."

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