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How to Migrate to a Chip-Based Card Reader … and More of Your Questions for July

Also … how much vacation time is the right amount for a full-time employee?

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Do you need to be ready for chip-based credit cards?

I still haven’t migrated my POS system to accept the new chip-based credit cards. Should I be panicking?

Panicking is usually not the best response and you’re far from alone. According to our latest Brain Squad survey, only 48 percent of your fellow independent jewelers had made the change as of June. Still, you shouldn’t draw any comfort from being in such a large, tardy group. Come Oct. 1, and retailers will lose much of their protection from fraud if they haven’t changed to the new “EMV” standard. The first thing to do is get in touch with your merchant service provider. If you’re terminal is over five years old, you may need to replace it. And even if you have a relatively new setup, it’s likely you’ll have to update the software. You will also need to draft a training schedule. EMV will introduce some small but significant changes to the way Americans have used their plastic for decades. The biggest is in the “swipe” (during a typical EMV transaction, shoppers “dip” their own cards into the terminal instead of handing it to the cashier). There are also changes to the way returns and cancellations are processed. Most of the jewelers we asked said the switch-over was painless. “A piece of cake” was how Valerie King of King Jewelers in Cohasset, MA, described it. Others reported a few small hitches and some noted — less than warmly — the cost of upgrading equipment or Internet connections. Still, whatever hassles involved, keep in mind we are entering an exciting new, safer world of payments that will eventually include all contactless transaction such as those done via mobile phones. So, stop your dithering. The clock to “liability shift” is ticking louder and louder.

How much vacation time do you think is appropriate for a full-time employee?

The liberal economist in us says as much as the market demands to allow you to attract capable workers who will come to the store each day feeling refreshed and engaged in what they do. For corporate America that means about three weeks a year. At the small business end of town, things are a bit tighter (according to the Labor Department, only 69 percent of small businesses offer paid leave, although according to INSTORE’s Big Survey, 91 percent of jewelers do). In terms of hard numbers, 10 days a year of paid vacation would keep you in line with peers. Of course, that figure is irrelevant if you don’t insist your workers take their leave. The most productive employees are typically those who utilize their vacation time and return to the office with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. (It’s also wise from a security standpoint to insist workers take leave so anything being covered up will be exposed.) All this goes for you as well. It may be un-American to say it, but rest is good.

Rest your body, but pique your mind with INSTORE’s inspirational summer reading.

Can you recommend some summer reading?

Since business touches on every aspect of life, and life touches on every aspect of business, we’ve opted for a selection that we hope will make you a smarter, deeper, wiser, richer and happier person by the time September rolls around. Here are our five:

  • Are You Fully Charged? The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life by Tom Rath.
  • Secrets of a Master Closer by Mike Kaplan
  • The Meaning of Human Existence by E. O. Wilson
  • How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamond and the Scandal that Shook the Throne by Jonathan Beckman
  • Hard Carbon, a thriller by David M. Salkin (a fellow jeweler, local politician and general overachiever — this is Dave’s ninth book).
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Credit still seems pretty tight in our market. I’d like to roll out an informal layaway program. Good idea?

Don’t be too informal. We’d advise you take a more legalistic route, for three reasons: 1. We’ve heard of customers taking up to four years to pay off jewelry bought under such arrangements; 2. To protect yourself (time passes and people can forget exactly what they bought); and 3. Layaway may be regulated in your state (see the Small Business Administration’s guide on the individual state rules at instr.us/7152), so you may have no choice but to go the official route. Legalities aside, it’s good business sense to provide a standard written disclosure to layaway customers and require them to sign it. The Federal Trade Commission provides an excellent guide on offering layaway here at instr.us/7153 that includes a disclosure checklist and even a sample receipt.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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