We’ve played with a lot of different technologies at the farmer’s market. Electronics used outdoors need to be rugged, easy to protect from rain, and usable in bright sunshine.
Back when we made people order fryers in advance, we brought a Panasonic ToughBook so we could take the deposits and enter the orders on QuickBooks. We stopped doing this when we started bringing chickens on spec, rather than just to fill orders. Because every cop car in the country seems to be equipped with one of these, used ToughBooks are plentiful and affordable on eBay and other places.
An iPad is also good, and has enough battery life to last all day, which the ToughBook never had. I haven’t used my iPad for serious work at the market yet, just to goof off during slow periods.
This is about to change! I’ve been playing around with the Square Register, a dinky little credit card reader for smartphones and tablets, and it’s pretty cool. You can take credit card and debit card payments from anyone, and the money ends up in your bank account after about two days, with a flat 2.75% fee. It works really well.
The farmer’s market is one of the last bastions of, “Whoops, I ran out of cash, so I can’t buy your stuff,” and as a vendor, this is a problem I want to solve!
I’ve also used Wells Fargo’s smartphone app to electronically deposit checks, which involves taking a picture of the front and the back. This is a great idea, but it’s too time-consuming when you get a lot of checks for small amounts, especially when the checks insist on fluttering in the breeze as you try to get a clear picture. For big checks, yes, absolutely. For smaller ones, it’s easier to go to the bank and deposit them the old-fashioned way.
I’m an audiobook addict, and over the years I went from listening to books on cassette to listening to them on an MP3 player — first a Rio 500, then an iPod Nano, then an iPod Touch, and now an iPhone. The farmer’s market is too busy for this, but it’s nice when doing farm chores and during the half-hour drive each way.
I’m always amused at how products that are initially marketed to urban hipsters seem to be useful down on the farm.