Members don’t typically carry their wallet or cash into a club, so it’s in your best interest to employ other ways for them to purchase and pay for items you sell. This allows you to take advantage of impulse and convenience buying — from buying a replacement for the forgotten pair of socks, selling personal training to the frustrated member who is finally ready to sign up.
Here are some suggestions to help you determine which options are the best for your club:
House Charging — The “Throw It on My Account” Method
This can be handled easily and conveniently by most club management software systems using an integrated point-of-sale system. When a member purchases items, the total due can be paid for on their next billing cycle. You will need to carefully watch your “bounce backs” or billing returns. Many systems have a built-in trigger that will turn off a member’s ability to house charge once they have had an item return – that way the member isn’t allowed to add to their balance before payment is received.
Another convenient house charging option is to allow members to “put money on account.” In this scenario, the member deposits money into their account and chips away at it each time they buy — with no bounce-back worries for you. This method is popular for clubs because the member’s money is in hand and when it’s gone, the charging privileges stop. Keep in mind that this is a credit on the member’s account and if the member incurs a charge for something like bounced dues, their credit will be reduced. This can be confusing to some front line staff who will have to explain why the member’s balance no longer reflects their original credit minus their house charges.
Gift Cards — The Year-Round Solution
Gift cards or certificates are not just for the holidays! In some clubs, gift certificates are purchased by members to be used like a “tab” system, where they can chip away at the balance on the card. Most POS systems have a gift card and certificate tracking mechanism. If a member loses their card, the system will “know” their card balance and purchases can still be made. Although the purchasing mechanism is similar to keeping a credit balance on an account, the other benefit to the member is that the credit on the gift certificate will be held separate from any other A/R balances. The benefit to the club: gift certificates can be used at different locations and are a great branding tool as well.
Keeping a Card on File — Credit Card Charging without the Card
For members who don’t want additional charges on their EFT or don’t want to put money on account, you can offer to keep a credit card on file. This seems to be the favorite method for many members. They might be a prepaid member or be using a checking account for billing, but still want to be able to charge items to a credit card without having to carry their card. In many systems you can place a card on file and at the time the member makes a purchase, the card gets charged. Keep in mind that your POS system or software should be PCI-DSS complaint for you to store credit card numbers.
Each of these methods has pros and cons for both the club and the members. Keep in mind that you have to consider the risks against the benefits for each one and how each would be beneficial to your business as well as to your members. No matter which method you choose, you’ll get to watch your impulse and convenience buying take off!
Susanne Nauseda has an exercise science degree that she put to use in the industry for 10 years prior to joining Twin Oaks Software, where she has worked for the last 12 years. You can reach her at 866.278.6750 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.