Clover Station POS Review
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- Date Established
- Mountain View, CA
- Easy to set up
- Easy to use
- Competitive pricing available
- Aesthetic appeal
- Large, easy-to-read touchscreen
Clover Station is an uncommon cloud-based point of sale platform. By uniting a robust POS system with a printer, cash register, and terminal, this product actually replaces the need for traditional supplementary hardware.
On its own, this POS has only basic functionality, but when supplemented with apps from Clover’s App Marketplace, Clover Station becomes a powerful tool that enables you to manage employees and customers, track inventory, create and view reports, and monitor your revenue stream. Most of these apps are free or can be purchased for a small fee. The result is that Clover Station is adaptable to many different kinds of industries. In short, it can be whatever you want it to be.
Clover was acquired in 2012 by one of the biggest players in the credit card processing industry, First Data Corporation. Given that fact, I suppose it isn’t particularly surprising that Clover Station (and other Clover products, including Clover Mini and Clover Mobile) is always sold in conjunction with a merchant account. In 2013, Bank of America Merchant Services was the first company other than First Data to offer Clover products to its customer base, followed by PNC Merchant Services. Currently, you can buy Clover Station through over 3,000 major banks in the US, including Citibank, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo. It’s also possible to purchase Clover products from small business suppliers like Sam’s Club, Restaurant Depot, or from independent providers of merchant services like First Data’s Ignite Payments division.
Unlike iPad-based POS systems, Clover Station updates automatically and is not “vulnerable to the whims of more consumer-oriented operating system updates.” To those of us who have suffered from the sometimes unfathomable caprice of iOS devices, this might seem like a breath of fresh air.
At first glance, Clover Station seems like an ideal POS solution – it’s flexible, feature-rich, and functional. But customer feedback has grown increasingly negative over the years, mostly due to the unsavory reputation of First Data. Is Clover Station worth the risk? Read on to find out!
As I mentioned in the overview, Clover Station differs from other POS systems in the way it’s marketed and sold. It must be sold with a merchant account, so instead of being available from one location for one set price, it can be bought from thousands of different banks, business suppliers, and merchant services providers, each one offering different swipe fees and hardware costs.
By all accounts, the cost of Clover Station itself does not vary much. From most of the major banks that carry it, and from First Data itself, you can buy each terminal and the accompanying hardware for around $1,000; some institutions even offer the option of leasing equipment. Credit card processing rates and swipe fees are another matter entirely and can range from 0.30% + 5¢ to 2.5% + 15¢ or higher, depending on the bank. Some locations may actually offer flat-rate processing fees. In general, the rate you receive will probably depend a lot on your own credit rating and the sales volume of your business. Those of you who have an existing business banking account may be best served by checking with your own bank to see if it offers Clover Station, or you can find authorized Clover Station vendors in your area. It’s possible to buy the POS outright, of course, but most vendors also offer in-house financing. You may be able to qualify for a loan or cash advance as well.
Cloud-Based or Locally-Installed:
Clover Station is cloud-based and stores your information in the cloud. However, if online services are down, the software can continue to function for a time, queuing up transactions until the internet is restored.
Clover Station is best for restaurants–both quick service and full-service–and specialty retails stores. It can also be used for service businesses (like hair/nail salons) or for businesses in the hospitality industry (hotels, motels, resorts, etc.).
Specific Size of Business:
Clover Station is best for small to mid-sized businesses.
Ease of Use:
No-Hassle Set Up
I can assure you from my own personal observations, as well as general consensus from users, that Clover Station is easy to use and even easier to set up. It arrives nearly ready-to-go (with a preloaded menu), and there are only a few pieces to assemble. Click here for a detailed run-down of the entire set-up process.
Short Learning Curve
As you can see from the image below, Clover Station’s design is intuitive and resembles a typical computer screen or smartphone device. Depending on what functions you want, there are various apps on the screen which you can open with a touch of your finger.
Employees should be able to pick up everything they need to know about Clover Station after 15-20 minutes of basic training. Most of the apps (at least the most common – reporting, inventory, customers, etc.) are self-explanatory and clearly labeled. The nice thing about a truly all-in-one POS solution, like Clover Station, is that all of the hardware works together naturally. For many business owners, Clover really takes the guesswork out of things.
Hardware and Operating System Requirements:
Clover Station is delivered to you with a touchscreen display, a high-speed printer (which doubles as a power and connectivity hub), and a cash drawer; click here to see official product specifications. It also comes with a high-resolution camera for barcode and QR code scanning. If you want/need more functionality, there are optional accessories available, including handheld barcode scanners, kitchen printers, label printers, weight scales, PIN debit pads, extra cash drawers/coin trays, printer paper, tray locking lids, etc. These items can be purchased from the same place you buy your Clover Station.
There are essentially no software requirements for Clover Station. Everything you do is stored in the cloud, so as long as you have a viable internet connection, you should be good to go. Updates are automatic and apply to all of your Clover devices. Additionally, if you want to access your information away from the store, you can use the Web Dashboard, which will show you everything you want to see as long as you have an internet connection (even if you have multiple Clover devices and multiple locations).
Clover Station is so adaptable and can be customized with such a wide variety of apps, that it is difficult to discuss features in general. The features included in your Clover Station will be defined by the apps you choose and the functions you require. That said, I will discuss some of the most popular available features, likely to be useful to any type of business.
- Interface: The Clover Station interface is fairly simple. As I said above, it is reminiscent of a typical computer or smartphone screen, featuring a variety of apps. Once you’ve entered a specific app, you will see a status bar (to let you know which app is currently launched), a content area for the app’s primary functions, and a navigation bar that includes a lock function, a barcode scanner, and icons to go home, go back, and return to most recent apps.
- App Market: Apps basically run everything for you in Clover, which is itself simply a collection of apps personalized to your needs. As a company, Clover provides retail and restaurant specific apps for everything from your register to voice authorization, bar tabs, refunds, discounts, employees, and inventory management. There are a wide variety of 3rd party apps available as well that offer gift cards, loyalty software, eCommerce integration, the ability to clock employees in and out, and so forth. For a full list of available apps, click here.
- Orders: You can add items to a new order via the Register app or the Tables app (if you’re a restaurateur). You can also add to an order by searching for the product/menu item or navigating the interface and scrolling to find what you’re looking for. When necessary, and assuming they have the proper permissions to do so, it’s possible for employees to create custom items on an order; in a food service setting, custom orders must be manually sent to a specific kitchen printer. After an item has been selected, it can be associated with an existent modifier, or you can add custom modifiers. Any applicable discounts may be applied via the register app, though again, the ability to add/remove items, create new items, apply discounts, etc. depends on the permissions level of the employee. There may be times when a manager must intervene and enter his/her pin before an action can be taken. Note: Once you accept payment on an order, of any kind, you cannot add anything to the order. If you need to distinguish between orders taken on different devices (multiple Clover Stations, or a Clover Station and a Clover Mini, for example), you can assign custom letters to each of your Clover devices.
- Employees/Permissions: Employees can be added to your Clover account at any time, and described by their names, nicknames (which will appear on customer receipts), roles, login pins, and contact information. The best way to manage employee permissions is by assigning each worker a role. You may want some people to have access to sensitive information while restricting others to basic register functions. The different roles you create will automatically come with different levels of access to the POS, so assigning roles to employees right off the bat “enables admins to enable or disable permissions in bulk for their employees by segments.”
- Payment Options: On its own, Clover Station is capable of handling regular cash, check, credit, and debit transactions. However, if you want to be able to accept other forms of payment, like EMV, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and even Google Hands-Free in certain select areas, you’ll need to have a Clover Mini or Clover Mobile device.
- Inventory: Adding inventory in Clover Station is a bit more involved than I would like, and could be easier. You must download an inventory spreadsheet, open it in MS Excel (or any other spreadsheet application, as long as the final format is .xlsx), and fill in fields for price, item name, price type, price unit, tax rate, business cost, product code (barcode ID), SKU, modifier group, quantity, labels, and so forth. Items can be described with variants (such as color) and options (such as size), and organized into categories or labeled for quicker access. Those of you in food service can create modifiers for each item. New items can be created with or without variants and be sold by a fixed or variable price, or priced per unit (oz, g, kg, lb).
- Reports: The Clover Station app provides decent reporting tools, including a “By Payments” report (see below) which shows you a summary of completed transactions made during a specified time period. There are also reports for net payment statistics, cash reports, payments by card type, employee statistics and activities, discounts, taxes, orders and more. All reports can be sorted according to date/time and filtered for specific requirements; once created, reports may be exported and/or printed for further analysis.
- Customer Management: Clover Station gives you the ability to collect customer information at the time of sale. Later, you can search for customers by name and date or look up a customer’s order history.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Clover Station’s App Market allows you to pick and choose the features and/or tools your business requires, such as coupon processing, virtual PIN pads, gift card management, employee management and advanced reporting. Most of the apps are completely free, though many are accompanied by a small fee. Furthermore, if you have very specific needs and would like to design you own application, the Clover API is available to developers.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
The Clover system is vertically integrated with credit card processing. It is always sold together with a merchant account from places like Bank of America, Citibank, Restaurant Depot, and any other First Data Independent Sales Organization (ISO).
Customer Service and Support:
Customer service (regarding payments and any merchant account issues) is likely going to come from whichever merchant services provider you end up going through (unless you sign up directly with First Data). For this reason, it’s important to be careful about the bank/provider you choose to buy from. On the other hand, technical support regarding the actual software and hardware is going to come directly from Clover (or more accurately, First Data), which is where you start running into problems. First Data has historically had problems on the merchant services side of the business (excessive fees, account terminations, withheld funds) so you’re rolling the dice when it comes to software and hardware support. According to most recent customer reviews of Clover Station, First Data seems to be sticking to its poor customer service reputation. Customers cite rude customer service representatives, dodgy responses (if any), and general dissatisfaction.
Clover also provides a self-serve help center with guides, FAQs, and troubleshooting tips. This material is helpful, for the most part, but some of it is poorly written and/or not quite thorough enough to be of use. There are a few videos available as well. You can find a selection of them on YouTube, though I didn’t find any of them to be as detailed as I would have liked. Assistance with individual 3rd-party apps is managed by the app providers themselves.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Clover Station has a few major red flags, including:
- Cost: The biggest complaint I’ve heard (from customers and reviewers alike) is that the upfront costs can be prohibitive. If your business needs more than one terminal, for example, it could run you upwards of $2-3k right off the bat. This cancels out one of the advantages tablet-based software generally holds over the locally-installed terminal systems. Basically, all of the best cloud-based POS software will run on an iPad and/or Android tablet, meaning that if you test out one system and it doesn’t work for you, you can transition to another system without having to invest in new hardware. Clover, on the other hand, is run exclusively on First Data proprietary hardware, meaning that you can’t even test the system out without investing around $1,000 upfront—and forget about an inexpensive switch if it doesn’t work out.
- Purchasing Market: Another negative of Clover Station is that there is no single place to buy it, yet you are restricted to a single merchant services provider. Therefore, you’re going to get different rates, different prices, and different customer service options at each location, yet no matter which reseller you go through, you’re still limited to having First Data as your processor. I’d be wary around any POS that only integrates with one processor, but this is particularly a problem with First Data because of its increasingly poor reputation. More and more people are reportedly being hung out to dry by First Data and its resellers. Though some resellers (like Payment Depot) have managed to maintain a great reputation, they can really only help on the payments/merchant account side of things. For technical support, you’re still at the mercy of First Data’s hit-or-miss service.
- Customer Service: Customer service (or the lack thereof) is a major complaint among many Clover customers. This is where doing your research on which provider you choose can really save you lots of heartache in the long run.
- Lack of Transparency: Feedback about nonnegotiable contracts, hidden fees, and the system not being what they expected are also extremely common. The word scam has been used in quite a few of these comments. On that note, you should also be aware of some actual Clover Station scams on eBay.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
There are a number of positive aspects to Clover Station, including:
- The ability to negotiate competitive pricing
- Larger than average, easy-to-read touchscreen
- Aesthetically appealing design
- Little to no learning curve
- Wide variety of apps so you can adapt to nearly any industry
- All-in-one design that includes terminal, printer, scanner, and register
At the end of the day, I have mixed feelings about Clover Station. I absolutely love the simplicity of the interface, and it’s hard to beat the visual appeal and practical design of the hardware. Clover Station is easy to use, adaptable, and able to integrate with a number of useful 3rd party applications. For small businesses, especially those with just one stationary terminal, I think it could be a practical choice and reasonably priced to boot, considering that you own the hardware outright. When combined with alternate devices, like Clover Mini or Clover Mobile, this POS can become a powerful, forward-looking tool for your business.
One of my primary concerns about Clover Station is the fact that it is sold by thousands of different banks, merchant services providers, and small business suppliers. In general, I applaud a system that is set up for competitive pricing/rates, but there is something lost when a company stops providing support (and even equipment) for its own product. I’m troubled by the inherent disconnect between Clover, as a company, and the people who use Clover Station. I’m also concerned that there may be problems communicating customer feedback to the actual designers. Not only that, but the limitations placed on Clover users (both in terms of hardware and choice of a processor) are a definite negative.
Worse still, we’ve received a ton of negative feedback lately about Clover Station’s parent company, First Data, regarding negligent customer service and sketchy interactions that leave customers feeling scammed. For these reasons, we’re lowering Clover Station’s rating until we see a positive change from First Data.
That said, those of you who want a simple, attractive POS solution—and don’t mind taking a risk on customer service and payment processing—could do worse than Clover Station. Just be sure to work with a vendor you trust (our favorite is Payment Depot), and research their support/technical assistance policies beforehand.