Harbortouch POS Review
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- Date Established
- New Jersey
- Advanced reporting tools
- Accepts multiple forms of payment
- Early termination fee
- Untransparent tiered pricing
- Deceptive sales tactics
- Numerous public complaints
When something looks too good to be true, and your hackles rise for no apparent reason, it’s always fun to find out your suspicions were entirely justified. (How’s that for starting on an ominous note?)
That was the case for me with Harbortouch POS. On the surface, the system looks terrific with a decent interface and a feature set that, while not overwhelmingly robust, certainly checks the majority of boxes you would expect from a solid POS offering. What really caught my eye, however, was the price tag. Harbortouch has two distinct plans (three if you include its new POS for just salons). The Echo version is for smaller businesses, such as food carts or other quick-service industries, while the other is for larger retail and restaurant establishments. The plans retail for $29 and $39 a month, respectively, which is a legitimate bargain for everything that is offered. To sweeten the deal even further, the website boasts no initial upfront costs. There are also offers for free hardware to get started.
Unfortunately, when I checked the asterisk next to the free hardware offer, I saw the first red flag. That deal is offered only with a three-year contract and a Merchant Transaction Processing Agreement. At Merchant Maverick, we aren’t big fans of contracts or companies that lock you into using their own payment processor. Still, this wasn’t a total dealbreaker for me. Some companies (Toast, for example) use their own service and receive mostly positive feedback. Sadly, Harbortouch is not one of them.
With a little digging, we discovered that Shift4 Payments is the parent credit card processing company behind Harbortouch, and it appears to use every single tactic we hate to see, right down to independent sales reps running wild.
All that said, the software itself is fine. As mentioned, Harbortouch offers a perfectly acceptable POS system, one that I would be elated to recommend at its quoted price under different circumstances. Unfortunately, after even a few small scratches to the surface, the overall Harbortouch experience starts to remind you of a horror movie where the naive lead character opens the secret room in her sweet boyfriend’s house and sees thousands of pictures of herself with her eyes cut out.
Harbortouch’s customer service reputation is appalling, with scores of customers complaining about representatives never getting back to them. There are reports of hidden upfront fees, hidden transaction fees, huge penalties for breaking contracts, and dozens of nearly identical complaints about repeated software bugs and freezes. Many current and former customers throw around the dreaded “scam” word as well.
I will say that in my own experience with the software, I found it to be entirely satisfactory. Particularly at the price that it advertises, Harbortouch could be a solid low-cost option for small business owners. That may still be the case if you do your research and are willing to take the risk. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.
Table of Contents
Harbortouch pricing looks good at the outset but less so once you factor in various added fees.
There are two main pricing options for Harbortouch. You can purchase the Echo POS, which is primarily for smaller establishments, such as food carts, cafes, or small retail establishments. That runs for $29 a month on the company’s website.
The Elite POS comes in at $39 a month and is best suited for larger retailers and full-service restaurants, as it gives you access to a broader feature set. These prices include support and a lifetime hardware warranty.
Harbortouch offers free equipment, but, as mentioned in the overview, to get this deal, you have to agree to a three-year service agreement and the Merchant Transaction Processing Agreement. Harbortouch also offers a plan that comes with just a cash register and card reader for taking payments. That plan is technically “free” but also requires the service agreement.
Lastly, the company offers a POS system specifically for salons that retails for $39 a month.
The penalties for breaking a contract with Harbortouch aren’t pretty. There is an early termination fee equal to the number of remaining months in the Merchant Agreement multiplied by $60 or $600, whichever is greater. If you get “free” POS equipment from Harbortouch, you’ll also pay a $200 to $300 equipment fee, depending on how much longer you have left in your contract. When you combine those steep penalties with complaints that agents were less than upfront in the sales process, you can see the red flags.
Additionally, Elite POS users will pay a $20/month support fee, while Echo POS users will pay an annual $79 fee. There’s also a $99 PCI Compliance Fee and, of course, transaction fees according to a tiered or interchange-plus pricing schedule.
Web-Based Or Locally-Installed
Harbortouch is cloud-based, storing all of your information on the web. It is accessible both from the POS directly and on a tablet or mobile device.
Harbortouch can handle retail businesses and most types of businesses within the food industry. Its Echo POS is specifically designed for smaller, more mobile businesses, such as food trucks or quick-service restaurants, while the Elite POS has most of the functionality you would need for a full-service restaurant and most small retailers. It has also carved out a niche with a product specifically for salons and spas.
Specific Size Of Business
With its two options, Harbortouch would be suitable for very small businesses and would have the capability to handle mid-sized restaurants and retail stores.
Ease Of Use
Harbortouch’s interface is relatively straightforward. The look isn’t as modern as some of the new offerings on the market, and I found the layout of its buttons a little confusing, especially when there were lots of options to choose from, but that might be a personal preference. While certain functions are customizable, the system isn’t the most adaptable I’ve seen, either. You have to sort through a lot of screens manually, and if you’re dealing with items that may have a lot of modifiers, it can be a somewhat tedious process.
Other functions, such as check splitting, are fairly intuitive, and the ticket or tickets are well displayed on the side of the screen to ensure accuracy. I found the retail interface to be a little more challenging and had to resort to the website’s bevy of videos to figure out just what buttons I needed to hit to complete a simple sales return. It takes some getting used to, but it’s a perfectly functional system. That said, it’s not software that you can expect to master over a single shift.
The back end is also pretty standard but, again, takes some getting used to, even just to sort out all of the features. If you have experience with POS systems, you’ll probably pick it up pretty quickly, but if you’re just getting started, be prepared to either watch a lot of videos or spend some time with a representative.
Hardware & Operating System Requirements
Both the Echo and Elite systems come with Harbortouch’s own hardware, specifically created to run its POS software. Again, this hardware comes “free” once you’re locked into a three-year contract and processing plan. If you have done your research and you are aware of the risks with Harbortouch’s fees and contract, it is convenient to receive all of the hardware you need upfront immediately — and that hardware does come with a lifetime guarantee.
There is also a Harbortouch app available in the Apple store.
Harbortouch’s feature offerings are pretty robust, and the website does a good job laying out what you get for both restaurants and retail establishments. Here are a few areas where Harbortouch stands out:
- Tableside Ordering: Using its iPad app, servers in the food industry can walk around and take orders remotely, sending tickets directly to the kitchen from the table, a feature more and more POS systems are implementing.
- Table Tracking: Managing tables is easy, allowing servers and hosts to see how many customers are at each table and where there are openings in the restaurant.
- Reservations: This is a great feature that Harbortouch throws in for no additional cost. It’s easy for employees to make reservations directly into the POS, or you can be provided with your own URL so that customers can make their reservations from home. You can view the waitlist at any time, and customers can receive text messages when their table is ready.
- Employee Management: Harbortouch makes it easy to evaluate sales performances. You can easily see how many hours employees have put in and who has been a top seller. You can also edit timesheets and set up permissions with just a few clicks.
- Inventory Management: It’s not extremely robust, but it handles the basics well. You can track raw goods in the back office and make purchase orders across multiple locations from one POS. Harbortouch also pairs with two inventory management integrations if you need more in that department.
- Online Ordering: Another handy feature that Harbortouch includes is the ability for customers to place orders online for convenient pickup or delivery.
- Loyalty: Harbortouch has a fairly advanced loyalty system, allowing you to set up gift cards. You can also set up promotions and search customer information quickly; a Mailchimp integration makes marketing campaigns simple.
- Reporting: This is probably Harbortouch’s bread and butter. The reporting packages are extensive, giving you multiple sales and labor reports to make sure that you’re functioning at peak efficiency. You can also run reports on your menus or individual products — this allows you to track various things, such as when particular specials sold better during the month.
- Installation: Harbortouch offers on-site installation or can have a representative talk and train you through the process remotely.
- Gift Registries: On the retail side, Harbortouch makes it easy to set up registries if a bride or mom-to-be is interested in items from your establishment.
- Layaway: Always a nice feature to have included, customers can reserve items for later pickup, and you can manage those items in your inventory.
- Handheld Pay-At-Table Devices: Optional SkyTab pay-at-table handheld devices allow customers to place orders and make payments from their table.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Harbortouch has kept developers in mind, offering an open API. The number of third-party integrations on offer isn’t overly impressive, but there are a few convenient options:
- FiveStars: For help with loyalty and marketing
- Sarbari & Orca: For inventory management
- Sling: For employee scheduling
- Mailchimp: For marketing and communications
- Clearbanc: For alternative lending
Compatible Credit Card Processors
Harbortouch operates as its own processing company under parent company Shift4, and you are forced to use Harbortouch for payment processing — something that always rings alarm bells at Merchant Maverick. I found it very difficult to track down Harbortouch’s rates, a complaint that customers routinely bring up. Multiple reviewers mentioned that they ended up being charged a different rate than the one that they were quoted. Most likely, you will receive expensive tiered pricing with Harbortouch’s payment processing.
Harbortouch does allow you to accept most forms of payments, including EMV chip cards and NFC mobile payments.
Customer Service & Technical Support
There is 24/7 customer support available, although it can occasionally take a little while to actually get someone on the phone. Harbortouch also has a live chat function, which generally responds within 24 hours. Considering the fact that Harbortouch charges an added fee for customer support, the level of responsiveness is not really up to snuff.
On its website, Harbortouch at least provides some short and helpful how-to videos, walking clients through many of the software’s basic functions, and there are loads of articles with more in-depth information as well.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Where to start? Harbortouch has received complaints across the board, and the majority of them touch on some very similar and somewhat troubling issues:
- Software Freezes: Multiple reviewers mentioned that the POS system often freezes up, usually when an employee is running a card for a purchase. The system also runs updates automatically, which can slow down the software at inconvenient times.
- Bait & Switch: More than a handful of reviewers mentioned that the credit card rates they were quoted were much lower than what they were charged and that these issues went unresolved for months. The company also gloats about having no upfront costs, but most reviewers mentioned multiple fees that were never initially disclosed, making the product far less affordable than promised.
- Long-Term Contracts: Reviewers who were upset with Harbortouch lamented having to sign a three-year contract, which is extremely difficult to break, not to mention very expensive.
- Poor Customer Service: Customers often had to sit through 30-90 minute hold times to speak to a representative, and problems were still not resolved. Emails and other inquiries were reported to take months to receive answers. A few reviewers said the company was nearly impossible to get in touch with after going through the initial sign-up period.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
The handful of positive reviews available mentioned a few things repeatedly:
- Ease Of Use: Even people who were upset with fees or had other issues generally liked the software and the interface overall, and many found the interface to be intuitive.
- Reporting: Multiple reviewers appreciated Harbortouch’s robust reporting offerings.
If it’s not clear by now, Harbortouch is not my favorite point of sale option. The company bills itself as being an affordable and convenient option for small business owners, but it’s pretty easy to see through those claims. A three-year commitment is not standard in the POS industry by any means, so it’s not hard to see why there are so many negative reviews of the product.
What keeps me from saying that Harbortouch is anything other than a total wreck is that the software itself is pretty good. You get strong reporting and solid inventory management, and I appreciate some of the functions carved out for specific businesses.
If you can find a way to make sure that you’re getting the processing rate you’re promised and can negotiate out of some of the hidden fees, you might end up with a strong and affordable system. But that’s not something you should have to do with your POS. In a competitive market, there are plenty of better options.
Speaking of options, some better POS systems you might consider instead of Harbortouch include Toast for restaurants, Lightspeed Retail for retailers, and Square Appointments for salons. Check out our POS Software Comparison Chart to see even more options.
We've done in-depth testing of each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth testing of each and confidently recommend them.