Learning from their experience last year when a new $20 bill was introduced, many food retailers have begun adjusting their self-checkout systems to accept the new $50 bill prior to its Sept. 28 release.
"The good news is we were given more advanced notice this time by the Federal Reserve than we were with the [release of the new] $20 bills [last year]," said Jeff Lowrance, spokesman for Food Lion. "This transition should be a little smoother."
The 1,200-store retailer, which operates self-checkout lanes in 60 stores, is currently working with IBM, Armonk, N.Y., to execute a remote software change from its corporate offices in Salisbury, N.C. The self-checkout system modifications will be made by late September, according to Lowrance.
Last year, the inability of Food Lion's self-checkout systems to accept the $20 bill was addressed two weeks after the bill's release by self-checkout vendor Productivity Solutions Inc. (PSI). PSI, which has since been acquired by IBM, downloaded a software patch to modify the machines or sent technicians to Food Lion stores.
At Knowlan's Festival Foods, Vadnais Heights, Minn., modifications in self-checkout systems for the new $50 bills will be handled by Retail Data Systems, which maintains IBM self-checkout systems in three of its seven stores.
"It's important to be prepared for changes [resulting from a new bill's release] because cash usage with these machines is high," said Ed Doud, director of retail technology, Knowlan's. "The last time around, I think our POS dealer did a good job getting the patch on in a timely manner. I believe that we will be just as prepared this time."
PSI made modifications to Knowlan's self-checkout machines two days after problems arose with the new $20 bills last October.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spartan Stores, which prepared its PSI self-checkout systems for acceptance of the new $20 bill prior to its release, is currently working toward acceptance of the new $50 bill, stated Jeanne Norcross, Spartan's corporate communications director.
"Spartan Stores is working with the turnkey system necessary to introduce code required for accepting the new $50 bills," said Norcross. "We will be able to test it in our corporate IT lab to ensure that it's functional to accommodate the new bill and our shoppers. Although we don't have it in place yet, we are working diligently to get it in place."
Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y., uses Frisco, Texas-based Fujitsu's U-Scan self-checkout system. Fujitsu has informed Price Chopper that an upgrade must be made in order to recognize the new bill; it will be installed by Sept. 28, according to Jen Kenneally, vice president and treasurer for Price Chopper. "When the $20 bill was issued, we had more problems with the self-checkouts than were anticipated," she said. "Subsequently, we had to install the necessary updates."
Atlanta-based NCR began providing its customers with a software update file that retailers can remotely distribute so their self-checkout systems' bill acceptors are able to recognize and accept the new bill, said Dusty Lutz, product line director for Fast Lane self-checkout, NCR.
"Although retailers were caught unawares with the updates necessary for the $20 bills, they now have a better understanding that they need to act quickly to distribute the updates for the $50 bills," explained Lutz. "We began providing the software to retailers about a week ago. That should be plenty of time for them to have their bill acceptor updated before the end of September."
"We have been working with the appropriate machine manufacturers for nearly two years to ensure that they have the information they need to make their equipment compatible with each newly redesigned note that is introduced into circulation," said Tom Ferguson, director of Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. Treasury Bureau, Washington.
In addition to the new $50 bill, a new $100 bill is planned. A decision has not been made on whether the $10 and $5 bills will be redesigned, but the $1 and $2 designs will not undergo any change.