Chapter 31. Centrals
Prism's Central Server functionality enables retailers to designate a single server in the subsidiary as the validation point for certain key POS tasks:
- Customer lookup
- Gift Cards
- Store Credit
For each of these key POS tasks, using a dedicated Centrals Server reduces risk of fraudulent transactions caused by communication lag time and helps to ensure a smooth customer experience.
- Centrals settings must be configured on all machines, including the machine functioning as Centrals Server.
- The centrals server is configured in Admin Console > Installation Defaults. Note: The settings in Installation defaults are specific to each installation. They are not replicated to other servers.
- Other centrals preferences (e.g., for lookups, returns, gift cards, credit) are configured in Admin Console > Node Preferences > Transactions > Centrals. Users must decide at which level (SBS, Store, WS) to configure these settings.
- If using Central Gift Cards and/or Central Credit, those tenders must be enabled in Node Preferences > Transactions > Tenders > Tender Requirements. If the tenders are not enabled, the respective tender will not be in the list of available Tender Types on the Tender Screen.
1. Enable and configure the centrals server and the centrals service in Admin Console > Installation Defaults.
2. Enable and configure central return, lookup and tenders in the Admin Console > Node Preferences > Transactions > Centrals.
3. Enable centrals gift cards in Node Preferences > Transactions > Tenders > Requirements.
4. Configure group security permissions.
5. (Grid formats) Add the centrals fields to grid formats.
6. Perform POS transactions. When needed, the Prism database will call out to the centrals server and pull the information needed for the transaction.
Prism Centrals Server
All machines using Prism Centrals must enter the FQDN or IP Address of the Centrals Server in Admin Console > Installation Defaults. The Centrals Server settings in Installation Defaults are not replicated, so be sure to enter the correct settings, including Port, Timeout, and Interval at each workstation that will be using centrals.
Any Prism server can be the Centrals Server; however, keep in mind that the data the centrals server has in its local database limits the data it can return to any requestor when acting as the Centrals Server.
There is not a separate ‘Centrals' service in Prism. Instead, the PrismPOSV1Service at the designated Centrals server handles centrals request (for each centrals type enabled in preferences). Centrals provides a direct line of communication between any single node and the Centrals Server bypassing the normal requirement that calls through an intermediate POA. This ensures that the most up-to-date information (e.g., Central Credit Balance) is returned.
Prism Installation Defaults:
*These settings are specific to each installation. They are not replicated around the Enterprise.
|Central Address||The hostname or IP address of the machine that will be the Centrals Server. This setting must be entered on each workstation that will participate in Centrals.|
|Timeout||The number of seconds to attempt to reach the Centrals server before timing out.|
|Interval||When using Resiliency, the number of minutes the Resiliency service will wait before trying to re-connect with the Centrals server.|
|Test|| Click the Test button verify connectivity with the Centrals server. You will be required to enter a username/password to connect.
There are four possible responses:
A "Successful" message if your machine is able to connect to the Centrals server
An "Offline" message if the Centrals server is reachable but the Centrals service is not running.
A "Cannot Connect to Host" message if the hostname/IP address cannot be found.
A "HTTP/1.1 401" error message if the username or password is incorrect.
Note on Central username/password used during Test
The Central username/password used during the Test is the user who will be used to request all Centrals information. This user can be any user in the Centrals Server's database who has sufficient permissions to access the data requested. Best practice is to create a specific ‘centrals-only' user whose password does not expire and who has sufficient permissions for any type of Centrals information requested. It might be advisable to create a user with a login but without First/Last name, as a sign that this is a ‘special' user. If this user should become inactivated or deleted, ALL installations that have this user specified, will lose their Centrals connections.
Other Centrals Preferences
Preferences related to Centrals (except Centrals Server settings) are in Admin Console > Node Preferences > Transactions > Centrals. It is up to the customer to decide at which level these settings are configured (Corp, Subsidiary, etc.). The Centrals preferences are divided into several sections: Server, Central Customer, Central Return, Central Gift Card and Central Credit.
Sample Node Preferences > Transactions > Centrals:
Node Preferences > Transactions > Centrals Settings
|Enabled||Click the checkbox to enable central customer lookup.|
|Enabled||Click the checkbox to enable central returns.|
|Central Gift Card|
|Enabled||If selected, central gift cards will be available as a tender at POS. The other central gift card options are disabled for editing until you select this check box.|
|Use entire balance if projected balance less than||This preference enables you to zero out a central gift card if the projected balance is less than the amount entered here. For example, if the transaction will result in a balance of less than 0.25, the entire central gift card balance will be used, rather than issuing a new credit for such a small amount.|
|When tendering by Central Gift Card restrict given tender to||This preference enables you to require change to be given in a specific tender. When tendering by central gift card, users must use the tender selected here when giving change.|
|Mask card number in dialogues||If selected, when a card number is scanned, the card number will be masked (using asterisks).|
|Generate Central ID||If selected, then when adding/activating a new gift card, the Centrals Server will generate the Gift Card ID. This enables customers to redeem central credits by ID.|
|Allow card information to be keyed in||If selected, central gift card information can be typed. If not selected, the card information must be entered by scanning or swiping the card.|
|Manage IDs by||This setting determines the stores at which a Central ID can be redeemed.
Subsidiary: If selected, then each Central ID can only be used at stores in the same subsidiary as the store where the Central Credit ID was created.
Store: If selected, then each Central ID can only be used at the same store where it was created.
All: If selected, then each Central ID can be used at all stores at all subsidiaries in the company.
|Set Maximum Value upon Activation||When enabled, activating a Central Gift Card will set a maximum value for that card, equal to the activation amount. Inherited (Corp, SBS, Store, WS) Default = Disabled|
|Set Expiration Date upon Activation||When enabled, activating a Central Gift Card will set an expiration date for that card, based on 'days' designation. Inherited (Corp, SBS, Store, WS). Inherited (Corp, SBS, Store, WS) Default = Disabled|
|Enable||If selected, then central credit will be available as a tender at POS. Selecting this option enables the other central credit preferences|
|Use entire balance if projected balance less than||This preference enables you to zero out a central credit if the projected balance is less than the amount entered here. For example, if the transaction will result in a balance of less than 0.25, the entire central credit balance will be used, rather than issuing a new credit for such a small amount.|
|When tendering by Central Credit restrict given tender to||This preference enables you to require change to be given in a specific tender. When tendering by central credit, users must use the tender selected here when giving change.|
|Suggest Central Credit as a Tender when Available||If this preference is selected, then when tendering a transaction that has a customer who has a positive central credit balance, a prompt will be displayed, asking if the customer wants to use the available store credit.|
|Total negative balance permitted||This preference enables you to limit the amount by which a customer's central credit balance is allowed to go negative. If the transaction results in a negative balance that exceeds the value entered here, a prompt is displayed.|
|Offline Take Limit||Enter the upper limit for central credit transactions performed offline. Transactions with a Total above the entered Offline Limit are not allowed. If Run Resiliency is not running the Prism server ignores the "Offline Take Limit". The default value is zero, which means no offline transactions are permitted.|
|Purchase Limit||Enter the maximum amount of store credit that can be purchased|
Enable Central Gift Card Tender in Tender Requirements
To use the Central Gift Card tender at POS, you must enable the tender in Admin Console > Node Preferences > Transactions > Tenders > Requirements.
Click the "Take", "Give' and "Return" checkboxes for Central Gift Cards and/or Store Credit.
Save the changes.
Node Preferences > Grid Formats
Configure Grid Format preferences to add a "From Centrals" column to your Customer Lookup grid formats. By adding this column, when looking up a customer you can see if the customer was retrieved from the centrals database (1) or not (0).
Node Preferences > Transactions > General
An additional preference related to gift cards (including Central Gift Cards) is found in Node Preferences > Transactions > General, the "Activate Gift Cards for Original Amount" preference controls whether gift cards can be activated for an amount other than the original amount.
- If the "Activate Gift Cards for Original Amount" preference is enabled, gift cards can only be activated for the original amount at which the card was sold.
- If the preference is disabled, then gift cards can be activated for an amount different than the original amount.
Note: This table only lists permissions directly related to centrals. Additional permissions that pertain to both centrals and non-centrals customer lookup and returns are available.
|POS - Add Central Gift Card||Controls the ability to sell and activate a new central gift card.|
|POS - Allow Negative Central Credit Balance||Controls the ability to update a transaction that results in a negative balance on a central gift card.|
|POS - Change Central Gift Card Expirations||Controls the ability to change the Expiration Date for central gift cards.|
|POS - Check Central Credit Balance||Controls the ability to check central credit balance.|
|POS - Check Central Gift Card Balance||Controls the ability to check a customer's central gift card balance.|
|Tenders - Give Central Gift Card||Controls the ability to give a central gift card as change.|
|Tenders - Return Central Gift Card||Controls the ability to select central gift card as a tender on an item return.|
|Tenders - Take Central Gift Card||Controls the ability to take a central gift card as payment.|
Central Customer Lookup
When Central Customer Lookup is enabled, when the user enters customer lookup information, the system will call out to the Centrals Server to retrieve the customer information. When the connection to the Centrals Server is online, all centrals customer lookups ONLY go to the Centrals Server. Customer records looked up via centrals and selected are copied to local database. When centrals is online, and a customer lookup returns no results, lookup will NOT switch to searching the local database. So, a customer record will not be found if he/she only exists in the local DB and centrals is online.
When Centrals is Offline, Customers are first looked up in centrals. After the Centrals timeout expires (because the server is offlline), Customers are looked up in the local DB. This ‘lookup-failover' behavior ONLY happens when Centrals is offline. A toastie on screen will inform the user that Centrals is Offline and that local results are displayed. Results will never include both local and Centrals results
Which Customers will be included in Centrals Lookup?
- All Customers in the same subsidiary where the lookup is being performed will be included.
- Global Customers from ANY SBS matching the search string will be shown through Centrals lookup
- Local/Not Shared Customers matching search criteria from the local SBS only will be shown through Centrals lookup
How can users tell if the customer was found in the Centrals or the local database?
Add the "From Centrals" column to Customer Lookup Grid Formats preferences. The From Centrals column will have a check mark if the customer information came from the Centrals database.
Logic Used for Customer Lookups
In the Customer Lookup filter (POS > Customer Lookup), the following logic is used: (works identical to non-Centrals POS lookup)
Lookup mode = ‘CONTAINS'. Lookup strings are:
- Case Insensitive
- Partial match
- Wildcards allowed
Note: Partial customer lookups at POS require a wildcard at the end. This is different than the ‘contains' lookups in the Customer module, which do not require a wildcard. This behavior is identical to non-centrals customer lookups.
When Central Customer Lookup is enabled, any new customer is created both locally and at the Centrals DB. (whether in POS or Customer module)
All regular ‘Search By' fields are available in the customer module, as they are for non-centrals mode. These are determined by Grid format settings.
For customer lookup (in customer module), ALL regular customer lookup modifiers are available (Equals, contains, is Empty etc.), and will function the same way as when Centrals is not enabled/configured.
The following table summarizes the customer lookup search rules:
|Customer Lookup with Centrals Enabled|
|CONTAINS||When Centrals are enabled and there is a connection to the server, in the Customer Lookup area the operator reads EQUALS and cannot be modified; however, the query that is done is a CONTAINS query The search rules are:
No wildcard characters
(Note: When Centrals is enabled but offline, the operator is hard-coded to EQUALS. The search rules are no wildcards, exact matches only and case sensitive
|POS Customer Lookup with Centrals Enabled|
|CONTAINS||When Centrals are enabled and there is a connection to the server, in the POS area the operator reads EQUALS and cannot be modified; however, the query that is done is a CONTAINS query. The search rules are:
No wildcard characters
(Note: When Centrals is enabled but offline, POS searches are case insensitive, no partial matches, and wildcard characters allowed)
|Customer Lookup with Centrals Disabled|
No Wildcard Characters
|DOES NOT EQUAL||Case Sensitive
No Wildcard Characters
No Wildcard Characters
|IS NOT EMPTY|
|POS Customer Lookup with Centrals Disabled|
|EQUALS||In the POS area, the operator is hard-coded to EQUALS and the search rules are:
When Centrals is Enabled but Offline
The lack of partial matches and wildcards mean you will need to be more specific in your search criteria. For example, normally entering "worth" would find entries like "Woodsworth" and "Worthington" (because of partial match behavior). However, when the centrals server is down, only "Worth" would be found ("worth" or "WORTH" because case-insensitive).
How Share Type field affects Search
Prism uses the "Share Type" field to control how customer records are shared among locations. Centrals Customer lookup will include customers with the following Share Types:
- Global Customers: Centrals lookup will return any Global customer from any Subsidiary matching search criteria
- Local/Not Shared Customers: Centrals lookup will only return Local/Not Shared customers matching search criteria from default Subsidiary only.
When set up for Centrals Customers, any new customer is created both locally and on the Centrals server (whether in POS or Customer module). Any edits to existing customers are made both locally and on the Centrals server.
There are two paths a user can take for a central return:
- When a user changes the transaction type to "Return" and selects the "Search for Receipt" option
- When a user changes an individual item's type to "Return" and clicks the "Yes" option when prompted to search for the original transaction
Whichever path the user selects to search for the original transaction, the transaction is searched for both in the Centrals server database and the local database.
When using Central Returns, only transactions from the user's subsidiary are displayed in the results.
If the transaction is not found on the centrals server, a prompt is displayed.
[insert screenshot of prompt]
Central Gift Cards
Central Gift Cards enable you to track and update gift card balances in real-time. Without centrals, gift cards are susceptible to "double-dipping" and other frauds due to time lags in communication of data. When using centrals, any time a customer redeems a gift card, the system verifies the card's current balance at the Centrals Server.
If preferences have been configured correctly (including enabling Central Gift Cards in Tender Requirements preferences) when tendering a transaction, the Central Gift Card tender button will be available. Users can swipe the card using a non-encrypting card swipe or type the card number.
For Centrals Gift card balances/Transactions, Currency Conversion is applied, depending on the Base currency of the Subsidiary and exchange rates set in Admin Console > Global Preferences
Central Gift Card Items
To sell central gift cards, first add a new item in Inventory for each Gift Card denomination that you plan to sell. For example, add a central gift card item for a $20 gift card, add a separate central gift card item for a $50 gift card, etc.
Sample Central Gift Card Item (Inventory Type = Gift Card - Centrals):
Using Zero-Price Item for Selling Gift Cards of any Amount
Sometimes, retailers sell gift cards that can be any amount within a defined range (e.g. from 20 to 100 dollars). In such a case, you can create a "Zero-Price Item" and then enter the desired amount at POS when activating the card.
Taxable Central Gift Cards in VAT Environment
You can configure your system so that central gift card items are taxable. In some locales, law requires the retailer to charge VAT on the sale of gift cards. In such a VAT environment, make sure the Tax Code field is set to TAXABLE. This will ensure that tax is charged when the gift card item is sold. In a VAT environment, the sale of a gift card is a merchandise purchase and therefore subject to VAT. While it is true that the merchant in a sense "loses" the tax amount on the sale of the gift card; however, the amount is made up when the card is redeemed because using a gift card is considered an exchange and therefore is not taxed.
Central Gift Cards at POS
When using central gift cards, there are four possible transaction types:
- Purchase/Activate: When a customer buys a gift card, the gift card is activated and charged with value. The value on the card cannot be used until the card is activated.
- Redeem: When a customer uses a central gift card to pay for a transaction, the Associate selects "Central Gift Card" as the tender type.
- Check Balance: Associates can check the current balance of a gift card.
- Add Value: Add value recharges a gift card with additional funds.
Sell/Activate Central Gift Card
On a transaction, list the central gift card item.
Click the Tender Transaction button.
The Gift Card Activation modal is displayed.
Click the card icon. A modal for entering the card number is displayed.
Scan the Gift Card Number.
Click OK to exit the modal.
Tender and update the transaction.
The Gift Card is pre-authorized for the amount specified.
Redeem a Central Gift Card
Click Tender Transaction. The tender screen shows the Amount Due.
Click the Tender Type button and click Central Gift Card.
Click the icon and then swipe the card number. Click Take.
The amount redeemed as well as the card number are displayed on the tender screen.
Take additional tenders, if needed, and then print/update.
Gift Card Past Expiration Date
If a user scans or enters a card number that is past its expiration date, a message is displayed explaining that the gift card is expired and cannot be used.
Check a Central Gift Card's Balance
You can check a card's balance outside of a transaction, or during a transaction.
Check Card Balance outside of a Transaction
On the transaction form, click the Options button and select Central Gift Card Details.
A modal is displayed for entering the card number. Swipe the card and click OK. Alternatively, if the barcode is damaged you can type the number.
The balance of the card and its expiration date are displayed.
Click OK to close.
Check Gift Card Balance on a Transaction in Progress
On a transaction in progress, click Tender Type and select Central Gift Card.
Swipe the card and click the Balance button.
The current balance is displayed.
Selling a Gift Card that exceeds the maximum value set in preferences
If the requested amount exceeds the allowed maximum, a prompt is displayed: "The requested amount exceeds the allowed maximum. Would you like to add the maximum value to this Central Gift Card?" If you click Yes, the requested amount will be added to the central gift card. If you click No, only the amount that will bring the central gift card up to its maximum balance is added to the card.
Duplicate Card Numbers
Users are not allowed to enter the same gift card number for multiple central gift card items on the same document. If they do they will be greeted with the red toasty listed below. User will have to select the tender button again to get prompted to enter a different gift card.
When a customer initially buys Centrals Credit (or credit is given as change), a unique Credit code/ID is issued for that customer. Any subsequent Centrals Credit transaction by that customer will use the same unique centrals Credit ID. This code is tied to the original customer but can be used for redemption or adding value to it by anybody who has that code (e.g., family members). The balance of the Credit ID is updated after each transaction.
This code that is displayed in the Prism UI on the Tender screen is a Base36 representation of the much longer SID for that transaction. In the Prism GUI, the SID is converted to Base36, which is shorter and alphanumeric. For example, SID 581930977000226807 would be converted to 4F5XBC85CYRB
A customer's central credit (updated) balance is replicated as part of the customer record (in the Centrals_Credit field) to any other station set up for replication. However, even though central credit balance is visible when looking up a customer in the Customer module (in the ‘Payments' tab), that balance is not useable for transactions if the Prism server is not set up to use Centrals functionality.
Central Credit is only available when the Prism server that the user is currently logged into is configured to use Centrals.
Prism Centrals performs currency conversion when calculating Customer Central Credit or Central Gift Card balances, based on the Base currency of the Subsidiary and current exchange rates as set in Admin Console > Global Preferences > Currency > Exchange Rates. For example, Global Customer X in Subsidiary 1 (e.g. in US, $) buys $50 in Centrals Credit. If Customer X visits a store in Subsidiary 2 (e.g., in Paris, €), his Centrals Credit would show something like €38. Another example: A customer buys a Centrals Gift Card in Sub1 for $50. In Sub2 (in €), his balance would be something like €19, depending on exchange rates.
Issue New Central Credit as Change
Create a new transaction using normal procedures.
Touch or click the Tender Transaction button
Take payment using the desired tender. If the taken amount exceeds the Amount Due, there will be a Give amount.
This is the amount of change to give back to the customer.
Select Store Credit as the Tender Type.
The Change section shows the Central Credit issued.
Redeem Central Credit
Start a new transaction. Enter the customer and list the items being purchased.
The customer's central credit balance is shown. In addition, the server status (online or offline) is shown.
Touch or click the Tender Transaction button.
If the customer has central credit available, a prompt is displayed.
Select Yes to use the central credit
The Take Store Credit modal is displayed, showing the Tender Type set to Central Credit.
The tenders section lists the Central Credit as redeemed.
Replication and Centrals
Make sure your system is configured to send centrals data between RIL and Prism. Certain parts of the centrals feature will not work unless the centrals resources are replicated back and forth between Prism and RIL.
[insert screenshot of profile showing central credit, customers, etc.
Offline Mode (Resiliency)
Even the most reliable Internet connections may occasionally suffer a loss of connectivity. For merchants, even a brief interruption in the connection with the server can result in significant losses. RP Prism Centrals includes an offline mode to gracefully handle situations in which the connection to the Centrals server is lost.
When resiliency is enabled and the connection to the Centrals server is lost, RP Prism will continue to allow you to make transactions. In the case of Central Credit, you can define an Offline Take Limit that places a ceiling on the amount for any single offline transaction. When the connection is restored, transactions completed when the centrals server was offline are sent to the Centrals Server.
Offline mode' is defined as ‘Centrals Service not available'. This could mean:
- The Centrals hostname/IP address was entered incorrectly and cannot be found or doesn't exist
- The Centrals server name/is down
- The Centrals Server is up, but the PrismPOSV1 service on the Centrals server is not running.
The setting for the frequency with which resiliency tries to re-connect to the centrals server is the ‘Interval' value (in minutes), set in AC > Installation defaults. Enter the number of minutes for Prism to wait before checking again to see if the connection to the Centrals server has been restored. For example, entering a value of 5 means that a check will be done every five minutes until the connection is restored.
Resiliency must be started in each install as part of the initial Centrals activation/configuration in AC > Node Prefs > Transaction > Centrals, ‘Run Resiliency'
The Prism Server Installer adds the PrismResiliencyServer.exe to the file system and installs the PrismResiliencyService. The PrismResiliencyService facilitates the ability to create Central Credit and Central Gift Card transactions while offline. If the "Run Resiliency" button has been clicked, when the server is offline the PrismResiliencyService starts the PrismResiliencyServer.exe, which tracks and stores transactions made offline.
Prism Centrals Resiliency Settings
In Admin Console > Node Preferences > Transactions > Centrals, the Central Server Settings area has a button to start the Resiliency Service and other resiliency-related settings.
|Service State||The current state of the service: Active or Sleeping.|
|Last Cycle||Displays the date/time of the last connection and the status of the connection.|
|Status of Last Cycle||Displays the number of offline transactions or the message "No Offline Transactions Found".|
|Next Cycle||Displays the date/time of the next scheduled check of the resiliency connection.|
|Run Resiliency||Click the Run Resiliency button to immediately start the Resiliency connection process.|
Basic Steps for Centrals Resiliency
1. If using Central Credit, define an Offline Take Limit.
2. Click Run Resiliency in Admin Console > Node Preferences > Transactions > Centrals.
3. Perform transactions as usual. If the connection with the server is lost, a message will be displayed in the UI and a "Process Offline" button is available in the tender screen of central tenders.
4. When your connection is restored, Prism will send the transactions performed while offline to the Centrals server.
Central Customer Lookup in Offline Mode
Central customer lookup works the same as regular customer lookup. The only difference is that the system will call out to the centrals server to retrieve the customer. If the customer is not found on the centrals server, a prompt is displayed asking if the local database should be checked.
Central Returns in Offline Mode
Central returns works the same as regular item returns. The only difference is that the system will call out to the centrals server to retrieve the original transaction information to verify the return is valid.
When in Offline Mode, if a user does a central return, Prism will first check the Centrals server for the original transaction. If the transaction is not found on the Centrals server, after the number of seconds specified in the Timeout setting, a prompt is displayed. The user has three options:
- Retry: Click the Retry button to search the Centrals server again
- Local: Click the Local button to search the local database.
- Cancel: Click the Cancel button to cancel the search
If the transaction is found on either the Centrals server or the local database, the return can proceed.
Central Credit in Offline Mode
If a customer is found locally, Prism will pull the last-known Centrals Credit balance for the customer. The user can do an Add Value or Redeem transaction up to the "Max Amount" defined in Node Preferences > Transaction > Centrals.
Important! Centrals Credit lookup by Credit ID is not functional in Offline mode, only lookup by customer.
Centrals Gift Cards in Offline Mode
Only purchase (activation) of gift cards is allowed. Redemption and balance check is not allowed.
Centrals Returns in Offline Mode
Offline Error Messages
- During Central Customer Lookup, if the Centrals server cannot be reached, when the number of seconds specified in the Timeout value have elapsed, a message is displayed:
- "Centrals Server is Offline: Local results will be displayed": If the Centrals server cannot be reached, or the entered username or password is incorrect, a message is displayed:
- "Centrals Server not Connected": In POS, when ‘offline', the line underneath the listed customer that indicates the Centrals Credit balance will show ‘(Offline)'
- In Tender screen, when Offline, the Centrals Credit Tender chosen will show ‘(Offline)'
- In transactions, when clicking the Options > centrals Gift Card Details button (For balance lookup) will show a red "Offline' toastie when centrals is Offline.
- In Tenders > When Purchasing a new Centrals Gift card, the Centrals Gift card tender will show ‘Offline' on the tender balance line
- When trying any other type of Centrals Gift Card transaction besides ‘Purchase', the user will see a red toastie with the ‘Offline' message