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Free Consignment Software?

There are at least 3 types or offerings of 'free consignment software':

  1. No charge for the software but limited to a very small number of accounts or transactions.
  2. No charge for the software but charges for support and updates.
  3. No charge for the software but you must use the credit-card processor the software provider recommends.

Which (if any) Is Best for You?

Option 1: 'Trapware'

Assuming you're in the business to succeed and grow, option 1 is definitely out. Plainly the hope is that you'll get hooked by 'free' and when the limitation of the free edition is reached, you won't want to make the effort to switch to (and learn) another program and will be trapped into paying for the program. (You'll also be trapped into future price increases and/or limit changes and any other device software vendors can come up with to increase your costs.

An example is 'Rico's' free program limited to a scant 15 consignors or 150 items. Once those limits are reached the true nature of the offer jumps out: $708 per year every year (for month-to-month usage, limited to 250 consignors) then $1,188 per year every year. There's more: The 'unlimited edition' is $1,548 per year - a very far cry from 'free'.

If you plan on being in business for at least 10 years, the MINIMUM for the unlimited edition would be $15,480 and we can surely count on price increases AND additional costs for opening additional stores!

This becomes even more costly if you're required to run your credit-card transactions through a service which gives the software vendor a cut of your sales!

How does this compare to buying your own software for $500 with a one-time payment?!!

Option 2: 'Blankcheckware'

The software may be free but according to one provider, there will not be one minute of 'free help' beyond an initial 'assessment'.

If you're not proficient in 'computers' you'll probably want someone close by to help out. If so, 'free software' with "absolutely no free support" may not be for you.

There are some very significant (if not scary) points in those statements so let's break them down:

  1. 'absolutely no free support' - and there is no mention of the cost of support. How much is this 'free software' going to end up costing anyway?
  2. 'no free installation help' - Figure it out on your own or pay for assistance. How much?
  3. 'no free training' - Questions arise from time to time, particularly at the outset. Sounds like a blind alley.
  4. 'no free troubleshooting' - What? Pay to get software bugs fixed? This is far from 'free software updates' offered by other software providers.
  5. 'no free coding help' - so if you want something changed, added or removed, there will be a charge. How much?
  6. 'no free general business help' - Most software vendors provide a substantial amount of help with things that aren't related to their software - a gesture of good faith and as a means of developing good will.

I did inquire about the cost of support. Today that figure stands at $50 per hour so over a period of 5-10 years, we would be totally dependent upon one person for support and subject to price increases once we're locked in. This is sounding more like 'blank-check software'. After all, who's going to be holding the stop watch to control when billable time starts and stops?

Option 3: 'The Goodware'

Of the good, the bad and the ugly, the cheapest route may be to sign up with the credit-card processor recommended by the software vendor (who will receive a small percentage of your sales). Vendors do have to make some money to remain in business and support the 'free software' so this would be a way to only pay (in a way) if you have sales (and not pay otherwise).

Unlike the first two undesirable options, sharing a (very) small percentage of sales in exchange for 'free software' places a limit on how much will be paid. The software provider wouldn't be in control of how much time you will be billed for so there's no open end to expenses.

Big Concerns:

  • If support is dependent upon one person, is he going to be available, or busy doing something else. (After all, there's allegedly no income to him for the software.)
  • What about the future? Will he be around?

The 'author' warns:

It seems that 'Nick' with no income from the software is more likely to abandon support than a 'commercial POS supplier' in the actual business of producing and supporting consignment software.

Moreover, this 'free support' is dependent upon one person. What happens if 'he' gets on the wrong airplane?

A 'demagogue' is one who appeals to emotions, fears, prejudices and ignorance to bolster his position. It's curious as to why this person attacks software vendors. He writes:

Preposterous! Most software vendors don't sell paper and ink much less make it, and isn't it better to get 'locked in' with a world-wide software developer with some assurance of continuous (free) support than to get 'locked in' with an individual incapable of assuring future support or the cost for it?

What To Do

My purpose in sponsoring this website is to get you back to where you were hoping you would be when you first Googled for 'consignment software': simple and easy. No doubt everyone who has opened this can of worms has been shocked at unsavory attempts to stick a straw into a business and drain a steady stream of revenue with 'software' as a front.

Back to the basics:

  • Look for a reputable company (not an individual) that you can rely upon for future support. (Individuals have no longevity. Companies do!)
  • Get a program that you pay for once and be done with it, or
  • Enroll in a free program that has the fewest loose ends.

Take a look at my recommendations to simplify your investigation and decision.

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