The Green Sheet Online Edition
October 13, 2008 • Issue 08:10:01
Shield terminals in sticky situations
In 1996, just after his father passed away, Michael Katsanevas made a change to one of the seven Crown Burger restaurants his father had run for almost 20 years. It had been a cash and check only business until then. So Katsanevas installed credit card terminals at the service counter. Within days of getting the terminals up and running, Katsanevas noticed a problem.
"Sure enough, grease got on the keypads and it just started sticking, so you'd push five and then you'd push five three times," he said.
Katsanevas called up his ISO and asked if the company offered protective covers for the terminals; it did not. What is more, Katsanevas' rep didn't know anybody that did. That's when the proverbial light bulb went off in Katsanevas' head. "For about three nights I just kept saying, 'How hard could it be?' A plastic cover goes over a credit card terminal, it protects it from all this stuff and everyone's happy."
So Katsanevas set out to make one of his own, not just for his restaurant, but with the intention of selling them. The process proved harder and more time consuming than he had imagined.
"It took me about seven years to get a patent for it," he said. "It even took a visit to Washington at the patent office with my patent attorney."
While he was working his way toward a patent, Katsanevas used prototypes of the shield in his own business to work out kinks in the design. "It totally worked awesome," he said. "I never replaced a credit card terminal again."
After a few years of searching, Katsanevas found the right manufacturer in Utah Plastics Group Inc., operating in his hometown of Salt Lake City. "I could easily make this thing in China and make more money, but I definitely did not want to," he said. "It's 100 percent American made."
Low tech solution
Katsanevas said it took two more years to find the right marketing group and develop a Web site to promote the exoshield, as it became known. Katsanevas sponsored a booth at the Western States Acquirers Association convention held in Scottsdale, Ariz., in September 2008 to introduce the shield to the payments industry.
According to Katsanevas, conference attendees expressed concern about how merchants will be able to run POS transactions if they can't get to the keypad or swiper because it is covered by the shield.
"All you do is lift it with your left hand, swipe the card, punch the keypad, tear the receipt, put it back down," he said.
Katsanevas has four POS terminals in his restaurant. Each terminal is covered by an exoshield 24/7. Katsanevas said he runs over 10,000 transactions a month at his Crown Burger location and calculates it takes only four to six seconds to process each transaction. "For me it's totally logical," he said. "It's easy. You just lift up the exoshield, swipe the card and you're done."
The exoshield is made of durable, light-weight, clear, recyclable plastic. It can be tossed in the dishwasher or cleaned with a degreaser. Katsanevas has developed three models of the exoshield designed to fit over popular Hypercom Corp. and VeriFone terminals. He is working on a fourth model.
Katsanevas said the exoshield is for businesses that tend to be "environmental hazards," such as restaurants, bakeries, salons, mechanic shops and convenience stores. He has not decided on distribution channels for the exoshield, but he envisions ISOs giving them to their merchant clients. Interested ISOs can contact Katsanevas at email@example.com or via the phone number below.
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