Every year, InsightRS takes the time to review the best third-party point of sale systems. Our customers have very specific needs, so we’re constantly evaluating the latest hardware to pair with our software. We’ve been in the trenches with our loyal base of retailers for over twenty years, and if it’s taught us anything, it’s that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that works for everyone. We consult with our customers on every new purchase to make sure it’s the best choice possible. We’re here to take the time to develop hand-crafted solutions specifically for our customers, their businesses, and their budgets.
Starting today, we’re publishing a series of investigations of companies we’ve seen our customer base running away screaming from. We’re doing this especially for our current and future customers who are looking to upgrade to a new POS now or soon, so they don’t make the same mistakes as our clients who went through the ringer before working with us.
To start, we’re going to tackle the biggest: Clover. We’ve done a thorough review of their customer experience from our own customers and beyond, and combed through a mountain of reviews from industry experts and everyday business owners alike. One thing immediately jumped out when we began our investigation: Clover has four-star ratings at SoftwareAdvice, Capterra, and GetApp, but only one star at TrustPilot. Why the discrepancy?
There are other sites, like Merchant Maverick, with ratings that come from a single reviewer, but we’re not going to focus on the paid reviews. Professional reviewers aren’t generally in the thick of running their own businesses. We feel it’s like someone reviewing a car they test drove for an hour versus a car they’ve owned and driven every day for years. Furthermore, most of the professional reviews don’t jibe with what we were hearing from our own ex-Clover customers. Our focus is on people who have been using these systems in real life, providing feedback on how their systems performed after the initial honeymoon period, when everything starts going wrong.
Customers Have Extremely Low Expectations for their POS
When you read the flood of customer responses to the Merchant Maverick review and beyond, you get closer to understanding the weird discrepancy: star ratings are inconsistent with their accompanying reviews. Many people inexplicably leave 5-stars with reviews that are otherwise scathing: 5 stars for “the biggest mistake I ever made”, or from others who feel trapped in their contracts. A huge number of four-star reviewers complain about the terrible customer service, for a product that’s “too simple without add-ons”, or even feels like “a slap in the face.”
We thought a bit about what to make of this: why give a four or five-star review to a product you hate? It suggests that customers’ expectations are extremely low. Good-natured people are so used to using crappy products in this arena that they’re grateful to have something that kind-of works. We’re out to change that.
To state the obvious, the first lesson here is: don’t look at the overall ratings and sign up without doing your research. After just an hour parsing Clover reviews, a narrative begins to emerge: basically everyone agrees that the hardware is sexy and attractively designed, until it breaks down on you in the middle of a rush. The basic operating system is also universally praised as intuitive and easy to learn, until things start crashing and you realize you’re at the mercy of a roster of third-party apps to manage the basics and particularities of your business. Many of these are poorly designed and maintained, or don’t play well with one another.
Top 5 Issues Customers Had with Clover
When you have to finally call customer support, the true nightmare begins. When you realize that, at best, you’re not going to get the help you need from Clover’s service reps, you look into getting out of the contract. For what initially seemed affordable and appealing, they charge mind-blowingly high fees to terminate. If you’re operating on thin margins like so many small business owners, you end up trapped in what amounts to a toxic relationship. As time goes on, the low-to-no up-front costs aren’t exactly what was promised. Hidden fees pile up. A lot of Clover customers end up biding their time until they can finally break their contracts without paying a massive fee, and then, finally, they come to us–with a huge knot to untangle.
Not all of these many issues are made equal. We sorted them out based on quantity and severity, if only as a way to remember what we need to relentlessly focus on as a company.
1. Customer Service
By far, the biggest complaint in terms of quantity and severity is customer service. Even people who otherwise like the system warn others away because of the customer service. Multi-hour wait times are common, even for simple issues. People get stuck in endless loops trying to get help and never find it. Many are stuck on community forums waiting for answers, losing money all the while. If you make it through the AI robots, you get rude humans who may or may not speak English. Reviewers repeatedly mention feeling like they’re more knowledgeable than the service reps, in the middle of customer support odysseys with thousands on the line unsuccessfully seeking help. The issues range from simple, day-to-day issues that should be solved in minutes, to people having to fight for months to get erroneous fees corrected. There are lots of long, sad, reviews, but this one succinctly cuts to the chase: “Once you finally pay off the equipment you still pay $50.00 a month for terrible customer service. I would not recommend this system to anyone.“
2. Hidden Fees, Vanishing Transactions, and Fiserv
Reading horror stories about Clover hidden costs is terrifying, period. Users reported months of charges on their bank accounts even during free trials. Fees appear seemingly from nowhere. People get left high and dry when the equipment quickly breaks down. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out–even after you’ve gone out of business. Transactions are mysteriously held up for days, and the fees are less than transparent. Hidden fees range from nickel and diming, to hundreds, to thousands of dollars. Reports of multi-thousand-dollar exit fees and held transactions are perhaps the most consistent complaint. Some are diabolically sneaky. Businesses without the resources to pivot get trapped until their contracts expire.
These problems come from numerous sources: unscrupulous salesmen who fudge the details, third-party app developers, and perhaps most glaringly, Fiserv. Clover is owned by Fiserv, who processes Clover transactions for the majority of their customers, and they’re a huge part of the problem. Clover is often referred to store owners by their banks, and Clover can then leverage their umbrella relationships with the banks to push their product onto store owners, regardless of whether it’s a good solution for them or not. Many of our customers and the hundreds of angry reviewers–the ones who are getting screwed the hardest–are often raging about Fiserv without realizing it. Even most professional reviewers point out that working with Fiserv as a small or medium-sized business is a dicey proposition.
3. Over Reliance on Third-Party Apps
Especially for the customers we serve, many didn’t immediately realize that Clover outsources much of their functionality to third-party apps to cover even the basics. This adds to the learning curve, and is part of why Clover’s customer service quickly spirals into chaos: no single agent could possibly know everything about how all of these apps work together. The more apps that have to be in sync, the more potential for error. Over and over, people sign up for what seem like low up-front costs, then end up paying monthly fees for third-party app subscriptions that continuously pile up. If you’re a liquor store, maybe you need the CobaltConnect app. Then you may need the State Minimum app. Or Shopventory. On top of this, take a look at one of Clover’s liquor store support docs: it’s not quite as sexy as the product coming out of the box. Clover itself doesn’t have a lot to say about its specific use at liquor and/or tobacco stores or gas stations. We found one guy talking about Clover for gas stations, but he’s mostly touting his company, CSIworks, which makes apps for Clover.
4. Hardware Failure
Almost everyone loves the way the Clover POS looks out of the box, but over and over, people say the products aren’t made to last. When one component fails or mysteriously locks up, you often have to buy an entirely new system, even if it’s a simple cable. Replacement costs seem to fall from the sky. Some people deal with this nightmare repeatedly. Repairing or recycling isn’t much of an option. People have to return the machines constantly. We’re real sticklers about this, because it’s something we see all the time: there are a lot crap products out there on the market that end up in the landfill after a year or less, emptying your wallet before you’ve even broken them in.
The first customer we spoke to who managed to hobble along using Clover systems without any outright disasters nevertheless said it “sucked” because the reporting “looks like ticker tape.” It can take weeks to receive reports of 30+ days. There’s no deep well of data to drill down into, and people end up with “years of accounting nightmares resulting from simple mistakes. From what we gather, Clover’s straight-up not made for large inventories and tough luck if you’re wanting to use data to help move your business forward.
Conclusion: Choose InsightRS as an Alternative to Clover
Clover might seems like the right solution for you, but take it from our own customers and the hundreds online: at the very least, spend an hour reading customer reviews before forking over any of your hard-earned money. However, if you’re looking to do better, look no further than choosing a POS System from a family-operated company that specializes in exactly what you need to succeed.
And if you are a current Clover POS customer, give us a chance to get you unstuck:
- Our cloud retail software platform seamlessly integrates into hardware that’s hand-selected to meet your business’s needs.
- Since we specialize in Liquor Stores, Convenience Stores, Tobacco Retailers, and Gas Stations, our solutions are tailor-made and relevant to you.
- We’ve never outsourced our support and in fact, most of us share the same last name! It also comes included with all of our software subscriptions.
- We’re a family and friends owned and operated company that prioritizes developing long-term relationships with our customers above all else.