Billing itself as "The Way Las Vegas Was Meant to Be," the Tropicana is a legendary Las Vegas landmark. But unfortunately, things were not the way they were meant to be for point-of-sale operations at Tropicana gift shops because of poor U.P.C. label quality.
The Tropicana offers a large variety of gifts and logo paraphernalia for visiting guests, including logo clothing, key chains, glasses and mugs, cigars, candy and many other items. All merchandise is labeled and distributed to the proper location, such as a gift shop, cigar bar, general sundries store or promotional gaming location. Items are scanned when sold to help maintain accurate inventories of goods. However, the item labeling process was leading to inaccurate inventory records, slow scanning and unidentified items at the point of sale.
The Tropicana's label process included using several different types of labels—each of which posed its own set of printing problems.
- Jewelry labels (also called "barbell" or "butterfly" labels because of their shape);
- Garment tag 1 (hang tag) 3.5 by 1.8 inch (90 by 46 mm) with centered 3 mm notch hole;
- Garment tag 2 (hang tag) 2 1/4 by 1 3/8 inch (57 by 35 mm) with centered 0.5 inch notch;
- Item marking labels 1.25 by 1 inch (32 by 25 mm) die cut with 3 mm gap.
The printer initially used to create labels could not print on merchandise tag material, so staff would print labels, apply them to tags, and hang the tags on merchandise—a time consuming process that took two operators a minimum of two hours each per day to print and apply labels to merchandise.
In addition, the thermal-transfer printers previously used for this application were typically out of service for at least 10 minutes every time an operator needed to load new printer ribbon and label material.
Small item labeling also was inefficient because the "butterfly" or "barbell" labels typically used to identify jewelry and other small items had to be custom ordered and involved long delivery times, which required Tropicana to carry excess safety stock. Quality varied considerably from roll to roll. Even with the custom media, the printer could not consistently produce readable U.P.C. symbols on small labels.
Print quality problems often resulted in misidentified merchandise and items that couldn't be recorded at the point-of-sale. Cashiers would frequently try to scan items multiple times before giving up and entering the item as "general merchandise." As a result, inventory management became inaccurate especially for jewelry and other small items, and cigars, which look similar but vary greatly by style, brand, and price.
The Tropicana IT staff fielded between three to five help desk calls daily for label printing problems and spent more than 240 hours trying to troubleshoot these issues before deciding to investigate a new printer. After reviewing options, the Tropicana turned to Zebra Technologies.