Scrip, Tokens, and Receipt Systems
Tokens are a form of market currency, also known as scrip, that is used with a centrally-located POS terminal program. Tokens allow customers to use EBT benefits as well as debit or credit cards and all vendors in the market have the opportunity for increase sales.
Here is how it works: a customer purchases market tokens from the central EBT location (often at the market’s information table) using their debit, credit, or EBT card, and then uses the tokens to purchase products from participating vendors. The vendors exchange the tokens back to the market according to an agreed-upon reimbursement schedule. The market keeps track of token sales versus token redemption to ensure that the system is functioning properly. A market can also use paper scrip instead of tokens, which tends to be less bulky, but also more easily counterfeited. For a list of places that sell paper scrip or tokens and for even more information, take a look at SNAP at Farmers Markets: A How-To Handbook.
An alternative to tokens or scrip is a receipt system. With this system, the cardholder brings the produce she wishes to purchase to the vendor’s checkout. The vendor totals the sale and writes a receipt which includes the the vendor name, amount purchased, and items purchased. The vendor holds the shoppers purchase while the customer then brings this slip to the central POS market site. Here her card is swiped and she receives a sales receipt from a market staffperson, who signs the vendor receipt to show proof of purchase. The customer returns the vendor receipt to the vendor in exchange for her food purchase. At the end of the market, the vendor tuns in all shopper receipts and the market reimburses the vendor according to an agreed-upon payment schedule.
The advantages of the receipt system are that a) it has an extensive paper trail; b) it’s cost-efficient; c) there is nothing of value, like tokens, to be lost; and d) purchases can be precisely calculated down to the last penny (token systems usually are just use dollar tokens). On the other hand, tokens may be seen as more efficient by shoppers, and the debit/credit tokens have the advantage of multiple uses: to purchase products now or later, give as gifts, and brand the market with the market logo, to name a few. In addition, tokens may seem familiar and easy for customers to understand, attracting debit/credit customers as well.
Here are more great resources for using tokens at your market:
- For ways to communicate about your token system, look at Portland Farmers Market’s Tokens 101 for Shoppers.
- For token system logistics, see Market Umbrella’s YouTube Video, FAQ Token Systems Marketshare.
Other Resources from the FMC Resource Library:
- The Food Trust’s A Survey of Farmers Market SNAP Incentive Programs: Lessons, Challenges, and Trends
- Darlene Wolnik’s Vermont Market Currency Feasibility Report
- Project for Public Spaces SNAP/EBT at Your Farmers Market: Seven Steps to Success
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