GS1 DataBar Coupons Explained

I’ve been meaning to post about the transition to the new GS1 DataBar code system for quite some time now, and I’ve finally got a few minutes (or a lot of minutes) to sit down and explain what GS1 DataBar codes are and how they are changing the way coupons work.

If you’ve ever studied a coupon, you know that most have two scannable bar codes.  There is the “regular” looking bar code and then there is the expanded bar code.  Until recently, all coupons issued included the “regular” looking bar code that scanned just like anything else in the store.  If you’ve ever seen the cashier cover up the second half of the bar code, it is because the register can not read both at one time.  Some stores do not yet have the capability of reading the expanded bar codes at all.  That will all eventually change.

The problem with the “regular” type of bar code is that there are only so many numbers that the manufacturer can use to code their coupons.  Some – not many – couponers read the codes on the bottom of the coupon to try and figure out what other items they can purchase or how many they can purchase instead of reading the stipulations of the coupon itself.  Note that this is coupon fraud, and not taken lightly.  SmartSource coupons have started including the severity of the crime.  That Kikkoman coupon I posted earlier today?  Pull it back out (or print it out) and you’ll see that underneath the coupon it states:

“Consumer: One coupon valid for item(s) indicated.  Reproduction, alteration, distribution, sale or transfer of this coupon or its contents prohibited.  Civil & criminal penalties exceeding $2,000,000 and/or imprisonment may apply.”

Yes, that says $2 MILLION.  Moral of the story?  Buy what the coupon tells you to buy.  Is it really worth saving your extra buck or two to risk it?  I think not.

You should never have to read the code of a coupon.  All information you need to know will be written on the coupon itself.  Coupon bar codes are not intended to be decoded.  Quite possibly the best thing about the new system is the inability of a human to read the bar code.  This will drastically cut down on the amount of intentional coupon fraud across the country, and will save retailers hundreds of thousands of dollars over time, I’m sure.

In the end, the transition to GS1 DataBar codes is a good thing.  Not all retailers have the capability of reading those coupons… yet.  So if you have an issue and the store will not accept your coupon without the “regular” bar code, this is why.  Eventually, all coupons will be issued with this new format and retailers will be forced to upgrade their system if they intend to continue accepting coupons.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious and would like to read an entire booklet about the new bar code system, I highly recommend the GS1 databar code article from NCR, an international leader in consumer interaction information.

Disclaimer: Any claims, statistics, quotes or other representations should always be verified  with the source.  I have used my knowledge to the best of my ability to convey pertinent information to the readers of Deal Detecting Diva.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me

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