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How Does a Barcode Work

Have you ever seen a barcode or UPC (Universal Product Code) symbol on a label and wondered how does a barcode work? Barcodes are just a different way of labeling products. Rather than use a pricing sticker, most businesses now use barcodes on their items. This allows for quicker checkouts as usually all the cashier has to do is run an item’s UPC label over a scanner. Sometimes, because the label is torn, faded, or wrinkled, the label cannot be read and the cashier has to manually type the UPC number into the register.

But how does a barcode work? Once it is run across the scanner, the scanner picks up the barcode. This is done by it reading the bars and spaces between the bars. The numbers at the bottom of a UPC label are for humans only. As the scanner picks up the bars, it then transfers the information to a computer (or register). The computer then finds the record associated with that barcode. The computer records may contain such information as price, number of items available, and other pertinent information like that.

How does a barcode work to help a company? It helps keep the pricing more accurate than humans simply keying in a price would. By scanning, the margin of error is much less. It also helps a company know exactly how much of an item they have in stock or when they run out of an item, so it helps them keep up with their inventory.

How does a barcode work to help you as a customer? Because it does help the company keep better track on inventory and know exactly what they have and don’t have, it means you are less likely to want an item they are out of because once they are alerted that they are out of something, they can immediately reorder it. It also may save you money for data entry errors on prices.