Feb 28, 2012

Tip #12: Read Your Coupons (& Get Used To The New GS1 Databar System)


Tip #12:  Read Your Coupons (AKA: Get Used To The New GS1 Databar System)

You can actually learn a lot about couponing from just reading your coupons!  It has always been the intent of the manufacturer for you to follow the wording on the coupon, but with the old barcode system people could get away with not following it by decoding the numbers on the UPC code (and DID get away with it as shown on Extreme Couponing).

Here’s a picture of the progression of the barcodes from 2008 until today:

Barcode Databar Progression GS1

And then here is a picture of the old UPC bar code vs. the new Databar bar code:

UPC Barcode vs Databar GS1 Barcode

On the old UPC based barcode (which is currently completely gone from most coupons) people were able to ignore much of the actual wording on the coupon and just look at the numbers on the UPC code.

For example, even if a coupon said “Do Not Double”, if the UPC Code started with a 5, then we knew that the register would still double it automatically and if it started with a 9 then it wouldn’t double.  This part of “barcode decoding” wasn’t in any way unethical because the store systems doubled the coupon automatically.

Then you had the people who used the UPC code to buy products OTHER than the ones listed on the coupon (this was the issue with Extreme Couponing).  They would use the numbers on the coupons to find other products by that same manufacturer and use a high-dollar Crest White-Strips coupon to get FREE Tide or Pampers.  Yeah, NOT good… in fact it’s more than not good… it’s coupon fraud.

So, the manufacturers were aware of this issue and wanted to do something to fix it.

Enter the GS1 Databar.

GS1 Databar Coupon

You have likely been seeing the databars for a while now next to the old UPC-based code on your coupons.  And late last year/early this year many manufacturers completely fazed out of having the old UPC codes and ONLY have the databar on their coupons.

What does this mean for us?

1.  Expect problems at stores that have not updated.

How many of you guys used a coupon with both codes and the cashier covered up the database and just scanned the UPC code?  Yep, that was because they hadn’t updated their system to read the new GS1 Databar.

Here are a few tips for dealing with problems at the stores that you shop at: 

  • You likely will want to call your local stores to see if they have updated their system to read the new databars.
  • You may want to take a copy of the “official” explanation of the GS1 Databar with you when you do your shopping.
  • Ask the cashier to scan the database with the handheld scanner.  Sometimes that works when scanning it across the register does not.
  • BE NICE and continue to use all of the tips to surviving the store clerks and cashiers.  Chances are that you are more informed than they are about the new system so as you explain it to them just be a nice person.  🙂

2.  Expect to not get away with ANYTHING.

  • Is the coupon past its expiration date?  The system will reject it.
  • Is the coupon for 12 oz and up and you got the 8 oz?  The system will reject it.
  • Does the coupon exclude trial or travel size?  The system will reject the coupon if you try to use it on these.
  • Does the coupon say limit 1 per transaction?  Then the system will reject the second coupon.

3.  Expect coupons that say “Do Not Double” to not double or triple.

To me, this is the only sad part about the new system.  If a coupon says “Do Not Double” then the chances of it actually doubling or tripling are very very low.

Just expect it not to.

For those of you who might not be familiar with double or triple coupons, here’s an explanation

Double or triple coupons is a promotion by the STORE (not the manufacturer) where coupons up to a certain value are either doubled or tripled so that you get more off of your purchase.  The store will get reimbursed by the manufacturer for the face value of the coupon, but the amount on top of the face value that they took off comes out of their pockets.

If a coupon does NOT say “do not double” then I would expect it to double.


To sum up… FOLLOW the wording on the coupon.  Expect the coupon to scan for exactly what the words say.

It’s actually a nice change for ethical couponers because there is less to worry about.  If a coupon isn’t supposed to work on a particular item then it won’t!

Let us know your experiences with the new databar barcodes!  Have you have any issues at your stores with them not scanning?  

<< Tip #11: Learn The Couponing Lingo
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  1. I’ve had plenty of problems with the GS1 databar not scanning for legitimate purchases. This especially seems to be a problem when the wording on the coupon is vague – for instance, when I tried today to use a coupon for $3.00 off “any one Oral-B battery-powered toothbrush” for an Oral-B Pulsar (which is a batter-powered toothbrush). The store’s computer didn’t register an item match. The GS1 databar is much more item-specific than the old UPC barcodes, but it seems they are often too specific and reject items that they should be accepting. Bad programming on the manufacturer’s end? Or the store’s computer? Who knows, but it certainly makes me nervous more often at the register when a coupon doesn’t scan. (“No, really, I’m not trying to cheat you. I’m just trying to use the coupon for what it says it’s for.”)

  2. I recently went to walmart and when the cashier scanned my coupons about half of my coupons wouldn’t scan. the cashier put those to the side and called management to the register in regards to this matter.one of the coupons was for pampers diapers. it stated purchase one pampers diaper and one pack of pamper wipes 56 count or higher $3.00 off. although I purchased 2 packs of pampers and 2 packs of 64 count pamper wipes the manager stated that if the coupon didn’t scan they couldn’t accept it of course I told them to put the pampers and wipes back as well as anything else that they wouldn’t accept my coupons for, which also included tide, dawn , poise , and bayer and a few others. I have called walmart offices twice about their policies in the past month only to hear that someone was calling me back. needless to say those calls have never happen. how can they advertise “we gladly accept manufacturer coupons” when they are not glad about anything in this walmart and not taking your manufacturer coupon? curious as to how they don’t have to follow their own policies. what is truth in advertising and sales all about then.

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