Rules Coupon Decoding Debunked & HCW's RULES On The Subject


Mod Of The Month July 2007
Trader Group
Coupon Decoding Debunked

Coupon decoding is no great mystery. Decoding is simply translating a coupon's UPC numerical code, printed under the bar code. When coupons are scanned at the register, the computer assists the retailer in verifying that the correct products were purchased, the correct value is discounted, and whether or not the coupon has expired.

Coupons beep when the register scans a code that requires cashier validation, which may be to confirm the correct purchase, the value, the purchase price, etc. Understanding the barcode helps consumers plan their shopping more effectively.

So, what's the big issue?

The barcode is only a tool the retailer and manufacturer use for verifying that the consumer has complied with the terms of the coupon offer. The scan also assists the store in rapidly processing the offer. The barcode itself is not the offer, however, nor is it legally binding to the consumer, retailer, or manufacturer.

Why? Only so much information can be incorporated into a few numbers on a barcode. The official terms of a manufacturer- or store-provided coupon are printed directly on the coupon in words. By redeeming a coupon, a consumer is agreeing to the written terms, not the barcode.

Cashiers and store managers are often required to review the printing on the coupon, both language and illustrations, to confirm that the coupon is being used correctly. The store must sell the product, and sizes, listed on the coupon to be reimbursed. However, reviewing the words on every coupon takes time, and larger stores often choose speedy checkouts and customer satisfaction over checking every detail on a coupon.

So, they must trust the consumer to use coupon legitimately, in compliance with the description of the offer written on the coupon.

Could the Manufacturer Code the Coupon Exactly for the Offer?

No, not always. Coupon bar codes contain some information. But for a manufacturer to provide a flexible coupon that we all prefer, good on more than a single specific product purchase (i.e., this one bottle of this one scent in this one size), or purchases, they must rely on the written word.

To understand the problem, let's look at what is included in a coupon bar code:

Coupon Codes Revealed
The basic coupon code consists of five sections, divided in to two parts.

Coupon Number System Character (NSC) of 5 Coupons have a NSC of 5, or a Do Not Double NSC of 9.

Manufacturer's Number
The next five numbers are identical to the manufacturer's number on the product itself. This ensures the coupon is used on products from the manufacturer which produced the coupon.

Family Code
The next three numbers are the family code. The manufacturer assigns family codes to each of their products within a family. This three digit number is different from the UPC on the products to allow the coupon to be flexible. This code assists in validating that a consumer has purchased the correct product corresponding to the written terms of the coupon. Different sizes, colors, forms, fragrances…all of this must fit into this three digit code.

Different sizes, colors, forms, fragrances, all of this must fit into this three digit code.

Value Code
The next two numbers in the first half of the barcode identify the redemption value of the coupon. A quick reference table for these values:
UPC Coupon Value Codes

Check Digit
The last little number tucked on to the first portion of the coupon barcode is the check digit. This is a computer generated number, generated when the UPC number is purchased by a company for use on their coupons. The check digit based on the eleven preceding digits, which assists in preventing coupon fraud.

Extended Code
The remaining bar code provides additional information such as expiration dates and manufacturer information.

Decoding and Coupon Fraud at HCW

Just because a coupon can physically be scanned and redeemed on purchases not listed, or even excluded, by the terms written on the coupon does not make it okay to do so. Doing so is fraud.

While the UPC bar code helps cashiers quickly validate and register the coupon savings, it does not give permission for coupons to be used on products that are excluded in writing on the coupon.

At HCW, it's fine to ask if coupon XXX works on products that are within the written limitations on the coupon. Not everything is clearly defined on coupon terms, and if you are uncertain, please ask.

At HCW it is not fine or OK to post asking if coupon XXX works on products that are clearly NOT included by the terms written on the coupon. Just because a coupon scans through with no issues, a manager or other store personnel approved the use of a coupon/s that is not for the appropriate item or the coupon beeped ( barcode scan did not give automatic approval ) and the store personnel pushed it through does not mean it was used on the appropriate product or in the proper manner.
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Mod Of The Month July 2007
Trader Group