Barcodes are graphic images featuring a series of lines or bars, of varying thickness, positioned parallel to each other in such a way that a scanner passed along the image will translate their thickness and spacing with relation to each other as a series of numbers or code . This code is then interpreted by customized software to produce pricing and stocking information in an effort to assist in the automation of the retail sales and stocking processes. It is a very efficient and effective system, but, like any other method of tracking inventory, it is not foolproof.
Pricing Discrepancies and Scanning Problems
When discounts apply to bar-coded merchandise, store employees may forget to code in the discount price. This, in turn, can lead to confusion and delays at the checkout counter, inconveniencing the customer, the checkout clerk, and other customers waiting in line. If a barcode can't be scanned, for any reason, the clerk must then read the corresponding numeric code and enter it manually. Because clerks have become used to scanning barcodes quickly and automatically, without any additional effort on their part, their lack of practice in manual code entries may potentially cause them to be slow and/or inaccurate in entering the information, further delaying the checkout process.
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Barcodes that are printed on a torn section of packaging, or that have been smeared, smudged or otherwise damaged, will present additional scanning problems. If the corresponding numeric code is also illegible due to damage, the checkout process can be significantly delayed while another package of the same merchandise is located and brought to the checkout counter for scanning.
Financial and Equipment Costs
For businesses that are not already equipped for barcode checkout, the cost of the equipment necessary to implement the new system can be prohibitive. Other delays can occur in training employees to adapt to new equipment, and expensive printers must be purchased to print coded labels for any merchandise that doesn't come prepackaged with a barcode already on it. Dot matrix and ink jet printers, for example, are generally incapable of printing finely-detailed barcodes.