Barcode Appreciation

Barcode Appreciation

Many, many, many, many years ago, while in high school, I worked part-time at a grocery store. 

barcode scanner

Being a stock boy, I was armed with my trusty price gun, which was the only way to tell how much each item cost since there were very few barcodes (which were useless anyway since there were no scanners to read the barcodes). If someone needed a price check, the manager would have to go to a huge paper price book in the office and look up the correct price. When an item was put on sale, it would have to be manually repriced and then priced back to full retail when the sale was over.

Then there was the checkout line. I guess in those days we were more used to waiting than we are today and wait we did. Regular customers would know to wait in "Crazy Cathy's" checkout line even if there were more customers in her line because they knew from past experience that her fingers would rip across the keypad with unwitting speed and accuracy. I often imagined her with a candelabra sitting on top of the register and wearing a sequined smock with a crystal name tag since she was, of course, the "Liberace" of the cash register.

There was the dreaded quarterly physical inventory. Attendance at these quarterly love fests was mandatory, and everyone was given a graph pad of paper and assigned a department. Number 2 pencils with clean erasers were mandatory in case you made a mistake. After all, the bookkeeper was going to have to spend many long and tedious hours reconciling the inventory. She didn't need to see dirty smudges all over the graph paper.

Weeks later the inventory report was ready for review and the losses were calculated. Shrink trends were hard to spot and generally went unnoticed or ignored. So often we take for granted the time and money that the little label with the bars saves us every time we make a purchase or as an employee, scan a purchase for a customer.  Interestingly enough, the first retail application for barcodes was developed for the grocery industry in the l960’s and is now present in all types of retail businesses.  Although we seldom give it a second thought, the barcode has completely revolutionized retail.

•    We can receive our inventory in the backroom with a portable scanner and instantly update the on-hand quantities in our retail (pos) point of sale system. 
•    We can print barcode tags for every item received and get them onto the sales floor where they belong in record time.
•    We can transfer inventory by scanning the items onto a transfer document that will permanently update quantities in both the sending and receiving store.
•    We can put items on sale instantly and change them back to full retail without changing a tag.
•    We can speed up check out at point of sale while giving the customer full visibility to each item as they are scanned.
•    We can eliminate the need for timely price checks by strategically placing price check kiosks on the sales floor.
•    We can run sales reports down to item detail instantly and whenever needed to help eliminate overstock and understock. 
•    We can print customer loyalty cards with barcodes for every customer and give them meaningful rewards for instant or return shopping.
•    We can take frequent full-store physical inventories or cycle counts by department with a fraction of the staff in a fraction of the time saving thousands of dollars and giving us instant actionable data regarding shrink and trends.
Barcode technology and usage continues to expand and develop at a rapid rate saving retailers billions of dollars every year.  No longer do we require the skills of a “Crazy Cathy” to make our customers happy.  Today anyone, including the customer, can scan items with ease and accuracy.  Technology marches on!

To view the original article by Don Capman at the Barcode News, please click here.