Team Zentail in UPC, GTIN, Barcodes

UPCs 101: How online sellers avoid UPC mismatches and properly register UPCs

Anyone who has ever sold products online knows of dreaded UPC mismatches and the world of hurt they cause.

It happens like this...

Some unsuspecting seller buys a block of barcodes (UPCs) they found from some website claiming to sell valid UPCs. They proceed to assign these UPCs to each of their heretofore UPC-less SKUs.

Now two possible things happen:

  1. The UPCs you purchased already exist legitimately. The joke in our office is the unsuspecting hardware parts seller that started listing to Keystone Light branded merchandise on Walmart. Talk about some confused customers and some unhappy customer service reps... Doh!
  2. Some other seller already purchased an overlapping set of UPCs from another sketchy service or even the same service.

Don't be that seller. Lean on this article to learn the ins and outs of barcodes and how to register your company properly with GS1, the governing body that assigns company prefixes and UPCs.

How to properly register UPCs

  1. Get a GS1 US-Issued Company Prefix
  2. Choose Product (GTIN) for physical products. GTIN means Global Trade Item Number. You've probably heard of UPC, EAN, ISBN -- they're different types of GTINs.
  3. Determine the type of barcode. UPC-A is what you'll want if you're selling products online or in physical stores.
  4. License a company prefix from GS1 US. This is a variable length number based on the number of unique SKUs you need to barcode.
  5. Use GS1 US Data Hub to create and manage UPCs. This is a free account for single user accounts but there is a fee to purchase your company prefix -- pricing schedule is provided below.
  6. Place barcodes on your products. This can be done gradually since you'll likely want to incorporate it in your packaging process.

GS1 Prefix Pricing Schedule

Number of items needing a barcode Initial fee Annual renewal fee
1 – 10 $250 $50
1 – 100 $750 $150
1 – 1,000 $2,500 $500
1 – 10,000 $6,500 $1,300
1 – 100,000 $10,500 $2,100

Prefix Allocation Schedule

If your U.P.C. Company Prefix is… You can create this many U.P.C. barcodes...
6 digits 100,000
7 digits 10,000
8 digits 1,000
9 digits 100
10 digits 10

Avoid UPC Mismatches and Related Issues

  1. Don't buy UPCs from vendors that are not certified by GS1. Use GS1 US Data Hub or a GS1 US Solution Provider.
  2. Don't make up your own UPCs using some math formula you found online.
  3. If you are not the brand owner and you want to assign UPCs to their products that you sell, contact the brand owner and send them this article.

Additional resources:

As always, if you have any questions or feedback please send us a message!