Learning about Bar Codes January 18 2013

File this one under "things you never think about (and costs you never accounted for) when starting a distillery".  Note: there are a lot of filings under this heading.

Today's unexpected cost is $565, but it came with an education.  And there's something nice about having a genuine understanding of something that shows up in your daily life.  I'm glad I have a rough understanding of why the sky changes colour.  I'm glad to know what scanning a bar code does, and that it's actually an expression of humanity coming together to make things work. (Ed: we spent $565 on this, let me enjoy it!)

Before this, I was vaguely aware that you could purchase Quickbooks software, which I heard allowed you to generate your own bar codes.  But clearly there was going to be more to the story; how could bar codes I generate be useful to LCBO cashiers at point of sale?

Turns out not all bar codes are created equal.  You can make your own that will let you scan in prices on your own cash register / computer.  This is fine if you're just trying to do your own inventory control in your own shop.  But if you're going to put your product on the shelves of major retailers, then you're going to need a bar code with a GTIN: a Global Trade Item Number.  GTIN's are administered by the int'l non-profit association GS1, and each country has an affiliate.

Next stop is GS1 Canada, and here we have their price list.  The first two membership levels are $60 and $150, and they give you a certain amount of GTIN bar codes for those prices.  But that's probably not a good choice for anyone who's in the position of needing GTINs in the first place, as best I can tell.  That's because most major retailers will also want your GTIN to have a "Company Prefix"

So I paid $565 ($500 plus setup fee), and now I'm waiting to have GS1 assign our distillery its very own company prefix!!  Fingers crossed for an easy to remember number.