The Ten Worst Barcodes in the World

 In 101

Well, that may be a bit of hyperbole, but here are some pretty bad barcodes:


Guess what this looks like to a scanner?



…it looks like a white patch of absolutely nothing.

Too bad since everything else about the barcode

looks very good.





If the symbol above had been printed in this color it would scan perfectly—except for the right quiet zone which is completely violated.

If that vertical line were not there, this symbol would probably scan just fine.


Badly gained UPC


This is what happens when there is no bar width reduction to compensate for press or dot gain.

Too bad since the colors are acceptable and the quiet zones are intact.



Wavy ITF14 Cropped




Damaged UPC Guard Bar I am at a loss to explain what is going on here. At first I thought the Cyrel or rubber plate was damaged, but the wavy bars in this symbol are virtually identical to each other.  Any ideas?


This is probably the result of a very dirty printing plate since the saw-tooth pattern only appears on the leading guard bar of this UPC symbol.



Decode F Here’s a subtle one—can you figure out what’s wrong here? The colors are fine, the quiet zones are fine, the check digit is correct.

Hint: this barcode fails to decode.

Give up? Count the number of bars—there should be 30 of them….and there aren’t.


Kroger loyalty card


This is a small section from the back of a gift card for a major US grocery retailer. The barcode is used to validate the card for its face value when it is paid for at the checkout.

This gift card isn’t going anywhere…except back to the printer for replacement



hang tag I guess the idea here was to save money by printing the UPC on the plastic hang tab.

Not a bad idea, but it’s not going to sell the product and it’s not going to save any money after all the reprinting.



Small UPC


We put a ruler in this image to show how small this UPC symbol actually is—it’s about a 50% magnification. The X dimension is so small, most scanners couldn’t decode it, even though the printer did a great job—sort of. There is plenty of space on the label for a 100% UPC—why did they do this?



HRI Mismatch Cropped This is our favorite bad barcode. Everything looks perfect and it scans just fine—which is precisely why it is one of the worst      barcodes ever.

The problem is that the symbol decodes a different data string than the human-readables beneath the barcode.

Which one is correct, the encoded data or the human readable? Who knows?



Do you have a favorite bad barcode? Send us a scanned image and we’ll post it in our next newsletter.

If this catches on we might even offer a prize!

Send your bad barcode images to


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