Can I Use a Coupon With a Barcode that Starts With 00 on Anything?

questions from readers

Welcome to Readers Want to Know! These are your questions answered from the emails that I receive and responses to surveys that I periodically post. For more answers, make sure you check out my Coupon 101 posts which will also include other “Readers Want To Know” posts!

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The following question comes from Sharon:

When a barcode starts with 00 does that mean you can use on any product they make? I was behind a lady that did that. I think that is great. Is it legal?

Sharon – I am so glad that you asked me this question before you went out and copied that persons’ actions….because what you were witnessing was called decoding coupon barcodes. It is illegal and considered fraud.

There are certain people who use coupons that have spent WAY too much time trying to decode coupons, and then they use them on any product that the barcode will allow. The most famous case of this was when Crest Whitestrips put out a $10 coupon (for a $30 item) that would also work on a $9 bottle of Tide laundry detergent or even $4 bottles of shampoo.

While the person using coupons in this way may “get away with it”, it eventually hurts all people who use coupons. Stores become less trusting of us, manufacturers put out fewer “good” coupons and store prices can even rise to make up for the fraud that is happening at the stores

It all falls back to what we were taught when we were young. If the deal seems too good to be true, it likely is!

Have a question about using coupons? Head to my Coupon Questions page to ask them!