Barcode fails are common, and unfortunately, very costly. The ramifications can range from simple scanning inaccuracies to life-threatening medication errors. That’s why establishments relying on these ciphers must ensure their accuracy if they want to incorporate them into their daily operations.

In this blog, we shall discuss various causes of bad barcodes, their consequences and ways to troubleshoot them.

barcode error

What are the Common Causes of Barcode Mistakes, and How Should I Deal with Them?

The most common causes of barcode errors are the following:



misprint in barcode

Misprints refer to printing errors, such as skips, spots and altered widths. The usual sources are stated below.

  • The printer prints too fast, rendering faint or blurred bars.
  • The barcode image is not saved in the correct format, so shadows and other unwanted figures appear on the print.
  • The printer is poorly maintained, leading to print head dents, ink smudges, drum failures, etc.
  • The ribbon, ink, toner and media are improperly positioned, resulting in skipping, lopsided images and paper jams.
  • Resizing is done disproportionately or produces very small barcodes.


  • Industrial printers can make barcode labels at a speed of 6 inches per second or faster. Slow down your printer if it is not designed to function that way.
  • Save the image as a vector, in the .EPS or .EMF format.
  • Clean and maintain your printers properly.
  • Position the media and other consumables carefully inside the printer.
  • Make sure that the barcode’s horizontal and vertical components are adjusted proportionately, meaning that the height-width ratio is maintained. For the UPC and EAN, the recommended size is 1.469″ x 1.02″. You may enlarge it to a maximum of 2.938″ x 2.04″ or reduce to a minimum of 1.175″ x 0.816″. The height-width ratio in this case is 0.694.


Customization Fails

You can redesign a barcode image, but missteps can diminish scannability. Customization slipups may be from choosing inappropriate bar colors or a design that obstructs a significant part of the cipher.


  • Use contrasting bar and background colors. Stick to bar colors that absorb red light effectively, like black, dark brown, dark blue and dark green. Use white labels as much as possible to keep the background light and the start and stop bars distinct.
  • Keep the mid-portion clear of any graphics, making sure that the edges are recognizable.

Zebra Compatible Labels

: 1300 Labels/Roll
: 2″ x 1″
: Direct Thermal


Wrong Facestock Material Used for Printing

A QR code is laser-printed on leather, which easily wrinkles or folds

In 7 Easy Ways to Print Quality Barcodes, we mentioned how critical the medium was in printing barcodes. The wrong facestock material can lead to misprints, smudges, poor contrast or early fading. You can eliminate such problems by choosing the right facestock, and we explained how to do so in the same article. 


Packaging Fails

The packaging design itself has a lot to do with barcode accuracy. Errors can arise from the following situations:

  • The barcode is placed on curves and corners, distorting the image.
  • A transparent, barcoded container is used on a highly colored product, thus reducing contrast.
  • The packaging is reflective, creating “noise” that can be picked up by the scanner. 
  • The barcode is covered by hazy or opaque plastic material during shipping.


  • Place the barcode on a flat surface but away from primary labels, which have to remain as the most prominent package prints.
  • If the container cannot be changed anymore, reprint the cipher on white labels and put them where they can be scanned accurately. Consider opaque, non-reflective packaging next time. 
  • Use clear plastic if you want to protect your shipping labels during transport.

Brother DK-1209 Address Labels

: 800 Labels/Roll
: 1-1/7″ x 2-3/7″
: Brother DK Printers


Poor Printer Choice


Referring again to our blog on printing quality barcodes, we also mentioned that printer choice impacted readability.

Inkjet-printed labels might smudge on rainy days. Inkjets also often tend to make fuzzy images. For barcoding, other office printer types are preferred.

When used on the wrong facestock, wax ribbons tend to produce smeared or easily fading graphics. They are better used on uncoated paper. To make durable labels, use resin-containing ribbons on plastic, latex-reinforced or fabric facestock.

Direct thermal printers with the wrong resolution can render these ciphers unreadable. You can use a 203- or 300-dpi device on most retail barcodes, but smaller ones need a 600-dpi resolution.

Laser Printer Labels

: 100
: 1″ x 4″ & 1-1/3″ x 4″ & 1″ x 2-5/8″
: Deskjet & Laser Printers


Incorrect Data Encoded

This can arise in the following situations:

  • You bought standardized barcodes from third-party vendors. There is a risk of getting fake or pre-allocated barcodes from such sources. The solution is to obtain them directly from a standards-setting body like GS1 or find a reliable vendor.
  • You encountered problems with a barcode generator. To solve it, read the manual carefully or contact the software provider. Additionally, be extra careful when inputting data for each cipher. 


Using Faded or Wrinkled Labels

Faded and Wrinkled USPS label

Pale barcodes can make them hard to read. Direct thermal labels fade after 6-12 months, and the same can happen when the wrong facestock is used for thermal transfer printing. If your products have been in storage for more than 6 months, consider relabeling them. Use matching facestock and ribbon types for thermal transfer labels.

Learn  More:     

Similarly, wrinkled labels reduce cipher scannability. Try to replace these stickers, which not only risk inaccuracy but also make packages look untidy.


Barcode-Item Mismatch

When a label is found on the wrong item, it can be from two things:

  • First, it may have been due to innocent human error. This can be remedied in several ways.
    • Train your employees adequately before distributing critical tasks.
    • Consider getting a portable printer to ensure that labels and products match.
    • Incentivize for waste reduction and productivity. 
  • Second, it may also be a sign of ongoing theft. In our porch piracy and cargo pilferage blogs, we emphasized that errors impacting security should never be immediately dismissed as coincidental. Investigate the problem and consider installing CCTV cameras in your facility.


Did Not Test the Barcode Prior to Use

If you do not test barcodes before labeling your products, you won’t be able to detect and solve problems early on. Do your due diligence and test them so you can minimize potential scanning problems.

QA-tested barcode in a product label

These are some of the most common situations where barcode fails occur and the easy ways to troubleshoot them. They may damage your brand if they are not corrected on time.

What are the Consequences of Barcode Mistakes?

Barcode blunders can lead to a domino effect within the concerned establishment. The following can happen if they are not prevented:

In Warehousing

  • Security vulnerabilities
  • Stock disorganization
  • Product losses
  • Supply chain disruptions

In Logistics

  • Shipment delays
  • Delivery to the wrong destination
  • Package losses
  • Major supply chain disruptions
  • USPS fines from IMpb barcode misuse

In Retail

  • Chargebacks and product returns
  • Poor brand experience from the wrong product description or pricing, transaction delays, shipping problems, etc.
  • Hefty fines, as well as suspension or withdrawal of selling privileges, due to retailer policy violation
Unhappy Customer Due to Poor Brand Experience

In Healthcare

  • Security breaches arising from erroneous ID barcodes. They may lead to employee or patient injuries
  • Treatment delays resulting from disorganized documentation
  • Medication errors, which kill many Americans annually
  • Discharge delays due to difficulties in processing financial or insurance information 

In Libraries and the Academe

  • Security weak points
  • Inability to track borrower information
  • Checkout and return delays
  • Search delays due to incorrect cataloging
  • Book collection losses
A young girl searching for books in the library

The consequences of barcode errors are plenty, and they can happen in any setting where they are used.


Barcoding mistakes are avoidable, but sadly, they do happen when care is not taken during printing. Their outcomes have a domino effect and can ruin daily business operations. We hope that this guide will help you eliminate the odds of barcoding mishaps so you can enhance security, accuracy and productivity at your establishment.

Let enKo Products Help You Avoid Barcoding Blunders 

Get rid of barcoding mistakes by using the appropriate labeling and packaging tools. Take advantage of enKo Products’ topnotch yet economical shipping supplies:


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