Most of the questions that we receive about QSeer deal with family codes. It is a confusing subject, so we’ll try to give you some more insight.
First of all, many of the professionals, the people who design coupons, do not truly understand family codes. The professionals are constantly making errors, using the wrong family code on coupons. If people who are paid to know family codes can’t get it right, then you can take comfort if you struggle a bit too.
In concept family codes are simple. Family codes are three-digit numbers that are used to group similar products into “families”. For example, 712 is the code for Honey Nut Cheerios and Honey Nut Medley Crunch cereals. These family codes are used exclusively to determine whether a coupon can be used on a product. The idea is that family codes make it easy for a store’s computer to determine whether your purchases match to the product specified on your coupon.
Imagine that your coupon says “any Cheerios”. You bought Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch. Your coupon scans. Yeah! You’re happy, the store is happy, the manufacturer is happy. All of this means that the family code system worked.
What really happened in this transaction is that your coupon indicated that it was valid for family code 710. Zeros are wild in the family code world. Family code 710 is a match for any family code between 711 and 719, which covers all the different flavors of Cheerios. Original Cheerios is 711, those Honey Nut Cheerios flavors are 712, and Multi-grain Cheerios is 719.
The problem with family codes is that the tables are not public information. General Mills does not publish a list. There’s no reliable source on the Internet. And despite what some bloggers would have us believe, you absolutely cannot determine family codes from product UPC codes. So how in the world does QSeer know as many family codes as it does? We know because we have computer-analyzed tens of thousands of coupons in order to build the QSeer tables. QSeer works hard to convert computer codes into plain English, so that your screen will say “Honey Nut Cheerios or Honey Nut Medley Crunch” instead of “Family Code 712”.
So why does QSeer sometimes say “Family Code 234” or some other three-digit number instead of a product name? The vast majority of the time these numbers are references to new products or newly created family codes. Since manufacturers do not send us an updated family code table (although retailers receive updates, so the store computers know!), we have to do our analysis and then produce an update. This process simply takes some time, as we are busily analyzing every possible new coupon out there. QSeer knows over 98% of the codes in existence, but that does mean that sometimes you will get a number instead of a product name.
So what do you do when QSeer says “Family Code 234”? If the coupon describes a relatively new product, then you should assume that the coupon is properly coded to be redeemable only on that new product. If the coupon is for a well-established product, then it is probable that the family code is a mistake, so the coupon may not scan regardless of what product you buy. However, it is also possible that the manufacturer created new, more specific family codes, and so the coupon will actually work on the item described in English on the coupon.
In summary, when QSeer displays a family code number rather than a product description, the best practice is to assume that what is written in English on the coupon matches what is encoded in the databar. Of course, the decision of whether to accept any coupon is always up to the retailer.
Whatever the case, please send us a photo of the coupon so we can be sure to include the family code in our next update!