Do I Need a UPC Bar-code?

Do I Need a UPC Bar-code?

Today I wanted to answer a reader's question. Its a question that we frequently get from designers so I figured you will all benefit.
Q. What’s the skinny on bar codes/upc codes. Do I need to buy these for my hang tags?
A. To answer the question I’d like to first explain what a UPC code is and why it is used.
A UPC, Universal Product Code, is a bar code that encodes product information (company, product style, size, color, etc.) in a visual pattern that can be read electronically. For example, major department stores who have an electronic point of sale system at the checkout use UPCs to keep track of their stock, sales, and to reorder products by scanning the bar-code.