Millions of products are shipped and sold throughout the United States every day. Manufacturers track shipments and sales by assigning lot numbers to batches of product and encoding product information in a UPC symbol or a barcode. Lot numbers are used to locate defective products for recalls and to warn the public about product defects. Armed with the barcode numbers, the lot number and a little legwork or a few telephone calls, it is possible to find out where a product was shipped and subsequently purchased.
Locate the product barcode (also called a UPC code) on the packaging or on the product itself. Write down all the numbers below the straight black lines of the barcode. Enter the barcode into a barcode search engine, such as upcdatabase.com, to discover the manufacturer information for the product.
Find the manufacturer's website, if possible. Enter the lot number found on the product packaging in the manufacturer's site search if the manufacturer provides a search option. Write down the names and addresses of retailers who received shipments from the lot number you entered.
Call or write to the manufacturer and request a list of sellers who received shipments of the lot number on your product. Contact sellers with the product description, lot number and approximate date of sale. Compare the lot number on your product with the lot number of the same product in the seller's store if the seller refuses to divulge any information.
Pharmaceutical companies track all prescription drug lot numbers. This information is usually readily available on the company website.
Food products are easily traced back to the farm or the product manufacturer via lot numbers.
Be prepared to do some legwork to track down the seller of the product. Product lots are often shipped to a number of sellers in different cities and states.
Some retailers and resellers may be suspicious of questions about lot numbers and purchases from their stores. Never misrepresent yourself as a member of a law enforcement agency, a government regulatory agency or as an attorney to coerce information from another person.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.