A Hobby Lobby storefront.

Why Doesn’t Hobby Lobby Use Barcodes? Conspiracy Theories May Have the Answer!

Nowadays it’s rare to find a large-scale retail company that doesn’t employ the use of barcodes. The ubiquitous barcode was first created in 1948 by Norman J. Woodland and Bernard Silver as a method of labeling products to make taking inventory and check-out easier for businesses. On modern barcodes, information is encoded and displayed in a series of black vertical lines that a machine can read. Most of us don’t think twice about barcodes, but they make the jobs of cashiers and retail workers a lot easier. They help accurately store data including pricing, discounts, and inventory. However, if you’ve ever been shopping at Hobby Lobby before, you’ll notice that the store doesn’t use barcodes.

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There are at least 1,000 Hobby Lobby arts and craft stores scattered throughout the United States. Hobby Lobby was founded in 1972 by David Green and is a Christian-owned company. Hobby Lobby has been at the center of several controversies over the years, due to its public right-wing stances on topics like the Affordable Care Act and COVID-19, as well as its purchase of “artifacts” that were actually looted objects from Iraqi archeological sites. The fact that they don’t use barcodes is seemingly the least of their problems. Still, given the enormous size of these stores and the multitude of products they offer, the lack of barcodes does is curious.

The internet’s Hobby Lobby barcode theory

TikTok user magni.fy posted a TikTok on May 9, 2023, where he explained a theory that Hobby Lobby doesn’t use barcodes because its owners fear the codes are the “Mark of the Beast.” This is largely a fringe theory, but some Christian conspiracy theorists DO believe that barcodes are the Mark of the Beast. As magni.fy mentioned, the belief comes from the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Specifically, Revelation 13:16-17, “And he [the Beast] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

Magni.fy went to his local Hobby Lobby and confirmed that the store doesn’t use barcodes on any of its items. He also mentioned how it makes the cashier’s job much harder, because they have to manually type in every number when checking out items. They also have to remember ALL special sales and discounts in the store. The theory started floating around TikTok and led to user arenclelle debunking the theory. Arenclelle worked at Hobby Lobby at age 16, and explained that the owner simply believed in “the power of humans over technology.”


#stitch with @ambernicholeee fr literally so hard to check people out at that store

♬ original sound – Seth

This aligns with what Green wrote in his book, More Than a Hobby, where he emphasized wanting to show his employees that they were valued more than a computer. He believed that human cashiers were more accurate than a machine (debatable), and that they would know the store and products better when not relying on barcodes.

The prevalence of Christian conspiracy theories

While the Hobby Lobby barcode theory was debunked, it did renew interest in the bizarre Mark of the Beast/barcodes conspiracy theory. The theory sprung up as early as the 1970s, when the use of barcodes started becoming more commercialized. George Laurer was credited with incorporating barcodes into the retail industry by modifying Woodland’s original design into the barcodes we’re familiar with today. However, he recalled receiving a letter from “Satan” that accused him of carrying out the Beast’s orders, and spent lots of time denying claims that the Beast’s number, 666, was hidden in every barcode. Who knew Satan liked writing letters?

While it seems laughable that people would think these codes were satanic symbols, conspiracy theories do have a tendency to rise during social unrest. Christians are especially susceptible to conspiracy theories, and the Christian Right often uses this to its advantage, employing paranoia and perceived cultural threats to foster conspiracy-like thinking and hysteria to gain power. So think about that next time you’re buying a pack of gum from the corner store.

(featured image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.