Unexpected item in the bagging area

Nov 10, 2023
Our Starts at 60 blogger discusses the frustration of self serve checkouts and hearing the dreaded “unexpected item in the bagging area”. Source: Getty Images.

Oh dear, how those words rankle. “Unexpected item in the bagging area” recited in a snarky female voice. The automated voice has a nagging tone.

When forced to use a self serve checkout in the supermarket, it is often a minefield of problems. Yes, I know I should use a manned checkout but the lines are so long for the few open. Anyway, I’ve got my items in my trolly and start scanning them and putting them on the receiving tray thingy.

First of all, I’m questioned about my bag. Do I have one? Can I put it on the tray weigher and press ‘done’. Ok. Off we go. I scan the first item and notice my frown and grimace are being recorded on the monitor. Hmm. I put my item in my waiting bag, and then do the next one. And the next, no problem, but then “unexpected item in the bagging area” in that automated monotone. Ok, so the scanner doesn’t recognise that the pasta I just put in has been scanned and perhaps its made my bag weigh too much. Perhaps I’m stealing things, a sneaky chocolate bar, or a pack of nuts. But no, I’m too honest for that. I wait for the attendant to come over. She looks harried and harassed by all of the “Unexpected item in the bagging area” sound bytes emanating from the checkouts. Ok, she’s with me, scans her card, and examines my item. Of course, it’s fine, so off we go again.

I’m weighing and bagging a few veggies. I have to tell them how many I have. Ok – that’s done, no it won’t recognise the label on the discounted grapes. Back the poor woman comes and sorts it out. I keep going, stoic that I am, until I have got everything through. It’s a poky area, hard to put a whole trolley of shopping through, and quite frankly, why am I not being paid for doing so? Haha of course not. I’m surrounded by perplexed customers negotiating the beeps and inane commands. Grizzling kids. I don’t blame the poor little blighters, entombed in a green plastic trolley surrounded by groceries.

Finally, that’s me done, three bags full today, but wait, I’m now being told very briskly to ‘please take my items.’ I’m working on it, trying to poke stuff into bags in a confined area, sweating and muttering to my self. I hate being rushed. After the fourth ‘please take your items’ I actually reply to the wretched thing and tell it to stop nagging me, much to the amusement of the next self-serve along.

And then, I’m told to wait again as I load my bags into the trolley. The silly machine thinks my other bag in the trolley may be full of purloined goods. Of course, it’s not, it’s my stuff from Kmart. Oh dear, back she comes to sort it out, and finally I get a release card and I’m off to put it in the car.

So love ’em or hate ’em, they are here to stay. Self-serve checkouts. Doing people out of jobs and quietly driving us mad. Do you love them or hate them? I’d love to know.

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