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Unexpected item found in the bagging area

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Unexpected Item Found In The Bagging Area

This is by far the most popular complaint about self checkout lines. How many times have you been in the self-checkout lane and heard the words, "Unexpected item found in bagging area," and upon removal of the item, you hear, "Item has been removed from bagging area. Please return item to bagging area.”

After that, it becomes a game of weights and measures where you have to remove and replace different items until you satisfy the bagging gods or until the self-checkout attendant comes to your rescue.

Supermarket Self-Service Checkout - Unexpected Item Found In The Bagging Area

The bagging sensor exists mainly to prevent theft. However, the weight sensor is so sensitive that many times, it trips even when the shopper has done nothing wrong. Accidentally leaning on the bagging area will set off the alarm. A slight brush of the hand will do the trick. Also, the area where shoppers must pay is located directly over the bagging area, giving them no convenient place to put their purses.

Self-Service Checkouts

Those unexpected items and the feeling you're paying and doing all the work. Self-service checkouts are expanding throughout the UK, but many of us aren't happy with them. So why is the relationship so fraught?
Unexpected item in the bagging area? Totally expected feeling of rage pumping through your body? You're not alone.
New research suggests 48% of Britons think self-service checkouts are a nightmare, neither quick nor convenient. Quite the opposite in fact, and their complaints are all too familiar.

Firstly, there's the bag struggle. Shoppers who follow the "bag for life" mantra may feel they aren't as welcome as they would expect. Self-service checkouts often don't recognise them and shoppers may even be charged for plastic bags they haven't used.
Then there's the barcode blindness the machines experience with maddening regularity. There's nearly always something they refuse to scan, leaving customers repeatedly swiping, running the risk of repetitive strain injury and feeling a pang of sympathy for those who do this for a living.

Supermarket Self-Service Checkout - Unexpected Item Found In The Bagging Area

Don't scan items properly - 46%
Can't use own bags - 39%
Customer doing all the work - 13%
Always have to get help - 12%
Source: Fatcheese

Finally scanned? Now try and put it in the carrier bag. The phrase "unexpected item in the bagging area" is so synonymous with the 21st Century shopping experience it's become a T-shirt slogan. What's so unexpected anyway? You only swiped the item a second ago and were charged for it.

Supermarket Self-Service Checkout - Unexpected Item Found In The Bagging Area

"It's like the machine is very publicly saying 'you are too stupid to do this - go home now'. It's far from ideal," says Bjorn Weber, of retail analysts Planet Retail.

Finally, after the palaver of paying, there's the nervousness about leaving the shop. Did I scan it all correctly? Did I select the right type of bread roll from the menu? Will I feel the long arm of the store (manager) on my shoulder as I walk out the shop?

"I spend half my time worrying that security will arrest me for selecting the wrong price Blueberry muffin," said shopper Sharon Adams when consulted in a survey on self-service tills conducted by Fatcheese.

But it's not as simple as all-out hate for these tills. The people who like them, really like them, say the supermarkets. And they're probably counting among them that contingent of people who have always secretly hankered after trying their hand as a checkout assistant.

Self-service checkouts present an opportunity for these frustrated souls. On the rare occasion a basket of shopping goes through without any hitches there's a disproportional sense of satisfaction.
Or am I the only one who feels this?
However, this occasional buzz doesn't make up for the time spent battling with the machines. But whether we want them or not, they are here and their numbers are set to grow.
First introduced in the UK in the 1990s, the number of self-service checkouts is set to double in the next few years. This is because they offer supermarkets quick cost savings and in today's economic and highly competitive retail climate, that has got to be a good thing.

Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket, also leads the do-it-yourself checkout league, with self-service counters in 256 stores. The tills process 25% of all transactions in those shops. Sainsbury's has them in 220 stores and is planning more.
And while it may seem extremely trusting to get us to scan our own goods, the machines have in-built weight controls as security measures.
Waitrose offers a variation on the theme. It has no such tills but has a Quick Check service where people scan and pack items as they shop. The aim is to really cut back on time at the till.
Supermarkets say the move towards self-service checkouts is not all about cutting costs. They argue the tills can speed up your shopping trip, says Ahmed Zaman, from shopping website Fatcheese, which conducted the research.
"But many shoppers have yet to be convinced that they really save time," he says.
That's because they only do in extremely selective circumstances - if you have one item and can walk straight up to a self-service till for example.
Face-to-face time
"People perceive self-service checkouts to be quicker but that's because they are actually doing the work," says Mr Weber. "In reality they take longer than someone serving you, but it's annoying for the shopper to stand around waiting.
"This is even the case in countries like the US, where they've had such checkouts for years and shoppers are very experienced at using them."
People's dislike of such tills could also be down to something that is very British, he believes. Despite Brit's reputation for being reserved, we like to speak to the people serving us.

"If you go to a supermarket in Germany or Spain or Italy, customers might acknowledge the person on the till but they won't speak to them," says Mr Weber. "It's different in the UK, people do speak to them and like to have a conversation."
In the past shopping was all about such personal service, but over the years it has become more and more impersonal. From grocery shops, to supermarkets, to shopping on the internet and now the expansion of self-service tills, face-to-face time has been reduced or even excised completely from the shopping experience. Are we becoming antisocial?
Not really, our choice is just expanding, says Mr Weber. The key to success is still providing a good service and clued-up retailers are moving the staff they take off tills on to the shop floor.
"That's where the real service takes place," he says. "Not at the checkout."
No benefits
And the expansion of such tills does not signal the end of manned ones, not in Britain anyway as it is a distinctly different market for most other countries.
Tesco has one express store, opened in Northampton in October, that is self-service only and supervised by just one member of staff. It's just a trial, it says, and there are no plans to open any of its larger supermarkets without checkout staff, like in the US.
"Staffing is important in the UK," says Mr Weber. "Supermarkets know long queues don't benefit them. If it's busy they will open more manned tills."
Not surprisingly, the supermarkets agree.
"We'd never get completely rid of manned tills," says the Sainsbury's spokeswoman. "For us it's all about offering people the choice. Self-service checkouts are very popular with the customers who use them a lot, but we realise people either like them or they don't."
But for many self-service haters, it comes down to two things. Don't say something is time-saving when it hardly ever is. Also, they're not getting paid, so don't make them do the work.

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