'Unexpected item in baggage area' assigned to rubbish area

Self-checkout blows innuendo-fuelled trumpet

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Let me check your bulging sack

No I don't think I will wait around, thank you, Tesco. This is a supermarket, not International Departures or a rock concert, so I don't think I need you checking my bags before I've even done anything. Nor am I a child who needs the help of a spotty adolescent in a blue tennis shirt, trainers and niqab to poke around in my Osprey backpack of computer kit and cables in order to confirm what a fucking bag is.

I was running late already and my backpack weighed a ton, so I dumped the intended purchases under the scanner and set off to find another shop.

Indeed, the bag was a little heavier than usual, as I confirmed to myself using the bathroom scales when I got home that night: it came to 8kg. I was teaching all day and the bag was stuffed not just with a laptop, tablets and cables but also with books, newspapers, magazines and handouts. Looking back, it's probable that the self-checkout machine was surprised at so much weight, not to mention width and girth, thrust to suddenly into its baggage area.

But then I was only doing as asked after touching the "I have my own bag" button on-screen. The machine asked me to put my luggable in her receptacle before exposing my first item. So without further prompting, I unzipped right there and then, and dropped my hefty sack onto her tray.

The judge said I could be out in less than three months.

By then, Tesco will have stopped playfully teasing its customers with double-entendres. It seems that our angst is finally getting through and that someone in Tesco Towers has decided to do something about self-checkout machines.

Unlike competitors such as Morrisons, which even ran an ad campaign promising it would provide more humans on tills, Tesco will be upgrading The Voice. Out goes "Unexpected item in baggage area". Out goes "Please take your items". Out goes "Sir Tom Jones".

Over the next few months, its self-checkouts will regale us with a totally refreshed range of naughty catchphrases such as: "Find your favourites or have a browse", (ooh missus); "Please check your packing area", (phwoar); and "Coupons can now be inserted" (way-hey).

Some of the phrases are less welcome. Being a man of limited stature, I was a bit annoyed by "We'll be with you, shorty” until it was pointed out that I'd misheard and she was actually telling me “We'll be with you shortly”.

Don’t call me shortly.

A common theme whenever something goes wrong will be a curiously familiar-sounding promise of assistance. Can you spot it?

BLEEP. “Sorry, there's a problem with this item, help is coming.”

BLEEP. “Sorry, there's a problem with the scale, help is coming.”

BLEEP. “Help is coming.”

I don't know who wrote the script but I’m guessing Tesco ran the trial in its Winterfell branch.

Even though it's probably too late for the self-checkout machine developers to incorporate new ideas at this stage, I would like to suggest the following additions next time round:

  • A swipe-left, swipe-right selection interface to tag the beauty or ugliness of each sweet potato
  • A prophylactic dispenser for safer sales
  • A Snigger button every time you scan a turnip that looks like a thingy
  • A button labelled "Why is this not scanning properly?"
  • A button labelled "Oh come on, come on, scan it you bastard"
  • A button marked "I'll have you strangled in your sleep, you sorry sons of whores"

Yet I am not ashamed to admit that I, for one, will miss the familiar if unhelpful tones of "Unexpected item in baggage area". It was the perfect euphemism for almost every occasion.

This means I must now wait and make do with my personal innuendo store in old age. As I will tell my fellow retired geezers in the pub about my latest nubile live-in nurse, accompanied by a wrinkled wink: "Help is coming."

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He would like to make it clear to his lovely wife that he is just joking about growing old while dropping innuendo in the presence of younger women. He has absolutely no intention of growing old. Thank you, thank you, he's here all week.

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