Apart from being a great potential title for my imaginary band’s next album (or two possible names for bands i.e. “Surprising Item” and “Bagging Area”) this is a surprising announcement that I have recently heard a couple of times in the Morrisons self-checkout. The question is “How on earth did they come up with that specific phrase?” We even had a discussion about it, imagining the excruciating system design meetings where the wording for that particular eventuality was discussed in exquisite detail and at inordinate length. It must be meaningful, not confusing, not patronising but still inform and hold the attention of the “bagger”.
In the end I decided that the more appropriate word would have been “unexpected” – “Unexpected item in the bagging area”. That actually tells you something about what the system is “expecting” and that there is something amiss that is probably the result of something that the “bagger” has done rather than the system. “Surprising” is very pleasing, indeed a charming response. It is positively playful and possibly even whimsical and poetic. It is, one could say, an “unexpected item in the system error message repertoire” or more accurately a “surprising item in the system error message repertoire“.
This is, then, one more reason to be a proud Morrisons customer, that they should have self-checkout machines that can be surprised by an item in the bagging area. One can be fairly sure that at Waitrose they would never be surprised by any item in the bagging area. On the other hand I do like the self-scanners at Waitrose. I shall miss these very much when back in Sydney if Woolworths and Coles remain behind the shopping automation times for the one simple reason they have meant “no queue” supermarket shopping and that is definitely a great step forward for civilization.