How many people have been stopped in their tracks by unidentified objects?

I don’t mean those disc-shaped craft from distant planets. These mysterious things are much more common and much nearer to home.

I had a close encounter with one today in my local Asda. There I was, attempting to buy a bottle of wine, a garlic bread and a couple of yoghurts, when a strange voice interrupted my transaction: “unidentified item in the bagging area”.

As I looked around for guidance, it continued: “unidentified item in the bagging area.”

I’d been persuaded to chance it in the do-it-yourself checkouts by one of a number of staff parading up and down at the side of them.

With trepidation, I gave it a go, but knew from the outset that I’d need help – mainly because every other person using one was calling for assistance.

I had a similar experience in my local Tesco, where I was again accused of abusing the bagging area. Tesco supposedly operate a ‘one in front’ policy in which, if you have more than one person in front of you, they aim to open another till. This certainly isn’t the case at the one and only basket checkout – where everyone who’s terrified of self-service retreats. I had to queue for about 15 minutes to avoid another bagging area debacle.

You’d think self-service checkouts would reduce staff numbers but it seems to me that twice as many are needed to sort out problems. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like doing it myself – since my local WH Smith replaced a row of staffed tills with self-service, queues for the two remaining staffed booths have quadrupled.

I’d like to think that DIY checkouts will join the host of other short-lived initiatives introduced by supermarkets to entice us inside. Like those trolleys with plastic cars on the front for toddlers.

At one time, the aisles were more like race tracks for three-year-olds, with brightly-coloured vehicles tearing along. I haven’t seen any of these for quite some time, so I assume stores have made the sensible decision to withdraw them.

Nor, as far as I know, do supermarkets provide creches any more. I remember the one at my local store, in which dozens of screaming children could be seen, crammed into a ball pool the size of a cereal box.

Sadly, I think these frustrating checkouts are here to stay.

Supermarkets gave us trolley rage, now they’re in danger of giving us checkout rage!