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(Lifehacker)   Math says you should avoid the express lane at the grocery store   (lifehacker.com) divider line 142
    More: Spiffy, waste of time, grocery stores, checkout lane  
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7310 clicks; posted to Geek » on 02 Jan 2013 at 10:12 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-01-03 01:09:23 AM

utsagrad123: The Walmart by my house always has a one armed man working the speedy checkout line. That seemed cruel to me at first but he is much more efficient with that one arm that the rest of the cashiers are with two


Just as it's always wiser to ask the one-legged guy for directions; that dude knows how to get to places efficiently.
 
2013-01-03 01:22:54 AM

CreamFilling: MaudlinMutantMollusk: Let's say you're in an express line with five people ahead of you and everyone has 10 items each (50 items total). In the standard line beside you, there are also five people but they all have 20 items each (60 items total).

wha?

It's science.

Really, just avoid any line with old women or young kids and you'll be fine.


So much thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis. I look for the line with the most men in it, and then I get in that line. Men don't buy a lot of things at once, don't fark with checks, don't chitchat, and will basically do everything possible to escape the store in the fewest possible seconds. My people.
 
2013-01-03 01:31:29 AM

Austinoftx: fozziewazzi: Gonz: jaylectricity: Gonz: The single queue, where the next person goes to the next available register, is really the only way to go.

That sounds like a nightmare in a grocery store.

But it's not. It's incredibly efficient. You get one line, and when a register is about to open up, a number lights up and shows the next person where to go. You spread the inefficiencies randomly across all open registers, and remove any incentive for trying to somehow "game" the system by finding a quicker cashier.

I've seen that work at banks, but not at grocery stores with people pushing around loaded grocery carts. Do you have a picture of this in action?

I don't buy his claim.

It would be a mess. It definitely wouldn't be faster on average though it would avoid being stuck forever behind a guy paying in pennies.

I was dead set against queues too, but now that I've been through Fry's and Whole Food's checkout lines dozens of times in just a couple of minutes, I'm reformed. You're in one long line... that moves FAST. No one gets through the line "faster" than average, but then, half of us don't have to wait "longer" than average either. The only thing that annoys me about queues is when there's a tie-wearing "usher" who could be better put to work as another cashier.


A single queue would inconvenience express shoppers at grocery stores. There's much more variability in the number of items different people buy at Walmart compared to Fry's or T.J. Maxx. A single queue means the wait time before your transaction begins is averaged out so people with 1 item wait as long as people with 200 items. It also adds dead time between transactions in the same line as the next person pushes their cart to the open cashier, and because people can't start unloading their groceries ahead of time. This can be reduced by marking a lane as "open" before the previous shopper is done (perhaps when the cashier begins the payment part of the transaction), but then it's becoming more like the current model anyway.
 
2013-01-03 01:36:43 AM

Bisu: Austinoftx:
Common sense also says that if business is slow and the express lane is free, I should be able to bring 16 or 21 or whatever items without the cashier biatching that I have too many items.

No, common sense says: why the fark would you need to use the express lane if business is slow? Buy fewer items if you want to use the express lane. You're not a princess with special privileges who gets to slow down the people that actually follow the rules.


Your counter-entitlement entitlement gripe hinges too much upon my use of the phrase "business is slow". I meant when every regular line has shoppers with hundreds of items, but the express lane is standing idle. It happens. I've even had express cashiers wave me over so they can stay busy and not get closed by the manager. No, I'm not a princess. My whole motivation for joining this discussion is to encourage folks to be considerate. At any rate, an "express line" that allows checks and coupons really ought to be pretty liberal about folks with a few items over the requested limit.
 
2013-01-03 01:38:24 AM
People still go to stores to shop for food? Between local produce delivery places and amazon fresh, I haven't gone to anything larger than a farmer's market in over 5 years.
 
2013-01-03 01:41:55 AM
www.fefco.org

Cant come soon enough.
 
2013-01-03 01:45:36 AM

W. T. Fark: fozziewazzi: Gonz: jaylectricity: Gonz: The single queue, where the next person goes to the next available register, is really the only way to go.

That sounds like a nightmare in a grocery store.

But it's not. It's incredibly efficient. You get one line, and when a register is about to open up, a number lights up and shows the next person where to go. You spread the inefficiencies randomly across all open registers, and remove any incentive for trying to somehow "game" the system by finding a quicker cashier.

I've seen that work at banks, but not at grocery stores with people pushing around loaded grocery carts. Do you have a picture of this in action?

This is how they do it at Fry's, which is a big box electronics chain very much like Best Buy. Don't have a pic, but imagine a large row of cashiers with room for a single customer each; an empty row parallel to the cashier row that the customer uses to get to their cashier; and then a third parallel row where the line actually is.


I've seen commissaries on military bases do it that way, though they have checkout or two on the end for people with like 5 items or less.
 
2013-01-03 02:17:12 AM
Bisu:A single queue would inconvenience express shoppers at grocery stores. There's much more variability in the number of items different people buy at Walmart compared to Fry's or T.J. Maxx. A single queue means the wait time before your transaction begins is averaged out so people with 1 item wait as long as people with 200 items. It also adds dead time between transactions in the same line as the next person pushes their cart to the open cashier, and because people can't start unloading their groceries ahead of time. This can be reduced by marking a lane as "open" before the previous shopper is done (perhaps when the cashier begins the payment part of the transaction), but then it's b ...

Yah, pretty much what I believed, and why I was dead-set against queues. The funny thing is, It just doesn't run as poorly as you suppose. Everyone moves in an almost-constant shuffle forward, so there's no standing and waiting which is where that feeling of dead time comes from. People with lots of items spend the bulk of their time with their own cashier, and NOT holding up someone behind them! People with one or two items who are standing behind someone with a full cart will usually get through the line and out the door in no time flat. You're not stuck in one line. Think of it as there always being a new line opening up, and you've been allowed to jump straight into it. Pre-unloading is useful in a traditional line to make the best of your time while you wait for the fully-loaded shopper ahead of you to be checked through. In a queue, you will likely unload faster than your cashier can check the items, so you'll still have time to dig out your card, cash or checkbook without holding him up. The bottom line is, queues process shoppers as fast as the whole store can process them, all the time, while express lanes offer little more speed unless it's line is short to begin with.
 
2013-01-03 02:36:41 AM
Another way to look at it is; queues usually get everyone -to the cashier- in "express lane" time. A cashier is almost always becoming available every few seconds somewhere in the store, you're never stuck in the "wrong lane" and you can roll right up to them. At that point obviously, your check out time varies according to how much you're buying. It's extremely efficient, no one's being treated unfairly, and no one ever gets "stuck" behind a big purchaser.

This is one of those things that is hard to understand because of how unreliable the human brain is at visualizing certain things. We're hunters. We're just not wired to believe that we'll get to eat quicker if we get to the end of a long line rather than get to gamble with a selection of shorter ones.
 
2013-01-03 02:43:54 AM
 The term "line stoppers" describes people who have issues at checkout.

Right before xmas I was at Walmart and there were three people in line ahead of me. Among other things, the each bought 20 or so gift cards, however for some farking reason, each of them insisted on ringing each one up separately .  The cashier had to ring it up, then they had to swipe their card, punch in all the info on the keypad, let the sale complete.  Rinse and repeat.  I had actually gotten out of the next line over because this one was shorter.  farking morons.
 
2013-01-03 02:52:29 AM
I've often noticed that dropping trou and waggling my dick in the direction of the cashier got me through the line much faster - and it didn't even seem to matter if I was in the express line or not.

Of course, I don't actually tend to leave the store with my groceries, and often end up spending the night in lockup, but since that was my intended goal things worked out in my favor overall.
 
2013-01-03 03:11:46 AM

ReapTheChaos: The term "line stoppers" describes people who have issues at checkout.

Right before xmas I was at Walmart and there were three people in line ahead of me. Among other things, the each bought 20 or so gift cards, however for some farking reason, each of them insisted on ringing each one up separately .  The cashier had to ring it up, then they had to swipe their card, punch in all the info on the keypad, let the sale complete.  Rinse and repeat.  I had actually gotten out of the next line over because this one was shorter.  farking morons.


I know that if I swipe my money card before the Walmart cashier activates my gift card, It forgets that I've swiped my money card, and I'll have to re-do it. Perhaps their system doesn't support more than one card activation with card payment. They might have also needed separate receipts for each card for some reason. Also, they might have been buying gift cards with a stolen credit card, and wanted to make it harder for them to be tracked down and deactivated.
 
2013-01-03 03:32:23 AM
The problem isn't the number of items and the amount of seconds used to ring up each item. It takes longer in the express lane because 5 people will generally all use credit cards, which takes an additional 30-45 seconds to swipe and verify the card per transaction. The only time 5 people paying with cc are faster than 1 person with a large order is if the 1 person has a lot of produce or writes a check.

/no, I won't feel bad for you because you shop at walmart
 
2013-01-03 04:39:20 AM

tortuga: I can usually handle grocery store traffic, but what really gets me is when I shop at Walgreens or CVS. Every single time I get in line, the person directly in front of me has a ton of coupons or, more than likely, wishes to argue with the checkout person about the price in the weekly circular vs. the price that was just rung up. Worst yet, is when the cashier has to process a rain-check for the customer who just has to have their brand of hairspray for $2.99. God that sucks, and it's every... single... time I happen to shop at one of those stores. I honestly don't know how they stay in business.


I love the Walgreen's commercials "No line and plenty of parking!" That's because you charge way too much and hardly have any selection and nobody in their right mind would go grocery shopping there.
 
2013-01-03 04:42:26 AM

ODDwhun: Personally I like the self check out lane. As long as there are no little old ladies trying to use it ahead of me.


The Sam's Club near me just installed some self-checkouts. For the first couple weeks, nobody used them. It was GLORIOUS. Now, there's usually at least one open or a short wait. I'm the kind of person who doesn't buy cartfuls at a time so I love the self checkers.
 
2013-01-03 05:20:03 AM

Austinoftx: Bisu: Austinoftx:
Common sense also says that if business is slow and the express lane is free, I should be able to bring 16 or 21 or whatever items without the cashier biatching that I have too many items.

No, common sense says: why the fark would you need to use the express lane if business is slow? Buy fewer items if you want to use the express lane. You're not a princess with special privileges who gets to slow down the people that actually follow the rules.

Your counter-entitlement entitlement gripe hinges too much upon my use of the phrase "business is slow". I meant when every regular line has shoppers with hundreds of items, but the express lane is standing idle. It happens. I've even had express cashiers wave me over so they can stay busy and not get closed by the manager. No, I'm not a princess. My whole motivation for joining this discussion is to encourage folks to be considerate. At any rate, an "express line" that allows checks and coupons really ought to be pretty liberal about folks with a few items over the requested limit.


Considerate is the key word here. Be considerate and follow the rules like the majority of customers. I worked as a grocery cashier while in school, and I can tell you both the cashier and any customer behind you are silently counting every item over the limit, and silently cursing you for feeling so entitled.

If you're waved over, that's fine but don't assume that means it's always fine to breach etiquette. Lest you take silence as permission, I can tell you the cashier is in no position to call you out for it unless the number of items is ridiculous, and the other patrons mostly don't see an upside to starting a fight in the middle of a store. However, they WILL often express their thoughts and frustrations on the matter after you leave.
 
2013-01-03 05:51:13 AM

B.L.Z. Bub: Or the stores could, you know, open more lanes for checkout instead of having only a few open at a time, which guarantees clogging of every lane, express or not. But that would require hiring more workers, and we can't have that because unions corporate profits.


Fixed.

meddleRPI: That's why the author is a math *teacher*,


Well, he's obviously not an English teacher:

Additionally, if the cashier require's a manager's authorization for a transaction then he or she will delay the purchase further.

www.profilebrand.com
 
2013-01-03 06:53:07 AM
I moved to the east coast last year. Has it always been "acceptable" to place a basket or cart in line and then run off to grab another item or two? I have people do that all the time and I just keep moving their crap and moving in front. Never saw that before.
 
2013-01-03 08:07:39 AM

Dr.Fey: fozziewazzi: Do you have a picture of this in action?

Gonz: I'm not finding anything off the top of my head.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/23/business/23checkout.html


Ah I've been to the Columbus Circle Whole Foods before. I think they have a unique situation. In addition to the factors mentioned in the article the shopping carts aren't nearly as big as in your typical grocery store. I just don't see this working in most of the grocery stores I've been to.
 
2013-01-03 08:12:28 AM
Give me a No Coupon, No Cigarette, No Cash, No Check line and it will be the quickest one in the place.
 
2013-01-03 08:17:04 AM

W. T. Fark: TFA links to AFA about shoppers avoiding lane 13. Seriously? People do this? Wonder how they'll get through the year.



Without having to worry about a 13th month, that's how.
 
2013-01-03 08:24:53 AM
Article: Teacher makes judgement call for all of us.
Reality: Teacher makes equation to help you determine waiting times.

Let's be honest, if he didn't calculate confidence intervals, then it's not a very good time study. Considering the existance of industrial engineering and cost accounting, this journalist looks really foolish.
 
2013-01-03 08:30:32 AM
I'm a big fan of the self checkout. Mrs Egoy and I can ring in, bag, and pay for a huge load of groceries in the self checkout faster than a single cashier could do it, and without putting laundry detergent in the same bag as fresh meat or crushing the bread under the oranges.
 
2013-01-03 08:46:58 AM

Cyno01: [www.fefco.org image 850x568]

Cant come soon enough.


That's not what she said.
 
2013-01-03 09:18:25 AM

Gonz: The single queue, where the next person goes to the next available register, is really the only way to go.


That would be funny at somewhere like Sam's Club.
 
2013-01-03 09:24:11 AM
Express lanes should also bar the use of coupons. Was behind some woman in one the other day; she had the maximum 12 items and a coupon for each one. Only, she didn't have just 12 coupons, so she sat there searching through her stack of newspaper clippings and ended up taking three times longer than she needed.

/not that I was surprised. The human condition has become one of oblivion to anyone's situation but one's own.
 
2013-01-03 09:49:27 AM
X = (Total count of all items to be scanned) * (Overhead of processing a payment * Probability of a check-writer ahead of you * Total count of people ahead of you in line)
 
2013-01-03 10:10:29 AM
If there is always five people in front of you at the grocery store, you're doing at the wrong time our the wrong store.
 
2013-01-03 10:16:01 AM
I hate when a line of 4 or 5 people builds, so the store opens a new checkout lane, and the person in the back of the line, who just walked up, anticipates this and jumps up to the new cashier. This person should be beaten without mercy. The better cashiers will normally say, "I'll take the next person in line."
 
2013-01-03 10:16:10 AM

phalamir: I once told my wife that I could get through a certain cashier's line quicker if I killed her, then learned actual necromancy, and raised her as a zombie.


You see that? Right up there? *YOINK!*. Stolen.
 
2013-01-03 10:21:41 AM

B.L.Z. Bub: Or the stores could, you know, open more lanes for checkout instead of having only a few open at a time, which guarantees clogging of every lane, express or not. But that would require hiring more workers, and we can't have that because unions.

/Maybe your experience is different, but every grocery store I go to is extremely inefficient about opening lanes even when the store is crowded


Account Created: 2012-01-03

First ignore of the year.
 
2013-01-03 10:42:59 AM

StoPPeRmobile: Gonz: The single queue, where the next person goes to the next available register, is really the only way to go.

That would be funny at somewhere like Sam's Club.


Most of the walmarts in Canada have this, at least for there express check-outs. One huge line feeding like 4-10 cashiers. It works really well
 
2013-01-03 10:46:10 AM

zarberg: I hate to say it, but I usually pick the line with the cutest cashier.


When I was single I used to do that all the time. Plus when I was single I had no real concept of organizing my meals so I would stop at the grocery store every couple of days on the way home from work to get what I felt like eating for dinner. Those to things together lead to a lot of cashier flirting. These days now that I am married and my wife and I shop together (with our daughter) it is usually shortest line, or the cashier my wife knows will not make a huge deal about coupons/price matching.
 
2013-01-03 11:39:36 AM
At Walmart, I'll always use the self-checkout unless there is a cashier open. Even if it's a fairly full load, it will be quicker than waiting in line. There's always an issue with people not having enough money in their checking account or on their EBT card. It's just quicker.
 
2013-01-03 01:07:21 PM
From my experience working at wegmans and hannafords, and shopping, the best advice is:

1 young male cashiers are the quickest, they view the ipm count as a game and all want high score.

2 always skip lines with elderly cashiers or customers they go super slow and want to talk.

3 if the store has baggers and cashiers, full lanes move quick and have the best cashiers, if cashiers also have to bag, the express lanes have the best cashiers, because the cashiers all whine/complain for the easiest lanes to work in.

4 get your payment method out earlier, cash/card/check if it's out early you know you've picked a quicker lane.

5 if your buying booze, put your id on top of the beer, that way it's out early and the cashier can just grab it.
 
2013-01-03 01:42:20 PM
I think you should have to pass a certification to use the self-checkout. My fiance would not have this certification. I love her to death, but every time we are using the self-checkout she sees me swipe something, bag it, and then 2 items later she pulls it from the bag, causing the system to freak out about something not being bagged (which she is now eating and can't put back in the bag anyways). Then we have to have a person come over and tell the machine to let us continue, and it's usually a crotchety old lady who is annoyed at being bothered. And then I have to listen to her biatching all the way out of the store how stupid the machine is for being so finicky (which it is), without realizing that the machine being so finicky would be a great reason for her to learn how it works and stop screwing it up.

I've literally smacked my fiance's hand away from the general area of the checkout machine and bagging area and told her not to farking touch ANYTHING because she only ever makes the process take 10 times as long when she gets involved.
 
2013-01-03 02:34:09 PM
The fastest lane is the one without the elderly. Every time, they'll write a check, use a bunch of coupons, and or argue about the receipt total.
 
2013-01-03 03:23:25 PM

Smackledorfer: fozziewazzi: Gonz: jaylectricity: Gonz: The single queue, where the next person goes to the next available register, is really the only way to go.

That sounds like a nightmare in a grocery store.

But it's not. It's incredibly efficient. You get one line, and when a register is about to open up, a number lights up and shows the next person where to go. You spread the inefficiencies randomly across all open registers, and remove any incentive for trying to somehow "game" the system by finding a quicker cashier.

I've seen that work at banks, but not at grocery stores with people pushing around loaded grocery carts. Do you have a picture of this in action?

I don't buy his claim.

It would be a mess. It definitely wouldn't be faster on average though it would avoid being stuck forever behind a guy paying in pennies.


The Navy Comissary at Pearl Harbor (one of the largest in the country) uses in the single line and it works pretty well.
 
2013-01-03 03:23:58 PM

burndtdan: I think you should have to pass a certification to use the self-checkout. My fiance would not have this certification. I love her to death, but every time we are using the self-checkout she sees me swipe something, bag it, and then 2 items later she pulls it from the bag, causing the system to freak out about something not being bagged (which she is now eating and can't put back in the bag anyways). Then we have to have a person come over and tell the machine to let us continue, and it's usually a crotchety old lady who is annoyed at being bothered. And then I have to listen to her biatching all the way out of the store how stupid the machine is for being so finicky (which it is), without realizing that the machine being so finicky would be a great reason for her to learn how it works and stop screwing it up.

I've literally smacked my fiance's hand away from the general area of the checkout machine and bagging area and told her not to farking touch ANYTHING because she only ever makes the process take 10 times as long when she gets involved.


My girlfriend does this too. It's like she doesn't understand that the bagging roundel is also a scale. Seriously, we have both been cashiers, her and I, and she's incapable of using a self-checkout.
 
2013-01-03 04:04:50 PM

kevinfra: The Navy Comissary at Pearl Harbor (one of the largest in the country) uses in the single line and it works pretty well.


In a normal grocery store that is optimally staffed, there are 2-3 people waiting in line per clerk. That means that at almost any given time each clerk's time is maximized. It doesn't matter what you do with all the people waiting to buy their groceries from a clerk if a clerk is busy. As long as there is always one person in the process of paying and a second person behind them unloading during the process, you cannot move people through any given clerk any more quickly.

So what does making everyone with a shopping cart line up in one line and then split up do? Well, it cannot upgrade the average efficiency of each clerk, and therefore the average time everyone waits should be the same as it is now. What it CAN do is make sure one lady buying 15 things and taking a year to write a check doesn't have 3 people waiting directly behind her: three people who assumed she would be faster and thought they were waiting in a shorter line. I guess that is a good thing, but for every person stuck in the slow line there is a person who picked a line that was unexpectedly fast.

The real solution to this problem is to take a deep breath and not let five minute ruin your life.
 
2013-01-03 10:55:36 PM
My simple line picking algorithm based on my experience working retail:
If you're in a hurry pick the least attractive woman or young male. If either of them are working a cash register it's because they're good (the stores I've worked at generally prefer putting younger women in registers. Old guys will talk to everyone and pretty girls may or may not be good, but without prior knowledge it's very hard to guess.
 
2013-01-03 11:01:51 PM

Fano: What is a mall checkout desk? How is it different from the information desk? Why would you need to check out from the mall when you've already purchased whatever from the individual store?


In Macy's, Dillard's and other mall department stores they have desks for cashiers basically in the middle of wherever. They're not by the door and there's never anyone at them. There's no bell to summon someone to them to let you know you want to buy something already. There's no light saying a cashier is in. There's no big sign hanging from the ceiling saying "Pay Here."

The ones in Sears are hollow squares with a cash register on each corner. No matter which side you walk up to, you have to walk around to the other side to buy something.
 
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