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(Lifehacker)   Math says you should avoid the express lane at the grocery store   (lifehacker.com) divider line 20
    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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2013-01-02 10:31:04 PM
6 votes:
I've worked as a grocery store cashier, and that article is baloney. Most people who use the express lanes buy only 5 or 6 items, and most people in the regular lanes have full baskets - 50 or 60 items. In an express lane the longest part of any transaction is the customer paying. But the longest part of a regular lane is unloading the groceries from the basket, ringing them up, and then bagging them all again. A good cashier can move about 8 people or more through an express lane in the same time it takes for a regular lane with one full basket. Also, most customers in an express lane are in a hurry and have payment ready, while the full baskets are the moms doing the weekly shopping who take their time with coupons, digging out the checkbook, etc.

tl;dr = That article is completely wrong.
2013-01-02 10:27:51 PM
4 votes:
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).

THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN THE REAL WORLD.  People in the regular lines have 100+ items, two kids in tow, fourteen hundred coupons, a checkbook, and a pen that doesn't work.  They've also just forgotten they need cat litter, so they'll "be right back" sometime next year.
2013-01-02 11:10:08 PM
3 votes:
I hate to say it, but I usually pick the line with the cutest cashier.
2013-01-02 10:51:51 PM
2 votes:

The Voice of Doom: If 5*10=50 and 5*20=60 you aren't in the express checkout, you're online shopping at zombo.com.


You're holding up the line with all the internets you just won!

I clicked on that article looking for some interesting math or some realworld useful tips. Instead I got a stupid middle school word problem with a basic arithmetic error.
There are never 5 people in 1 express line, nor 3 people with 20 items each.
There's 2 in the express lane, one with 10 items over the limit. 2 people each in the normal lines with heaping carts. And then there's me in self-checkout lane walking on past all this crap.
2013-01-02 10:43:02 PM
2 votes:
I go to the aisle with the cutest cashier or best selection of magazines.
2013-01-02 09:25:53 PM
2 votes:

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.
2013-01-02 09:18:59 PM
2 votes:
Express lanes should be 5 or less.  Anything over 5 isn't really express.

Walmarts is over 20 which doesn't make any sense at all.
2013-01-03 04:04:50 PM
1 votes:

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 02:17:12 AM
1 votes:
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 12:20:41 AM
1 votes:
No, math shows that under one extremely unlikely condition, express lanes can possibly be slower.

That's why the author is a math *teacher*, and not a mathematician, and likely does not have the skills to perform the analysis while considering multivariate random parameters.
xcv
2013-01-02 11:09:03 PM
1 votes:
2013-01-02 11:06:12 PM
1 votes:
20 x 5 = 60 math aside, this is a silly article. He only has one real data point (4:28 vs 4:56), and it supports the opposite conclusion he's making.
2013-01-02 11:05:52 PM
1 votes:
I prefer the self-checkout line - it hides the shame you feel when all you're buying is frozen pizza and toilet paper. And hand cream if it's a Saturday night.
2013-01-02 10:48:21 PM
1 votes:

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


Won't happen in most stores, because while single queue lines to tend to be faster, people don't see that. They see a giant line and exaggerate their wait time in their head. Stores are (rightfully) afraid it will give them a negative image and lose them customers.
2013-01-02 10:43:44 PM
1 votes:
Look, Mrs. Simpson, the express line is the fastest line not always. That old man up front, he is starved for attention, he will talk the cashier's head off.  Let's cut to... that line.

But that's the longest!

Yes, but look: all pathetic single men. Only cash, no chit-chat.

1.bp.blogspot.com
2013-01-02 10:43:01 PM
1 votes:

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.
2013-01-02 10:26:28 PM
1 votes:
It is the number of transactions, not the number of items. With the scanners a good clerk can ring up more than one item a second, but the counting cash, validation of credit, or filling in of a check will take a minute or so.
2013-01-02 10:24:21 PM
1 votes:
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?


I was going with "the fark?", but yeah.

If 5*10=50 and 5*20=60 you aren't in the express checkout, you're online shopping at zombo.com.
2013-01-02 10:18:09 PM
1 votes:
is the five minutes or so that big of a deal? the same people concerned about this are running over peons in the parking lot
2013-01-02 09:13:52 PM
1 votes:
Experience says otherwise. And unlike math, experience is based in the real world.
 
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