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(Wired)   Why you always choose the slowest line in the supermarket. Turns out math hates you as much as the grocery store does   (wired.com) divider line 182
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8127 clicks; posted to Main » on 15 Jul 2014 at 9:36 AM (14 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-07-15 09:04:51 AM  
The secret: watch the registers where there are female customers whose purses are in the top section of the cart. They will be paying by check and jamming up everybody else's lives in the process. Often they will ask the cashier whom to make the check out to, even if they're at a Target where there are approximately 18,000 Target logos within their line of sight at all times.

You want to check out behind parents who brought their kids. The kids may be acting up, but that's why the parents want to GTFO of the store ASAP, so they'll be swiping their credit cards and not farking around. If the kids are actually helping bag groceries or otherwise making themselves useful, so much the better.

But the presence of the purse trumps the presence of the kids. Any woman who pays by check while shopping with kids is an oblivious imbecile.

The only time I have ever seen a man pay by check at a grocery store is in the opening of "The Big Lebowski."
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2014-07-15 09:37:33 AM  
This is what they do at most banks, Trader Joe's, and some fast-food places.

Every Trader Joe's I have been to(*) uses separate lines for each register. My local store is good about adding cashiers to keep lines short.

(*) West Newton, Acton, Pasadena, Sunnyvale, and I think Cambridge but it's been a while.
 
2014-07-15 09:39:23 AM  
Self check out when available, or just look for the shortest lines.
When I have to shop at Walmart, check out is either the garden center or electronics
 
2014-07-15 09:39:45 AM  
Best lesson the Simpsons taught me: choose the line with single males even if longer.
 
2014-07-15 09:40:49 AM  
I look for the best mix of:

1. Age of customers in line.
2. Items per customer.

Grandma with one item might write a check and take longer than a 30 year old with a cart full who will pay with a credit card.
 
2014-07-15 09:41:37 AM  
The place that drives me up the wall with this is Aldi's, they will have one register open with 10 people in line that all have entire carts filled to the brim, then they will open a second register on the opposite end and allow people who haven't been waiting at all to check out right away.
 
2014-07-15 09:42:43 AM  
I intentionally choose the line with the Nigerian cashier because he sounds like Dikembe Mutombo and I'm trying to figure out a way to get him to say "Who want to sex the Mutombo!?"
 
2014-07-15 09:43:12 AM  
I shop at Publix, and they usually have enough registers open.  There are rarely lines.
 
2014-07-15 09:45:47 AM  

Gulper Eel: The secret: watch the registers where there are female customers whose purses are in the top section of the cart. They will be paying by check and jamming up everybody else's lives in the process. Often they will ask the cashier whom to make the check out to, even if they're at a Target where there are approximately 18,000 Target logos within their line of sight at all times.

You want to check out behind parents who brought their kids. The kids may be acting up, but that's why the parents want to GTFO of the store ASAP, so they'll be swiping their credit cards and not farking around. If the kids are actually helping bag groceries or otherwise making themselves useful, so much the better.

But the presence of the purse trumps the presence of the kids. Any woman who pays by check while shopping with kids is an oblivious imbecile.

The only time I have ever seen a man pay by check at a grocery store is in the opening of "The Big Lebowski."


I saw an older woman in front of me count out 97 cents. It took her more than five minutes in the express lane. She had two items.
 
2014-07-15 09:46:33 AM  

thecpt: Best lesson the Simpsons taught me: choose the line with single males even if longer.


This. It has served me well. My wife thinks I'm a genius when she sees the ostensibly shorter line go kerflooey as some housewife starts arguing with the clerk about her 9 coupons and the relative merits of each item she is buying/returning.

Corollary shown in another episode: Old men like to chitchat with the clerks, plan accordingly.
 
2014-07-15 09:46:46 AM  
It helps to know the checkers.  And avoid the coupon clippers and old ladies paying with pennies.
 
2014-07-15 09:47:33 AM  

ZAZ: This is what they do at most banks, Trader Joe's, and some fast-food places.

Every Trader Joe's I have been to(*) uses separate lines for each register. My local store is good about adding cashiers to keep lines short.

(*) West Newton, Acton, Pasadena, Sunnyvale, and I think Cambridge but it's been a while.


Same here for Trader Joe's. If the line is more than two deep, they call cashiers up front until every register is manned. They have changed things so that the cart goes on the cashier side instead of on the customer side. This also sped things up.
 
2014-07-15 09:48:25 AM  
1. Self-checkout should be reserved for those who used to be grocery store cashiers. They're much more efficient at scanning and bagging, and many of us still remember the most popular produce codes.

2. Look for the surly teenager who will check people out quickly. But remember that there's a very subtle difference between "just wants you to leave" and "doesn't care at all; will scan one item every 15 seconds."

3. Don't get in the chatty cashier's line.
 
2014-07-15 09:48:45 AM  
Every single time.
I get in the shortest line and guess what?
Something farks up.
The register is out of tape and the new employee needs a manager with a key to change it.
The lady in front of me is digging for an expired coupon.
The lady in front of me is writing out a check, and marking her balance in her checkbook.
Some item must be PLU'ed by a manager.

I purposefully pick cashiers with downs because they don't goof off, too.
 
2014-07-15 09:49:14 AM  

DrunkenYodaZen: I saw an older woman in front of me count out 97 cents. It took her more than five minutes in the express lane. She had two items.


I would also wager that she did not begin her search for payment until the clerk informed her that she did in fact have a balance due, and then it took her a moment to recover from the shock.  Only then did she begin digging for her change purse.

It's a good thing she had enough change on hand.  I've seen them stop mid-way and decide to write a check instead.  GAahhhhh
 
2014-07-15 09:49:18 AM  

Gulper Eel: The secret: watch the registers where there are female customers whose purses are in the top section of the cart. They will be paying by check and jamming up everybody else's lives in the process. Often they will ask the cashier whom to make the check out to, even if they're at a Target where there are approximately 18,000 Target logos within their line of sight at all times.


You can still pay for groceries with cheques? I haven't seen someone pay for anything in a retail store with a cheque in years. Then again I live in Canada where debit card use is supposed to be higher than in most countries. I am not even sure my grocery store takes cheques. Then again my wife does most of the shopping. Although back in my single days it was easy to choose a line at the store, pick the one with the cutest cashier.
 
2014-07-15 09:49:27 AM  
I always choose the lane with the person ahead of me with the least amount of shiat.  Of course, this person will bumble around for coupons and/or pay with a check, thus, holding up the line for another 15 mins.
 
2014-07-15 09:49:48 AM  
I get behind the person with the 5 Link cards (Food Stamps) and the Well Infant Child food voucher.  It's my taxes, I might as well enjoy the show.

"John down at the welfare office says I can put this bourbon on my link card.  Call him and ask him"
"There is over 500 dollars on that card.  What did you do with my money?  This is an indignaion!"
The Well Infant Child Voucher allows the holder to get certain items.  Sometimes, it seems really defined like a 6.5 ounce bottle of MinuteMaid OJ.  But an effort is made:
"I can substitute Pepsi Cola for whole milk.  My baby likes Pepsi Cola!"

I have heard all of these and many, many more.  "If I tell all my friends that Shop 'n Save is racists - RACIST! We'll go someplace else and you'll be out a job!"
 
2014-07-15 09:50:14 AM  
I choose the line with the hottest chick, whether she's a customer or employee.

Then I don't care if the line moves quickly or not.

True story.
 
2014-07-15 09:50:49 AM  
"Queuing Theorists??"  Does our society really need such a profession?  Apparently so.
 
2014-07-15 09:50:56 AM  
The calculation and conclusion that one line that disperses to the different counters is more efficient is an engineering school staple.  All engineers were taught this.  The effect is that engineers spend the rest of their lives frustrated because most places don't do their lines that way.

The fact that the world is not made up of engineers is evident at the airport baggage check.  Simple logic, no calculation necessary, would tell you that it would work so much better if everyone would just stand back and go forward to get their bag when they see it.  But no, everyone stakes out a spot pressed against the belt so you have to wait until your bag comes around to your exact spot and then try to work your bag through the jam of people who won't move.

I'm a very tall and large fellow.  Most of my travels that involve baggage checking are to and from Asia (where the people tend to be smaller).  These days I stand back and when I see my bag I say "excuse me" and push through, grab my bag, hoist it over everyone and leave.  No objections yet.
 
2014-07-15 09:51:34 AM  
I try not to get behind anyone who looks poor, because they will slow down the lane with their WIC check, or they picked up a juice brand that isnt covered.
 
2014-07-15 09:52:08 AM  
I thought it was just the idiots ahead of me who wait until their purchases are all rung up to start fishing out their debit card.  Seriously, people, you can swipe your card and enter your PIN while the cashier is ringing up those pork rinds, the POS system will handle it.  Also, put your cell phones away.
 
2014-07-15 09:52:33 AM  
"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 go to...that line. "
"But that's the longest."
"Yes, but look: all pathetic single men. Only cash, no chitchat."
 
2014-07-15 09:53:22 AM  
Don't most stores use the Telecheck machine now where all the person has to do is sign the check?
 
2014-07-15 09:53:32 AM  
I vote we demand all retailers have one lane that's staffed every second the store is open with the following sign:

20 ITEMS OR FEWER

NO COUPONS

CASH/DEBIT/CHARGE ONLY

NO BULLSHIAT ARGUING OVER SOMETHING THAT RANG UP FOR A NICKEL MORE

IF IT DOESN'T SCAN, FORGET IT.

DON'T EVEN THINK OF ASKING THE CASHIER TO SEND SOMEONE TO FIND A THING YOU COULDN'T

THANK YOU, COME AGAIN

 
2014-07-15 09:53:34 AM  

DrunkenYodaZen: Gulper Eel: The secret: watch the registers where there are female customers whose purses are in the top section of the cart. They will be paying by check and jamming up everybody else's lives in the process. Often they will ask the cashier whom to make the check out to, even if they're at a Target where there are approximately 18,000 Target logos within their line of sight at all times.

You want to check out behind parents who brought their kids. The kids may be acting up, but that's why the parents want to GTFO of the store ASAP, so they'll be swiping their credit cards and not farking around. If the kids are actually helping bag groceries or otherwise making themselves useful, so much the better.

But the presence of the purse trumps the presence of the kids. Any woman who pays by check while shopping with kids is an oblivious imbecile.

The only time I have ever seen a man pay by check at a grocery store is in the opening of "The Big Lebowski."

I saw an older woman in front of me count out 97 cents. It took her more than five minutes in the express lane. She had two items.


Yep, people using a check don't have to take a long time (although I haven't used on in close to 20 years). Just fill out all the information and write in the amount when it rings up. Cash, however, seems to slow things down. Either the customer is counting things out to the penny (often because they are on a fixed budget), or the cashier is thrown by having to make change. The worst, though, are the ultimate couponers. If you see a stack of coupons, run as fast as you can to another register. At least some of those coupons will be expired, some will be for some combo that the shopper hasn't really met (buy 3 of x and get y 75% off), and she will argue about every single coupon.
 
2014-07-15 09:54:35 AM  
Protip: When they open up another lane, unless you can be the first one in it, is rarely worth it, as it seems people have to adjust to the shock of being in another lane and are not prepared for the new scenery, thus slowing things down*

*statement void if you are currently several carts back from the person causing a holdup. Then decide on a case by case how quickly their bullshiat is being resolved, especially if managers are being called over or people being dispatched to get things from the back during the delay.
 
2014-07-15 09:54:47 AM  
It needs to be like a Bank or the DMV or a big print shop - push to 1 giant queue, have multiple registers service a single queue.   You'll have 1 long queue, but the average wait time for everyone in the queue will be minimized.
 
2014-07-15 09:55:13 AM  

thecpt: Best lesson the Simpsons taught me: choose the line with single males even if longer.


"shakes tiny fit"

/I searched the thread for this before I posted
//just not with it today
 
2014-07-15 09:55:27 AM  
I hate stores that have 30 registers but only 5 open and the self-checkouts are closed. They must not want my money.

/I'm looking at you, Walmart!
 
2014-07-15 09:56:25 AM  

MattyBlast: "Queuing Theorists??"  Does our society really need such a profession?  Apparently so.


I'm a queuing conspiracy theorist.  The whole idea of lining up is the result of a Zionist plot to control time itself.
 
2014-07-15 09:56:43 AM  

WanPhat: The fact that the world is not made up of engineers is evident at the airport baggage check.


I meant baggage claim.
 
2014-07-15 09:58:35 AM  
I don't understand people who use self checkout with a cart filled with items, especially if they're with a spouse or child, where one hands the items to the other, debates or questions the items, then takes several tries to scan it. It must take them near thirty minutes whereas a cashier would get them done in less than ten.

It is amusing sometimes to note each person's different style of passing things by the scanner. They've all go their magic way of waving the item so that the machine recognizes it.

My biggest gripe that here (Quebec) for possibly old-timey religious reasons or something else I'm missing, after certain hours and on weekends they are allowed only a maximum of four people to staff the supermarket.

Surely with more people the checkout times would be less but as usual, if a company can get away with cheaping out and still receiving the customer's money they'll do it. Bastages.
 
2014-07-15 09:58:53 AM  

Imperialism: 1. Self-checkout should be reserved for those who used to be grocery store cashiers. They're much more efficient at scanning and bagging, and many of us still remember the most popular produce codes.



In my experience, the self-checkouts take longer. I do as much as i can to help. I have my store card out already in my hand as i approach. I have all my items in my basket with the UPCs facing up at the ready, and i have no coupons.

Yet i still find myself "waiting" for the machine to accept produce weights, have to wait for the conveyor to move the single item down the line before it can accept another scan, have to wait for it to "think" about what it wants to do do next, etc.

And if im buying Beer, or medicine, or anything else that 20% of the items in the store require overrides, you are farked and have to waive down one of the minions.

Most of the time, you are still better off going to a human checkout lane, because there there is no computer that has to 'confirm' everything at each step. It just assume the cashier is doing the right thing.

I like the idea of self-checkout, it just hasnt been fully developed yet.
 
2014-07-15 09:59:10 AM  

markie_farkie: NO BULLSHIAT ARGUING OVER SOMETHING THAT RANG UP FOR A NICKEL MORE


This is why I like to keep some spare change in my pocket...

...To throw it at the idiot arguing with the cashier over the price of an item.
 
2014-07-15 10:00:22 AM  
I just pick the line with the cutest checker and/or customers Then I leer at them in a disconcerting way which induces them to get the groceries checked/bagged/paid for so as to get me away from them.
 
2014-07-15 10:00:45 AM  

Feel_the_velvet: markie_farkie: NO BULLSHIAT ARGUING OVER SOMETHING THAT RANG UP FOR A NICKEL MORE

This is why I like to keep some spare change in my pocket...

...To throw it at the idiot arguing with the cashier over the price of an item.


The new dollar coins are perfect for that. They weigh more...
 
2014-07-15 10:01:16 AM  
I got caught behind an extreme couponer a few weeks ago. They were arguing over $0.50. I offered them a dollar bill, and said "my time's worth more than this". They wouldn't take it. The principle of the coupon was worth more to them than actual cash.

I ended up going to a different lane to check out. They were still arguing with a manager when I left.
 
2014-07-15 10:01:16 AM  
Seven years in high school and college working a cash register and running a front end at a grocery store taught me many things. How to read a cashier and queue of customers to find the quickest line is just one of them.

A full conveyor belt of groceries is not a bad thing. Profile the line of customers as others have mentioned, but also take note of how many customers there are. Two medium orders may take longer than one large order. And take a gander at how quickly the cashier is scanning and bagging. That makes a huge difference in how quickly you'll get out of there.
 
2014-07-15 10:01:16 AM  

tricycleracer: I look for the best mix of:

1. Age of customers in line.
2. Items per customer.

Grandma with one item might write a check and take longer than a 30 year old with a cart full who will pay with a credit card.


also, beware of EBT shoppers.  they will have problems, managers will be involved.

basically, I ran a gamut.

1) number of items in the line, and whether scannable items or PLU entered individual items

with the following special considerations:

2) age,
3) social status (hate to be a jerk, but the homeless guy will take longer, he's paying in pennies -- and like i said, you want to look out for potential EBT shoppers -- and don't get sassy about my grocers, i've seen them at whole foods -- also, hippies take longer, it's a point of pride, but hipsters are ok, they only have pride when in their own company, they are neutralized by the general public),
4) demeanor (do they look annoyed or angry; annoyed is good, anger means a manager is going to get involved)
5)  finally, examine the clerks.  how fast are they checking out items.

/ i try to avoid the intellectual pitfall of falsehood that is the number of people in the line.  it is a deception, trust not the number of people.
// i didn't realize the article was just a real life monty hall problem.
 
2014-07-15 10:01:41 AM  
Porous Horace:if a company can get away with cheaping out and still receiving the customer's money they'll do it. Bastages.

The health food store we used to go to seemed to have more workers and checkers than customers and you never had to wait.  That's probably why their food cost twice as much.
 
2014-07-15 10:01:56 AM  
WanPhat:

The fact that the world is not made up of engineers is evident at the airport baggage check.  Simple logic, no calculation necessary, would tell you that it would work so much better if everyone would just stand back and go forward to get their bag when they see it.  But no, everyone stakes out a spot pressed against the belt so you have to wait until your bag comes around to your exact spot and then try to work your bag through the jam of people who won't move. when you consider that people still have sex and engage in pleasant, personal conversations.

FTFY
 
2014-07-15 10:03:24 AM  

MemeSlave: It needs to be like a Bank or the DMV or a big print shop - push to 1 giant queue, have multiple registers service a single queue.   You'll have 1 long queue, but the average wait time for everyone in the queue will be minimized.


I guess you didn't read the article.
 
2014-07-15 10:04:04 AM  
Researchers have noted that some customers balk at serpentine lines, which can stretch much longer than the more traditional approach, preferring their chances of winning the lottery with multiple lines.

The same people also believe that they will be rich someday.
 
2014-07-15 10:04:10 AM  
And I firmly believe self-checkouts should be limited to those who have run a cash register before. Bonus points if you did it in a grocery store and remember some of your produce codes.
 
2014-07-15 10:04:22 AM  
LemSkroob:
I like the idea of self-checkout, it just hasnt been fully developed yet.

The self checkouts are getting better and/or I'm getting better at it.  If I have a moderate amount of groceries and not much produce, it's much faster.
 
2014-07-15 10:05:25 AM  

Pontious Pilates: And I firmly believe self-checkouts should be limited to those who have run a cash register before. Bonus points if you did it in a grocery store and remember some of your produce codes.


My biggest complaint with those is the fact that you have to verify ID to buy so many random things (spray paint, certain glues, etc) and they don't have a thing for me to just slide my license through, no a clerk has to come over and do it thus defeating the whole purpose of a self checkout.
 
2014-07-15 10:05:39 AM  
Pro tip, don't stop at the first check out lane you arrive at. Go to the middle ones.
If the checker tells you to go to either express or self check out, go there. I don't care if you don't want to move, just go
 
2014-07-15 10:06:58 AM  
I'm pretty sure you've all been in front of me in a supermarket line, and you're all idiots simply because you're in front of me.
 
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