How do you pick your checkout line when you are in a crowded grocery store? Do you count your items to see if you qualify for the ‘express’ counter? Do you stand in the first line or carefully observe the contents on the carts waiting to see which line will most likely take more time?
According to experts, most shoppers prefer to stay away from a line if it has a cart overflowing with things or looks full. However, the experts claim that standing in line with one full cart could prove faster than standing behind two carts that seem almost empty. How does that even make sense? The answer is math. A math expert studied store checkout lines in his neighbourhood to come to the logical but surprising conclusion. On average, a cashier takes about 3 seconds to ring an item. A customer also spends time talking to the cashier, time spent providing the card (or cash), punching in other details and waiting for the printed receipt. Finally, the customer then gathers the shopping bags and leaves. The total time for things other than ringing items is 41 seconds on average.
This essentially means that if you are in an express line with five other people and everyone together has ten items. A person in another line has ten items in the same cart, then the cart with ten articles in it will be done shopping long before you are.
Every person in the line will take the time to exchange pleasantries with the cashier, probably make small talk, take the time to open their purse and bring out the card, etc. There are endless possibilities to spend time while at the till. In the meantime, the person with the bigger and fuller cart is on their way home.
So next time you head out to buy groceries, go right ahead and stand behind the guy who has his cart piled up high with fruit and protein supplements or the woman whose cart seems to be brimming with more packets of pasta than what would be required to feed a small army. Who knows, maybe the buy one gets one offer she is using may mean a lot less time to ring up the item. But stand behind the four people in the express lane, and the one guy who has only a six-pack of beer could end up taking more time than our pasta laden cart.