When you are in a crowded grocery store, how do you pick your checkout line? Do you count your items to see if you will qualify for the ‘express’ counter? Do you stand in the first line you can find 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 that is overflowing with things or if it looks full. However, the experts claim that standing in line with one full cart could prove to be faster than standing behind two carts which seem like they are 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 in an item. A customer also spends time talking to the cashier; time spent in 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 taken for things other than ringing items is 41 seconds on an average.
What this essentially means is that if you are in an express line with five other people and everyone together has ten items, and a person in another line has ten items in the same cart, then the cart with ten articles in it is going to be done shopping long before you are.
Every person in the line is going to 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 get one offer she is using may mean a lot lesser time to ring up the item too. 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.