The Secret To Picking The Shortest Check Out Line

September 12, 2016


You've finished your shopping and you head to the front of the store and begin to survey the layout.  Which checkout line will it be?  Which one will move the fastest?  Add to the mix, you have only 8 items, do you take the 10 items of less line, even though there are more people?  The short answer may surprise you, find the line with the least number of people, regardless of how many items are purchasing. Time to use some of that algebra you never though you'd use!  According to a college professor, it takes about 41 seconds for every person in line to say hello, pay, say goodbye and clear the line.  Add to this 41 seconds about 3 seconds per item scanned and bagged.  So for one person with 100 items, it will take about 6 minutes for that person to be done. In a line with 4 people with 20 items, it will take about 7 minutes before it's your turn. Based on this formula, the most efficient check out system is to have one line. A professor of mathematics and statistics at Villanova University, said studies had typically shown that with three registers, each serving his or her own line of customers, the wait time was three times longer on average than a single line leading to an array of check out registers. So why haven't more stores adopted this "single line" process?  Well it’s because most merchants don't want a huge line of people full of carts winding around their store, like a serpent.      

SOURCE: New York Times

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