Why Does The Express Lane Sometimes Suck?

Have you ever gone to the checkout lane at the store and wondered whether it was worthwhile to get in line behind the one lady with the full cart and the screaming kids, or join the longer “10 items or less” express line?

And without fail, you will always choose the wrong line.

It ends up that the grocery stores have checkout times down to a science, and it took a high school math teacher to figure out which lane is going to be the best choice.

He posed a simple question to his math students: IS THE EXPRESS LANE WITH 5 PEOPLE FASTER THAN A REGULAR LANE WITH ONE PERSON?

Not only is the answer “no”, he has the stats that will tell you exactly why one checkout lane is slower than others.

  • Want speed?  Pay by cash.  Credit may seem easier, but it can take longer than counting out change.
  • For every person standing in line, add 48 seconds regardless of the number of items being scanned
  • Speaking of scanning items, a good cashier will run each item through the scanner in less than 3 seconds per item.  How many people have you been stuck behind at the self-checkout who just didn’t know where the barcode was on their chicken pot pie, or couldn’t find the produce number on their apple?

In other words, for every person ahead of you in line at the checkout, the cashier at the other register will have scanned another 17 items through.

Keep these points in mind the next time you’re looking at trying to get out of the store quickly and need to choose a checkout lane.