What is the fastest check-out line?


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The fastest check-out lines are the ones at the store that makes sure that enough cash registers are staffed to keep their customers from waiting.

/one of the reasons I shop at my local co-op grocery


The line that I am not in, usually. I pick the shortest line, where the people have the fewest items, then get stuck with a glacially slow checker who has to stop everything to make a cash drop, and customers ahead of me who require price checks and need to dig for exact change, or write out a check which they do not even start on until everything has been rung up.


One potato… two potatoes…

I refuse to use the fastest line, which is the do-it-yourselfer. If everybody used that, the store could just lay off all the cashiers, and then we can do their work for free. I’m okay with spending an extra 30 seconds - my life isn’t so intensely structured that I’ll get fired or something.


Take ten seconds to walk down the aisles and eyeball what people are buying.

Your best bet isn’t the shortest line, it’s the one with the most people with the fewest things. A single person with a cart piled with stuff will take much longer than five people carrying baskets with a few items apiece.


And this is why I use the self-scanner at Stop N Shop and check out my own groceries, scan the barcode at the special express checkout lane, pay and get-the-fuck-outta-there.


I had noted that the local K-mart had probably 20 registers, but never had more than 2 open, no matter how many people were in line. I realized that you saved a few cents shopping there, but you would always pay with your time instead. I stopped shopping there.


You can do all the math and logic you want but it won’t help. You will get behind someone who has money problems, or the insane food stamps system, or a mis-priced item. I give up, pick a line and read boing-boing on the phone.


Apply zen theory to queuing theory, voila problem solved.


“What is eternity? You’re on the checkout line at a supermarket. There are seven people in front of you. They are all old. They all have two carts and coupons for every item. They are all paying by check. None of them have ID. It’s the checkout girl’s first day on the job. She doesn’t speak any English. Take away fifteen minutes from that, and you begin to get an idea of what eternity is.”

  • Emo Philips


I spent several years working the checkout at Kmart in high school. They only opened more than two registers during evenings and weekends. The rest of the time, they kept spare employees busy stocking shelves, getting carts, working the stockroom, etc, and would call them up to open extra registers if anyone complained. Most people suffered in silence, so the lines got crazy. The secret was to go to the always-staffed jewelry counter, sporting goods, or electronics depts and check out there.


Eyeball what people are buying and the experience of the cashier. If you’re really in a hurry and need to quickly profile, avoid lines with moms and old people.


I’ve found those to be some of the slowest.

The cashier, if worth their salt, is more adept than you or me at scanning, since thanks to long repetitive hours are better at locating barcodes etc & faster at correcting errors encountered, something you or I generally can’t do at all.

Some stores still have baggers, but mostly I bag, dividing the labour of scanning/bagging between 2 or more people is better than one person doing it all.

That technology needs many things to beat people. It needs:

RFID in every product,
a society where the bag need not be weighed as a loss prevention provision,
no cash, no checks, swipe or tap only,
a solution to 1 person scanning bagging paying vs 2 people doing it?

Until then it will only be better for people buying less than ten items, and many times not even then.

Until then those are for people who don’t like people/cashiers/baggers, or who want to be self-sufficient regardless of time or cost or some other trait generally belonging to sad single guy.

Also people need jobs, fuck those machines, I’m a good customer who gets angry when a stupid malfunctioning piece of crap won’t take my money, insists I put non existent items in the bag or, the worst, when it calls a human because I might be a thief…


I use the opposite theory. The cashier can scan lots of items faster than most people can pay. Other customers who count out small change or who don’t know how to use the debit/credit machine is what takes the most time.


Well, that’s me. But they’re also good for people who want to buy booze under age, since they time out and auto authorize, and around here there’s rarely an attendant (as opposed to CA, where you can’t even buy alcohol at the bloody things)

I would like to see the DIY lines restricted to a small amount of items, or manned lines where cheques and coupons aren’t allowed and the cashier guarantees they won’t try to talk to you, or respond to any conversation you try to start.

Edit: I thought that’s what the self checkout did with booze, but maybe I’m misremembering. I see they changed the law in WA to freeze until ID’d, so perhaps it just let them through before…


The fastest checkout line is stop shopping at the supermarket and feeding corporate America’s food machine. Grow your own food, grind your own meat, it’s easier than you think! …You’re welcome BoingBoing Bingo Players :wink:

ETA: I guess I needed a sarc tag here…which, coincidentally is probably another square on ya’lls bingo cards!


Oh don’t know, that still sounds like it takes longer than just ordering the food online and having it delivered to you weekly whenever you’re about to run low.


Probably the best solution carbon-wise too, except we’d have to keep all the existing stores for 3 generations while people got used to it.


I went to my local grocery on Sunday afternoon, two kids in tow and a full cart.

One checkout line. With three people with full carts.

Self serve literally got me through quicker than the one person who had already started checking out.

I have a terrible grocery store.


The fastest checkout line is the one that opens up while the cashier announces, “I can help someone here!” as you rush over there with no regard for the person already waiting in front of you, because common courtesy went out the window years ago and “I can help the next person in line” is a foreign concept. But screw everyone else - you’re out the door already!