Groceries Stores Turning To Single Checkout Lines

Rich, poor, Slimfast or Milky Way, one thing grocery store customers can usually agree on is that they hate waiting in line. Retailers have sought out a number of solutions over the years – from self-checkout terminals to entertaining distractions and ambient fragrances – but, according to the Wall Street Journal, the latest trend is single-line queues.

Banks and airports already use single lines, but, increasingly, grocery stores are turning to them too. While the lines don’t significantly improve wait times, they decrease annoyance by removing the “injustice” factor. Customers will no longer have to witness shoppers in other lines checking out faster. Trader Joes and Whole Foods in New York City have been doing this for a while now and it seems to work well.

We shan’t neglect the Publix factor, however:

Most supermarket operators are like the southern company Publix Super Markets Inc., which maintains a separate line for each register. “Many will wait in a different line just to be served by their preferred cashier,” says a Publix spokeswoman. At one of the stores in the Sacramento study, shoppers were more satisfied with slower cashiers, suggesting that they enjoyed the interactions.

So much for a one-size-fits-all solution.

I’m grateful to Wall Street Journal columnist Carl Bialik, however, for introducing me to the word “faffing,” defined as the “wasted time when one consumer gathers his or her belongings after completing checkout.” Apparently, the average faffing time is 3.17 seconds, which means that this writer is an exceedingly slow faffer.

Justice — Wait for It — on the Checkout Line [Wall Street Journal]

(Photo: J. Reed)