What Is The Most Efficient Checkout Line?

This quick video shows how the research by a 19th century German telephone engineer gave us the best checkout line system. As popularized by banks and Whole Foods, that’s the one where one line feeds all the checkout counters instead of people queuing for individual registers. It also goes into why the other lane always seems to be moving faster. It’s not just your perception; in a strange paradox, it is just mathematically more likely that the line you are in is more likely to be moving slower than the others.

(Thanks to Jared!)

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  1. cvt2010 says:

    Military commissaries (grocery stores, for you civilian folks) have always done this in my experience. It always seemed to make so much more sense than individual lines for individual cashiers.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      I was at an air show at one of the bases in the LA area (or SD? I forget, it was a while back) and I popped into a commissary just to see what it was like.

      I liked what I saw.

    • phillip says:

      I haven’t been to any of these in quite some time, but the commissaries at Kadena AFB, Yokota AFB, and NAS Fort Worth did not have a combined queue – just the regular lines at each register.

    • Willow16 says:

      Oceana in Virginia does it this way but Picatinny Arsenal in NJ doesn’t. I think it might depend on the size of the commissary. Oceana is huge (although I’ve heard it’s not as big as the one in Norfolk) while Picatinny is tiny.

  2. eturowski says:

    Also, if your line really is moving more slowly than those around it, you’re probably more likely to gaze around wistfully at the other lines and wonder why yours is taking so long… as opposed to being next in line and unloading your stuff onto the belt.

  3. evilpete says:

    I thought this was common knowledge

  4. LeonardoLeonardo says:

    I really wish they’d implement this for self-checkout, or maybe have two lines: one for those who know how to use it, and one for those who don’t.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      same for ATMs – one for simple transactions, and one for those attempting hostile takeovers of their financial institution.

      A trap door on the floor that opens to the fiery depths of hell at the express lane checkout for those with 21 items, or those who write checks wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        Ha! I always joke that the guy in front of me is transferring funds to his Swiss Bank Account. A lot of banks are now putting in 2 ATMs (in the bigger urban areas), one for cash withdrawal only, one for everything. The new Intelligent Deposit ATMs that let you make envelope-free deposits can be slow. I hate getting in line behind someone depositing 20 checks when I just want to grab cash and go.

      • Murph1908 says:

        One of these days, I am going to step right in front of someone waiting in the 12 items or fewer line with 20 items in their cart.

        When they protest my cutting , I envision the conversation going like this:

        Them: Um, you just cut in front of me.
        Me: You are in this line? I didn’t think that was the case, since you have more than 12 items.
        Them: It’s not that many more.
        Me: Oh, ok. Well, one person cutting in line in front of you isn’t that many.
        Them: You can’t just cut in line!
        Me: So, the rules of etiquette apply to me, but not to yourself then?

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        How about the people that don’t even get out their wallets until the groceries are all rung up and bagged, as though they’re shocked they have to pay? Or the people (usually the same ones) that can’t leave the checkout until they’ve arranged all of their cash in descending order facing the same way, put their coins in a tiny coin pouch, put their wallet away, located their keys, put on their hats and gloves and buttoned up their coat?

        • redskull says:

          You just eloquently and succinctly summed up two of my top pet peeves about the public.

        • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

          … Or, having been rung up, talk to the cashier about (crap) – completely oblivious to anyone else in the world, including the cashier, who just wants her to STF up and pay and let the other 5 people in line go through… After 3 minutes, THEN she pulls out her checkbook, asks for a pen, and proceeds to write the check, and s-l-o-w-l-y document the entire transaction in excruciating detail on her check register.

      • cvt2010 says:

        But sometimes at my grocery store, the only non-self-checkout line open is an express line… And there are some situations where it’s a huge pain in the butt to do the self checkout.

    • RandomHookup says:

      It doesn’t matter if you are a self-checkout ninja, you may still get hit with bizarre reaction (and a robotic voice lecture) from those machines.

    • psm321 says:

      The vast majority of self-checkout lines at grocery stores around here (MI) work this way… 1 line to 4 stations (2 on each side)

      • malraux says:

        Yeah, that’s the logical way to do things. Here in Arkansas the plan is instead to have a line for each unit. Which is mindblowingly stupid because then the people waiting in line get in the way of people trying to move out. Moreover, to try to enforce the multiple lines, the management has filled the center space with giant displays to separate the two sides. There’s not enough room for a cart to pass another person. And these aren’t the fast checkout sections, but the ones for full checkout. It drives me crazy enough to stop shopping at the Krogers that do this.

    • mythago says:

      You saw how well that “segregate by competence/ability” thing worked out at airports.

  5. Goldensummer says:

    I love combined queues. The grocery store nearest to my house does this and it works amazingly well.

  6. dulcinea47 says:

    I wonder if they took into account that the person at the front of the combined queue ceases to pay attention to when the next cashier is free, and stands there like a lump while the clerk hollers at them. B/c that’s what happens at the post office.

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      Yeah I witness that at Dunkin every morning. Though to be fair the workers there have a tendency to yell next look away or leave their register to tend to the coffee so you can’t tell which register you’re supposed to go to.

    • nbs2 says:

      Does your post office double as the ticket line at Union Station in DC? I really we would move to the prepaid card system instead of paper vouchers (I don’t know how those cards work, but they only work at transit machines and have no fees – I loved them at my previous employer).

    • Cameraman says:

      My place has one or two employees standing at the head of the line directing customers to the next free cashier.

    • BassLady says:

      That’s when the store should assign a “line captain”. An employee standing at the front of the line watching the registers and saying, “next to register 3, please!”. I’ve only seen this done on military bases, but it really helps overstimulated shoppers(like me!), and keeps everything moving.

    • FerretGirl says:

      Or the time that someone with a wonky cart, broken cart or overloaded cart will take getting stuck in the switchback parts of the line, holding everyone behind up.

  7. ARP says:

    I think they don’t use this method for a few reasons.

    1) Stores aren’t always laid out well to handle this approach. it would require money to reformat store layouts.
    2) More time in line= more likely to buy the POS items.
    3) The false impression that you’re moving faster by being in a single line.

    • Tim says:

      Not necessarily. If you have space for multiple lines, you can just buy some rope line (shouldn’t be too expensive) an reconfigure the space to be one long line that kind of wraps around … like in the video.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Best Buy has the combined queue and you snake around an area lined with impuse buys so it’s not like they can’t still purchase those items.

      • Hi_Hello says:

        same with mircocenter. the snake line tend to have more items to pick from than the multiline line. Longer line, more selection.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    This system spreads out any delay experienced and burdons it evenly towards every patron. As I see it, that’s socialist queuing and has no place in America!!
    /sarc

    In reality, this is extremely logical and fair – and exactly why no one will ever implement it.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      I can hear Rush now: “That’s why those libs at Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble LOVE socialism. They get their organic homeopathic rubber banana rock and roll good time toys faster.”

    • Cameraman says:

      The place I work at already does this. Not only that, we have one line for people paying with credit cards and one line for people paying in cash (we sell relatively large-ticket items, and have lots of foreign customers paying cash).

      We have yet another line for customers picking up prepaid orders, because we require ID for that, and that will slow down the entire process.

    • valthun says:

      Hmm, let me see. Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, Barnes and Noble, Borders Books, just about every store in a mall, Amoeba Records, Military Commisaries.

      Nope no one in America has adopted this way of using lines for retail.

      • valthun says:

        Just remembered, every bank I have ever been to in America uses this system.

        yep, its never going to happen in America

  9. MuffinSangria says:

    All stores should do the single line.

  10. Velifer says:

    Um, with a one in three chance at being the fastest, a two in three chance of not being fastest isn’t a paradox, it’s algebra.

    p + (1-p) = 1

  11. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    The fastest line is the one in which you are a celebrity, and the manager personally escorts you to the front.

  12. bubbledumpster says:

    why doesn’t his wife want him to make videos?

  13. slim150 says:

    if you did it that way you would have old people gasp in horror “oh look at that line, we’ll never get out of here”

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      You’d never know they were in a rush to get anywhere by the speed at which they drive. ;)

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I love the people who keep creeping forward at a red light, until they are pretty much IN the intersection. When the light turns green, where are they? Still creeping along.

        • slim150 says:

          my mom does that.. like shes trying to trip the weight sensor or something to let them know shes there, but shes already in the crosswalk

          • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

            My mom used to do that, too. I gave her a hard time for blocking the crosswalk, and that’s how I found out that she had no idea that there was such a thing as traffic sensors. I told her that I see people sitting in turn lanes every day who don’t get a turn signal at all because they pulled all the way past the stop line, and in a lot of places in our area, the turn signals only give a green arrow if there’s someone tripping the turn-lane sensor.

    • ginnel says:

      I’m confused. Are old people always in a hurry to get somewhere so they would be upset by a line? Or are they always too slow and holding up the line? I’ve heard both comments . Or maybe old people are just like young people – individuals?

  14. nybiker says:

    I wish BJ’s would do this. I just don’t know how they would re-format the queues. Paint the lines on the ground might make sense instead of putting up cones or ropes. Of course, part of the joy of shopping is the mental exercise one gets in figuring out which line is at least operating efficiently at the moment regardless of where one shops. Ok, there is no joy when shopping at food stores.

  15. jaydez860 says:

    I usually just base my decision on which line I join by which cashier is the hottest. They usually move the slowest, but it’s okay. I get more time to enjoy the view.

  16. sjgarg says:

    I don’t like those odds.

    Yesterday we ended up making 2 trips to costco.
    First trip, our lineup was sloooooww. 2 customers far ahead of us had “delays” (arguing over something with cashier)
    A woman who’s child dropped its bottle and we picked it up for her and she entered the lineup next to us at the same time was long gone while we were still in line.

    Second trip, our lineup was sloooowww. Again, people ahead of us had “delays”, this time they were figuring out how to afford a 60″ TV and which credit cards had which balance to pay for the thing…

    I guess we just have bad luck hitting all the slower permutations.

    • squirrel says:

      Sorry, I was going to Costco yesterday and forgot to tell them I wasn’t coming. We always joke that I can pick any line, no matter how short, and by the time I finally get to the register, all the other lines are empty – including those that had people queue up after I did.

      The sad part of it is that it’s a provable theorem. The corollary is for when the line is for something unpleasant. Then it’s the fastest.

    • mblitch says:

      Gotta call mini-BS there on part of your story. I’m sure you were embellishing just to provide entertainment or commentary considering fiscal irresponsibility, but Costco doesn’t accept credit cards, only AMEX which is a charge card, so I doubt anyone was arguing over what cards to use.

      • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

        American Express offers plenty of credit cards these days, and they have for at least 10, possibly 20 years. In fact, the Costco branded American Express card is a credit card.

  17. Garbanzo says:

    “It is just mathematically more likely that the line you are in is more likely to be moving slower than the others” is an incorrect summary of the argument. The argument is, “it is mathematically more likely that the line you are in is moving more slowly than at least one other.”

    You have the same chance of being in the fastest line as being in the slowest line. However, if there are more than 2 lines then you have a greater chance of being in the not-fastest line than of being in the fastest line.

    • Buckus says:

      Then, by math, you also have the same probability of being in the not-slowest line, either :)

      This is the Internet! No place for logic and reason (and math) here. Move along and blame the OP or something!

      /sarcasm

  18. duxup says:

    The other thing I like about the single line feeding all the cashiers is that it just feels good to keep moving forward.

  19. milrtime83 says:

    It just seems faster because it is more fair to everyone and you never get stuck behind someone who has a delay. Total combined time for all customers throughout the day might actually be slower with a combined line simply because of the extra time it takes to walk from the line to a cashier that has become open.

  20. Alan_Schezar says:

    The guy is wrong.

    A combined queue does not work for “all stores”. 4 quick reasons why:

    - Try making that hairpin turn in that ‘combined queue’ graphic with a shopping cart. You’ll have to make about three 3-point turns.

    - Try exiting that queue with a shopping cart because you forgot to buy something and have to leave to go get it. You’re trapped.

    - When you’re waiting in a single line you have the opportunity to read magazines for free. You can’t do so in a single queue.

    - When you’re 2nd in line in a single-line format, you can put your groceries on the conveyor belt while the guy ahead of you is checking out. In a ‘combined queue’ you have to wait to you arrive at the register to load.

    • valthun says:

      1. Your assuming that a store wouldn’t build the queue with grocery cart turning radius in mind
      2. If you aren’t shopping alone you can always send someone back for the item, and again if the line is built for a cart, it should be able to handle getting out of line
      3. You obviously haven’t been in stores that are setup this way and have a lot more to look at, even magazines that you can spend even more time reading.
      4. If setup right for cart shopping it doesn’t really matter that you have to wait to put your items on the belt to be scanned, there isn’t anyone in front of you and the items scan as quickly as you can put them up

    • Alan_Schezar says:

      Again, wrong.

      You obviously haven’t been in stores that have old people who take forever to load their groceries on the conveyor belt.

      A line built to handle a grocery cart’s turning radius means that it has a barrier/rail. You can’t exit a line with a barrier with a grocery cart. If you’re shopping alone, you can’t exit the line to get something you forgot to buy.

      If you have a line without a barrier, people will go directly to an open cashier, not realizing that there is a line.

      Movie theatre combined queues work because customers do not have carts.

      • valthun says:

        Well I guess military commissaries that have been doing it for decades must be doing something wrong. Since they have it setup for carts to get through a single line to multiple registers.

      • RandomHookup says:

        There are barriers that allow you to exit without a mess — just like some of the ones at the movies. You unhook the rope and exit. Not always graceful, mind you, but you aren’t permanently trapped in the maze.

  21. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I love self checkouts (scam it yourself) that have a single line.

    I wish movie theater concessions had a single cattle line. I always get the slowest cashier and none of them hussle.

    • valthun says:

      There is a theater in San Fransisco that does it, its awesome, you go down this path to pick out your concessions then you get to the end and there are two registers to pay. All the cashier does is ring up what you have in your hands. There are other employees to assist with the popcorn, but everything else can be grabbed.by the customer.

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      > scam it yourself

      That would be the Cash4Gold self-checkout line …

  22. sonneillon says:

    The most efficient line. The one that I’m not in.

  23. TBGBoodler says:

    I always head for the line with the most men in it. Not to sound sexist (I’m a woman), but there’s much less chitchat and men usually have their wallet at the ready. I’m amazed at how many women still wait until the transaction is completed to fish around their purse, pull out their wallet and thumb through their money or credit cards.

    And when folks used to routinely pay by check? Those same women would fill in their check register before even handing the check over to the cashier.

    Yeah… get in the line with the most men. You’ll fly through.

    • katarzyna says:

      I try to eye up individual customers and checkout clerks. Is the customer on a cell phone, or placing the goods on the counter in an efficient manner? Is the clerk chatting with a friend, or concentrating on the job? That doesn’t rule out unforeseen delays, but it helps.

      • cash_da_pibble says:

        I check the contents of the baskets of the customers in line to gauge where to go.
        Yeah, kinda nosy, but it gets me in and out of the store fast.
        No buy-by-weight items, or clothing.

        I also remember fast checkers-
        there’s a new kid at the store that’s really fast,
        and the one that sounds like Joan Cusack is nice, but really slow.

  24. Garbanzo says:

    A friend from China complained about her lack of success at stereotyping the cashiers to predict who would check her out faster. I told her it was more important to stereotype the customers waiting in the line. You’d rather get behind the person standing there with their basket unloaded and with credit card or cash already in hand than behind the person who is glacially unloading a packed cart in between chatting with a friend and reprimanding whining toddlers.

    I wonder if in China there are huge differences in speed between cashiers. In America it seems to me that the vast majority of cashiers are fairly efficient, with customer confusion and spaciness causing most delays.

  25. Hi_Hello says:

    When I walk into a bank and saw the line is too long, I go straight to the forms counter, do what I need to do and go to the atm or the drop off box.

    When I walk by a fast food place where the line is too long, I go somewhere else.

    When I”m in a store that has a snake line, and I see the line is long, I browse at other stuff until the line get shorter before I get in line.

    • eccsame says:

      So instead of waiting in line you wait outside of the line until the line gets shorter so you won’t have to wait in line?

      makes sense.

      • Hi_Hello says:

        I like walking around the stores than standing on line. I’m not in a rush but don’t feel like standing around., maybe I have ADD.

  26. bruce9432 says:

    Fry’s Electronics, nuff said

  27. I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

    1) I swear Wal-Mart Puts the slowest employees in the 20 items or “less” lane. Also, employees who can’t count.
    2) That delay always happens in front of me when I have one or two items and I expect to be out in a jiffy.

    • Battlehork says:

      If I must go to Walmart, and I’m buying just a few things, I try to check out in Hardware/Automotive or Electronics.

    • cybrczch says:

      Last year, when I went last minute holiday shopping at the nearest Wal-Mart to me, I ended up in the line with the cashier who, noticing I was buy Christmas gifts, decided I was the person to tell how she wished she had never had her children, what an ungrateful waste of oxygen they were, etc. etc., while taking her sweet time to scan each item and drop it into a bag (literally hold it over the bag and drop). I just nodded and memorized her face with a promise to myself to never check out in her line again.

  28. TooManyHobbies says:

    The self-scan lanes around here (Michigan) generally form proper queues, because they’re all open rather than being made into individual lanes. Sometimes you’ll get there and there will be individual lines, but if a few people work at it by standing in the middle, soon everyone will be queueing. I think a majority of people would rather queue but the architecture of the stores generally doesn’t support it.

    Some fast food places like Wendys and Taco Bell are set up for one queue to multiple registers.

  29. Daggertrout says:

    I was at Walmart the other day, there were 3 express lines open. When I got up there, I only saw two cashiers, both of them standing at the same register. The guy running the lane I was in waved the lady in front of me away like he was closed while this other cashier came over and started helping him with something when I was in her line. So then I guess he opened back up, then the lady cashier and the guy cashier switched registers, and the guy then took 10 minutes ringing up the 3 people in front of my while the lady cashier had like 10 people through in the same time.

    • Buckus says:

      True story: I was at Walmart trying to buy something before my shift started (back when I did shift work.) Anyway, I’m behind a guy, he’s just finishing up, about to leave, when he realizes the light bulb on the conveyer belt is his and he needs to buy it. Simple enough, right? The cashier tries to void the entire previous purchase (or something) which manages to confuse the register until it literally just shuts down. Ten minutes later the register still isn’t on and there is a manager or someone over there trying to fix it. I go to a different register and check out.

      Long story short: why didn’t the cashier just ring up the light bulb as a new purchase?

      “Express” my rear-end.

  30. Caveat Emptor! says:

    When I left the Navy, I swore to avoid lines. In the military we say, “hurry up and wait.”

    I make a choice about every line in which I am willing to wait. It doesn’t bug me if it takes a while but all the employees are gainfully employed moving the line along. What bugs me is when there are additional cash registers not being used and employees are stocking shelves.

    Think of all the costs a business is burdened with just to get you in the store. And miracle of miracles, here I am, product in hand, ready to go, and you (the business) can’t manage to take my money in an efficient way. Screw you. I’ll buy it elsewhere.

  31. Black Bellamy says:

    I don’t wait in lines any more. I just stand by the door and ask people for their receipt. If someone doesn’t have one I push them down to the ground while yelling THIEF THIEF and then I escort their groceries to my car….errr…a secure location.

  32. Extractor says:

    Didnt have that problem at Walmart at 3am in my hooveround (very temporary).

  33. nocar says:

    Easier just to put the pickle in your pocket.

  34. RogalDorn says:

    WOPR: The only way to win is not to play.
    WOPR: How about a nice game of chess?

  35. Outrun1986 says:

    The problem with the single queue here is that no one gets it, and no one moves forward, TJ Maxx and Marshalls have gone to a single Queue and it doesn’t work too well unless the employees yell for the next customer since no one gets it. People don’t hear the recorded message that tells them to come forward either because they are on their phones and can’t hear it until the cashier yells.

    Lets not talk about the self scanners, they don’t work, and you have to wait LONGER for the one attendant to get to you because there are 5 others who’s registers “need attention” and the register can’t go any further until the attendant helps you. It doesn’t work if the self scanners are constantly beeping for attention from the attendant. People also don’t know how to use them. Perhaps that is why there is only one store in the whole area that has self checkouts, the other stores that had them tore them out long ago.

  36. Bargaineering.com says:

    Many grocery stores in Europe do this too.

  37. eccsame says:

    Leave it to the Germans to figure out the fastest way to move people through a line.

  38. Shmoodog says:

    Wow, that makes my brain feel good. Finally I understand why I always seem to pick the wrong line. And another reason why Trader Joe’s is ahead of the pack.

  39. SG-Cleve says:

    The problem with the single line is that it looks longer than six individual lines. I was at Kohls today and the single line went down the main walkway, around the corner, and halfway to the back of the store.

    Wait time is still the same, but a separate line at each register SEEMS so much shorter.

  40. El Sabor Asiatico says:

    I just want to say thank God for smartphones. Now I just get in whatever line and whip out the ol’ iPhone, and be adequately entertained during the wait without having to resort to reading People magazine (or, God forbid, InStyle).

  41. PsiCop says:

    Since when is 1909 (i.e. the year of Erlang’s study) part of the “19th century”?

  42. Razor512 says:

    this method can work for a small number of registers but if there is a large number, eg at walmart of costco, then it will be very inefficient and you will end up with situations where the line goes to the back of the store or almost around the store.

    Theres also the other problem of people who spot a friend and allow them to cut in front of them. You also end up with lots of idiots who waste time by telling the workers their life story or some other crap.

    I bet if you could hear what those people who have conversations with the workers are saying, it would probably go like this

    **customer places items to be scanned, and while placing items, starts talking to the worker**
    Customer: hey, I bet I could recall pi to 1 million decimal places (I really only know the first 15 but after that I can just say a little under 1 million random numbers and you wont notice)

    Worker: it’s been 2 hours already, and you are not even half way through, how about..
    (customer cuts the worker off)
    Customer: oh i have a coupon for that bottle, can you bring the register out of standby and add this coupon in (I also held it in my hand for a while so the barcode is damaged so you will have to manually key in the barcode)
    Worker: on this will take a while, if you want you can continue recalling the pi numbers
    Customer: Oh crap I forgot my place, I will start all over.

  43. Emilliy says:

    The store I work for does a single line that works well. However we do get complaints on occasion about the system. My favorite being that it makes our customers “like cattle” and that we really shouldn’t treat them in that way.

  44. FrankReality says:

    There are a lot of places where I’ve seen this concept, from my local doctor’s office, to the DMV, to the customer service desk at the local Target, to my bank.

    I haven’t seen it in any large stores such as a grocery store or big box store, although I really try to stay away from those places.

    For grocery stores, I think there may be several reasons, but these are just a guess:

    - if there was a single line, the line could get so long that it would cause traffic problems at the front of the store and prevent people from easily going from aisle to aisle.

    - multiple lines enable more and longer customer exposure to high-profit impulse buy items found near the registers.

    - it may require more store staff to police a single line, while multiple lines are short enough that the cashiers can do it.

    Other tips to speed up the process-

    Some have mentioned they try to identify the fastest checkers – that may work if you have time to actually watch them work, but doing it by stereotype isn’t terribly reliable from my experience.

    A variant of this is to take a quick look at the carts in the lines, how full they are and how many of the items are small vs. large.

    Another variant is to take a look at the people in line – for example, people with large coupon books or a stack of coupons or food stamps. Whether they have kids and their level of distraction. Age of the people in line. Whether they have their credit/debit cards out or a checkbook out.

    For whatever reason, I always seem to end up in line behind someone that has an item or two that doesn’t ring up and has to be price checked. I usually check everything to make sure it has a barcode. If a barcode is missing, I’ll find another item like it that has one.

    When I empty the cart onto the conveyor belt, I place the items in the position that makes them easiest for the checker to scan them. I also order things on the belt such that the bagger gets things in the order of bottom of the bag first and top of the bags last, and cold stuff together to make the sorting and bagging go faster.

    I also don’t self-check a medium or large loads of stuff unless I have to – there is no way I can do it faster/better than an experienced checker and bagger.

  45. ap0 says:

    Whole Foods doesn’t have that line system here. Fry’s does. I don’t really like it, though. Sometimes I like to pick the specific cashier so I can talk to the cute check-out girl.

  46. coren says:

    I was picking something up I ordered online at Lowes over the weekend, and when I got to the CS desk, there were two people being helped, one at each register. One CS agent (left) kept leaving the desk, but my gut told me that the other lady (right) was going to be taking way longer (gut was right!). Hedged my bets, stood in the middle and tried to form a snake line. Then someone breezes right up to the left lane before I can go over, wasn’t in line. Then a line starts forming behind him, going the opposite direction. And you can’t say anything without looking like a jerk (and I shouldn’t care what random people at Lowes think, but whatever).

    The lady on the right, btw, was still there when I finally left, 20 minutes later, after having done some other shopping and picked up my item. Don’t even ask me what she was doing, but it involved her explaining she worked for the DOD, at least three membership accounts, two credit cards and a ten minute call to her husband. Go with your gut.

  47. houstonspace says:

    Danish, not German.

  48. Carlee says:

    They do this at Kohl’s. I like it. If it’s super busy (like on Black Friday), they’ll have an employee standing at the front of the line, directing people to the next available cashier.

    My parents are always looking for the shortest lane and they’ll usually split up and each stand in a lane until either of them reach the conveyor belt. I’ve tried to get them to stop doing this but they’re kind of stuck in their ways… a single line would prevent them from having to do this.

    For self-checkouts, many of the stores I’ve been to do have only one lane, but it’s usually not very clear whether it’s one lane or individual lanes. I wish it were clearer to avoid confusion amongst people.

  49. gman863 says:

    Sam’s Club has a good system for when things get busy. If you are in line, a CSM will come up to your cart, ask for your card and use a Wi-Fi scanner to add up your purchase. When you get to the cashier and he/she scans your membership card, the “prepended” transaction pops up and you pay (presumably, the receipt checker at the exit keeps people honest by counting the # of items against what’s printed on the receipt).

    I also have to give credit to the USPS this Holiday season. When busy, they had a clerk walking the line of customers to be sure they had the proper forms filled out (such as Customs) and take any packages already paid using Click N’ Ship or eBay.

    • coren says:

      Our USPS had someone who was just doing pickups (I needed to get a letter postmarked and needed to be sure for a rebate). She also took prepaid dropoffs, as their box was full (which I was told no less than three times by a lady who would storm in, yell it, then go wait for someone to empty said box, rather than make sure someone was able to assist her, or find out they were dealing with that inside).

      This lady was standing there with an empty line, and my need was in line with everyone else she was serving (less than 20 seconds of her time). I know i’m not a special snowflake, but when employees aren’t doing ANYTHING they shouldn’t chew you out for asking about it..

  50. eam_ycul says:

    The couple commissaries I go to have these and I love it! Makes it so much easier. Military commissaries FTW!

  51. stevied says:

    My bank has the combined que.

    I love it when the branch manager spots me standing in a long line and pulls me out ahead of all the other people.

    Makes me feel like Madonna.

  52. zegron says:

    Khols and JcPenny, & Best Buy stores that I’ve been to do this. I’ve never waited a really long time like in some other stores.

  53. proscriptus says:

    My local Hannaford supermarket built in a single-line checkout system in their recent refurbishment. Not only that, but the head of the queue has an employee acting as a king of concierge. “Register three is moving fast…the 15-or-less lane is empty, you can take your cart there.” Pretty cool.