What’s In A Name? Express Checkout Lanes Are Actually (Gasp!) A Waste Of Time

Express! That means fast, right? If you make a beeline for the express checkout lane at the grocery store any time you only have a few items, you might want to reconsider. Apparently there are other issues with the express line that can make the whole experience take almost as long as a regular lane, or in some cases, your wait could be even greater.

Lifehacker turned to a math teacher who’s done some calculations regarding the matter of express checkout lanes, and he’s come up with interesting results. In a hypothetical scenario, you’re in the express line with five people in front of you, each with 10 items apiece for a total of 50 items. The regular line might have five people as well but each with 20 items to purchase.

According to the aforementioned math teacher, it takes 2.8 seconds to scan an item and every person in line adds 48 seconds to the total time. Even with equal lines, the express checkout will take 4:28 and the normal will be 4:56. That’s not much of a difference, right?

The real problem with express checkout is a simple one — you. And me, and that guy over there with the questionable hairstyle as well. Express lines are meant to shove as many people through as possible during the day, which means there are more potential snafus waiting to pop up and stop that line in its speedy little tracks.

To wit — more people means the receipt paper could run out faster and need to be changed, stopping the line. More credit cards could get declined, more price checks could be needed, more reward card sign-ups could have you shaking your head and grumbling under your breath. Those things add up and have the potential to produce line-stoppers.

You can attempt to solve your problems by getting in line behind only a few people with big baskets, instead of longer lines with more people and less items to get checked out. Men will also apparently give up on a long line faster than women (ah, patience!), so if you get in line behind a bunch of men instead of women, maybe by the time it’s almost your turn some of them will have abandoned hope of ever buying that pasta sauce.

Another option? Take a few deep breaths and count back from 20 while you wait or heck, play some Angry Birds on your phone. Because as with all hellish experiences, this line too, shall pass.

Why Express Checkout Lanes Are a Waste of Time [Lifehacker]