Whole Foods Adopts Bank-Style Checkout Lines

Whole Foods in Manhattan has made checkout line races a thing of the past by adopting newfangled bank-style checkout lanes. The new system queues shoppers in a single line, directing them to checkout counters as cashiers become available.

The single-line, bank-style system was quickly chosen for its statistical efficiency. Then, Whole Foods paired the system with possibly the largest number of registers in the city, more than 30 per store, and it hired an army of cashiers to staff them throughout the day (including “floaters” to fill in for those who need a break).

The result is one of the fastest grocery store lines in the city. An admittedly unscientific survey by this reporter found that at peak shopping times — Sunday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. — a line at Whole Foods checked out a person every 4.5 seconds, compared with 19.6 seconds for a line at Trader Joe’s.

Even without extra cashiers, the new system ensures that shoppers will never get stuck behind coin-fishers and coupon-cutters. Some grocers are already experiencing checkout-line envy, making us hopeful that the snazzy new lines will soon appear in rival stores. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

A Long Line for a Shorter Wait at the Supermarket [NYT]
(Photo: hyku)