Waiting in line is perhaps the most frustrating part of going to the grocery store.
Clark Howard admits that he can’t stand waiting in lines and looks forward to the day when automated systems are perfected to eliminate them altogether – more so than the existing self-checkout.
In the meantime, the New York Times says there are a few things we can do to reduce the wait!
1. Don’t let a full cart fool you
If there’s just one person in front of you but their cart is full, do you go looking for another line? You may be making a bad judgment call!
Getting behind one person with a full cart could be faster than an express lane with several people.
As the Times reported, items take about three seconds each to ring up, but it takes 41 seconds per person to say hello, pay and get out of the way.
2. Examine what they’re buying
An exception to what we just explained is when the person in front of you has a complicated order.
For example, let’s say the person ahead of you has several cases of bottled water. The cashier will find the bar code, scan it and move on fairly quickly.
But a cart full of different types of produce, which can’t be scanned, will take longer.
3. Monitor the cashier’s behavior
Don’t shoot the messenger, but a man who founded a company that will stand in line for you (yes, really) told the Times that he prefers female cashiers.
Of course, there are excellent male cashiers as well — so take that with a grain of salt.
Here are a few things to look for instead: Does the cashier look unhappy? Are they excessively chatting with the customer or a co-worker? Do they appear to be distracted?
These are all signs that you should choose another line!
4. Look to the left
When there’s a row of cash registers, do you ever notice that you end up going to the same few lines?
The founder of that line-sitting company told the Times that most people tend to veer to the right because they’re right-handed — so look to the left for shorter lines the next time you shop.
5. Serpentine lines
If you’ve ever been to Trader Joe’s, you’re familiar with a serpentine line, which is basically one long line that leads to multiple cash registers.
It has been shown in studies to be the fastest, but most grocery stores use multiple short lines.
While not everyone likes a serpentine line, the upside is that you never regret getting in the “wrong line” because there’s only one to begin with!