This Is How You Pick The Fastest Lane At The Supermarket

It sounds counter-intuitive, but get behind the person with a loaded cart.
Editable vector colorful illustration of people in checkout queues in a busy supermarket
Editable vector colorful illustration of people in checkout queues in a busy supermarket

Getting to the grocery store is hard enough on its own, without having to deal with insane waits at checkout. But when you’re loaded up with the food, the last thing you want to do is stand in a long line, especially when you see that you’ve picked wrong and the lane next to you is moving so much faster. After you’ve cursed the world for your bad luck, you might be wondering: how in the world did I get it so wrong?

You are not alone. If you’ve been steering clear of shoppers with loaded carts in order to position yourself behind a few people with just a couple of things to purchase, you may be doing yourself a disservice. Most folks make this same mistake ― what looks like the best choice isn’t, according to math.

Chrisopher Mele of the New York Times got to the bottom of the checkout lane conundrum with the help of mathematician Dan Meyer and reports that in fact, parking yourself behind one person with a loaded cart versus a couple of people with fewer items is the smarter ― and faster ― choice. The reason being that valuable seconds are taken up with the greetings that take place between shopper and cashier, up to 41 seconds in fact. And those seconds add up to valuable minutes of your life.

Mele offered a few other important tricks for the naive shopper:

1. Look for a female cashier. A NY-based service that waits in lines for people believes they’re simply more efficient.

2. Choose lanes with younger people. Older folks might be slower with payment fumbling with the debit card system and things.

3. Study what the person in front of you is buying (even if it means you look like a creep). If their cart is overloaded but they’re buying multiples of the same items, this will go faster than if everything is an individual item.

If you put all those tips together, you might just save yourself a few minutes. Or if nothing else, at least you’ll know that you’ve done everything you could to get out of the store as quickly as possible. Read the full article from the New York Times.