Here's How To Beat The Queues At The Supermarket Checkout


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


There’s always a dilemma when it comes to which queue to take in the grocery store. Fortunately, there’s a few statistics, behavioral experiments, “expert opinion”, and a bit of common sense that can help you out. The New York Times recently posted some tips on how to pick the fastest line at the supermarket.

First of all, analyze your fellow queue-goers and their shopping cart contents. People who have a lot of one type of item are more likely to get scanned through the till quicker. You could also avoid people with lots of items that are irregular or need to be weighed, such as fruit and vegetables, as they take longer.  


A study by Whitman School of Management, Purdue University, and University of Washington’s Business School found that a “poor visibility of the queue length slows down the servers.” So, if the queue swerves around a corner, you might be in for a wait.

Although it may go against your gut-feeling, you should also get behind someone with a full cart. Dan Meyer, chief academic officer at mathematics education site Desmos, told the New York Times that each person takes up a fair amount of time being greeted, counting their change or swiping their cards, picking up their bags, etc. Overall he says these processes eat up an average of 41 seconds per person, while each item only takes 3 seconds to scan. So, in a sense, it’s not items that take up the time, it’s the people.

Finally, stick to your guns. Once you’re in a queue, stay strong and persevere.

(H/T: New York Times)


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  • behaviour,

  • psychology,

  • statistics,

  • supermarket,

  • queue