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3 Reasons You Always Chose the Slowest Line at the Grocery Store

Young couple standing at the checkout counter in a supermarket
Purestock, ThinkStock

I am always picking the slowest line at the grocery store. I can go to the shortest line, and it still takes the longest. I can move to what seems like the shorter line and whammy, I’m waiting for 15 minutes.

Why is that?

Apparently, there are some semi-scientific reasons for why you always get stuck in the slow line.

The folks at “Wired” took a look at this phenomenon and came up with three factors that make sure we always get screwed.

  1. Grocery stores monitor how many customers there are and open just enough lanes to keep up with traffic. So if there’s even the slightest hiccup with one of the lanes, like a price check or a coupon queen, then it creates a pile-up and throws everything off. Why not just hire more employees? It’s a business and they only want to pay for as many workers as they need to and it’s not always that busy.
  2. The odds are always against you. If there are four lanes open, you’ve only got a 25% chance of picking the quickest one. That means three out of four times you’ll guess wrong and see other people moving faster. It’s all in your head.
  3. Places like Best Buy and Barnes & Noble use a better system where everyone is in one line and the first person in line just goes to whichever cashier is open next. And mathematically that is a faster way to get people out. But studies have found that people really don’t like this system. We like feeling that we’re in control and picking our own lane gives us that feeling.

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