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Scientifically, You Are Likely In the Slowest Line 464

Posted by timothy
from the why-to-shop-online dept.
MojoKid writes "As you wait in the checkout line for the holidays, your observation is most likely correct. That other line is moving faster than yours. That's what Bill Hammack (the Engineer Guy), from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois — Urbana proves in this video. Ironically, the most efficient set-up is to have one line feed into several cashiers. This is because if any one line slows because of an issue, the entry queue continues to have customers reach check-out optimally. However, this is also perceived by customers as the least efficient, psychologically."
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Scientifically, You Are Likely In the Slowest Line

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  • Re:Fry's (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pspahn (1175617) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @07:40PM (#34656460)

    I'm sure the fact that they can have a more impressive impulse purchase rack also factors in. They can have a greater variety of items by not having the same small selection of stuff at each register.

    Microcenter also does this (at least here in Denver), though it's a much smaller store than any Fry's I've ever been to (even the old ones).

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @08:10PM (#34656708)

    between single-line multi-server queue and multiple queues.

    This occurs in fast food restaurants with the row of cashiers.

    This is because some people are "blind" to the fact that there is a single line
    situation in effect. These people can be divided into:
    1. The generally oblivious. Mindless automatons or cellphone talkers.
    2. The socially clueless. Somewhere on the autism spectrum, they don't
    understand that queuing is a complex social interaction with rules and etiquette.
    3. The obnoxious. Sees the situation but overtly butts in front to stand in front
    of one of the cashiers directly, thus forcing others to break rank and sneak in
    behind him, since the discipline is shot.
    4. The "will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes" devious, who
    form their own line like #3 but do it by carefully assessing the situation then actively
    pretending that they are in category 1.

    So it goes to multiple queues for a while, then some opportunist realizes they
    can line up ambiguously in between two cashiers to snag whichever comes open
    first, and we're back to single-line til a type 1 to 4 person arrives.

  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @09:18PM (#34657144) Homepage

    They're not going to stop you from coming in. I've shopped at Fry's and Best Buy on many occasions, and each time I've walked passed the door Nazis without saying a word. They didn't try to stop me (that would be illegal), nor did they ever take my photo, ID, or "blacklist" me from entering.

    The only exceptions are club stores like Costco where you sign a contract that says they'll revoke your membership if you don't let them check your receipts.

  • Re:Costco (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arth1 (260657) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:13PM (#34657644) Homepage Journal

    I prefer the scan-as-you-pick system, where we pick up a scanner when entering the store, then scan and bag our groceries as we go through the store, and when checking out, simply hand over the scanner and pay. The goods never go on a conveyor belt, and aren't handled by someone who alternates between touching money and food without washing their hands. And you know the total price before you go to the counter. But most of all, it's faster.

    Oh, and it's better for the environment too -- you bring your own bags in and out.

  • Re:Costco (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bbtom (581232) on Friday December 24, 2010 @12:01AM (#34657828) Homepage Journal

    Please, please, please, someone tell the people at US Passport Control about this. The prompter agent always seems to work to keep the small queues in front of each control agent as long as possible when they should be close to zero at all times.

    The US Post Office seems to understand the idea, for which I am grateful. Most banks understand this idea as well.

    Passport control is an interesting one. Perhaps it's because I'm a UK citizen and I'm biased, but UK passport control always seemed slightly better organised than US in terms of queuing. At LHR Terminal 3, they just have one massive queue for UK/EU passport holders and one massive queue for foreign passport holders, then have a cluster of agents at the end, all close together.

    In SFO and BOS, they have a queue for US and a queue for foreign, then they have fan-out queues for each agent. As you say, this is bad queuing theory.

    The strange thing is that even though the LHR queue is usually enormous, it seems to get processed extremely quickly. Perhaps it's just subjective and my brain is playing tricks on me (the combination of spending 6-10 hours in a tin box, followed by the feeling that "London! Home!" etc.), but it would be interesting to see how this works comparatively between UK and US.

    I wonder whether the bottlenecks that get built into airport (and international trains like Eurostar) terminals are deliberately built-in or planned around. I mean, there may be a bottleneck at passport control in order to make sure that people go through customs at a steady speed, or to provide an opportunity for CCTV operators to keep an eye on the queue to see if anyone is acting oddly.

    Or, as when I last flew to Boston, so some idiot can dance around, making a nuisance of himself and swear at the TSA/ICE guys, while the polite group of Brits stand in line with a mixture of embarrassment (at someone being a dick in public) and fear (that an armed TSA/ICE guy or cop is going to shoot the dude when he does something unpredictable: 'cos, you know, we've seen Westerns and cop shows).

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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