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Math Businesses Science

Scientifically, You Are Likely In the Slowest Line 464

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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  • by BLToday ( 1777712 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @08:24PM (#34656302)

    I thought we've verify the efficiency of single line queue for many years.

  • by Random BedHead Ed ( 602081 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @08:27PM (#34656338) Homepage Journal
    This is the norm in Britain. And it works. But trying to get people to do this in the States is like pulling teeth.
  • by Galestar ( 1473827 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @08:36PM (#34656416) Homepage
    Watching the video, the conclusion that the video makes is "...You are likely not in the fastest line".
    That does not necessarily mean that the reverse (the title) is true -- and yet they somehow jump to that conclusion with the title "...You are likely in the slowest Line."

    Can we get some people who actually understand this magical thing called "logic" to start editing Slashdot?
  • Re:Costco (Score:5, Informative)

    by pz ( 113803 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:26PM (#34657452) Journal

    Single queues to multiple checkouts work well when the number of checkouts is small and they're close together, and it especially helps if there's a tendency for occasional customers to take much longer than the average. (This happens when there are price checks, arguments over prices, or [in airports] itinerary changes.) It isn't a reasonable option for a WalMart with 40 registers.

    And you've actually done the theoretical study of this? People have. Many people. There's even a subspecialty of operations research / computer science / psychology called Queueing Theory.

    And the answer really is that a single line works best, even when you include all of the other factors for nearly every situation. If you have a prompter who can anticipate shortly before a given teller will be free, they can even eliminate the travel latency to get from the line to the teller. Naturally, there is an upper limit for fanout, but then it is still the case that a larger queue feeding multiple tellers is more efficient. Always. It is never, ever more efficient to have one line per teller. Ever.

    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.

Neutrinos have bad breadth.