For most people, good prices aren’t the only mark of a successful (and painless) trip to the grocery store. If you’re anything like us, being able to get through the checkout line without your clothes going out of style—or even worse, your ice cream melting—is just as important as saving money.
If you’ve ever found yourself at the mercy of a line that oozes like molasses, you’re going to want to hold on to these expert-approved tricks for picking the fastest-moving line from The New York Times.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
According to Dan Meyer, who explores the future of math, technology, and learning at Desmos, you’ll want to start by getting behind a shopper who has a full cart. Though that may seem counterintuitive, data tell a different story, he explained.
“Every person requires a fixed amount of time to say hello, pay, say goodbye and clear out of the lane,” Meyer told the Times. His research found all of that takes an average of 41 seconds per person, while the ringing-up process takes about three seconds per item.
What that means it that ringing up one person with 100 items will take an average of about six minutes. Compare that to getting in a line behind four people who each have 20 items. In that scenario, it will take approximately seven minutes to get to you.
That may seem like a small difference, but as MIT professor Richard Larson explained to the Times, those minutes add up. He estimates that Americans spend 37 billion hours a year waiting in lines.
Watch: I Went Grocery Shopping With a Dietitian. Here’s How It Went
Another helpful tip is to avoid lines that lack a clear line of sight to the cashier. According to a study published in the journal Management Science, cashiers who can’t see the end of the line—whether it’s obscured by people or a shelf, or because it snakes around a corner—become less motivated to work quickly because they can’t see how many people are waiting to be rung up.
Good luck out there! And remember, to some degree at least, waiting is all in your head.
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