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Supermarket Tetris

Tetris as the ideal simulator for check-out conveyors
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I am often irritated by people in supermarket checkout queues who load goods on to the conveyor in an incompetent fashion, and achieve a pitifully low packing density.

Supermarket chains should distribute a variant of the game 'tetris', which is an excellent training environment for this activity. A checkout queue would then be reserved for those who had demonstrated their proficiency in this department.

A number of modifications to the traditional game would be necessary to better emulate the retail environment. The L, T and zig-zag pieces would be dispensed with, as I can think of no items with this shape. Circular pieces of various sizes (ranging from pizza bases to tins) would be needed. The whole game would be 3 dimensional, to allow for the stacking of flat objects on top of each other.

A further enhancement would involve colour coding pieces to reflect their fragility, and to forbid stacking of objects such that delicate items (such as 'crisps' or 'grapes') were destroyed.

Bonus points are awarded for getting all frozen objects (again, colour coded) together. Points are deducted if 'raw meat' is placed next to 'prepared food'.

Mickey the Fish, Jul 11 2000

Portable Bernard Bresslaw http://www.halfbake...0Bernard_20Bresslaw
It Seems: Big Man For Supermarket Conundrums and Yeast [eehen, Jul 11 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Tetris Taxonomy http://www.arkmay.com/tetris/
Tetris site [blahginger, Jul 11 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

[link]






       Why? Why? Who could vote against this? And not tell me Why!
Mickey the Fish, Jul 15 2000
  

       My question is, why didn't you, Mickey, for for it?
centauri, Jul 15 2000
  

       I wonder that too, most of the days.   

       This is a fine idea, and does not even require batteries, in the normal sense.   

       Would then you be 'out' if you were to put soap-goods next to ham, for instance? I think you might be, for at least a bit.   

       And things like 'Woman's Own' would have to sit in a string hammock, perhaps, right at the back, and a bit to the side.   

       Check out Bernard Bresslaw in the links bit. He's got what it takes to add a whole muscle-full-of-grit to the whole proceedings.   

       But I like it anyway.
eehen, Jul 16 2000
  

       centauri: I believe it unethical to vote for (or even against) ones own proposals. Call me old fashioned...
Mickey the Fish, Jul 16 2000
  

       I am pleased to announce that, following a gruelling all night training session (on normal tetris, I'm afraid), I managed to achieve such a phenomenal packing density at Sainsbury's that the conveyor ground to a halt!   

       I hope, with more work, to reach the point where a small black hole forms, and swallows the whole checkout.
Mickey the Fish, Jul 17 2000
  

       I can't miss an opportunity to remind folks that the optimal 3-D box packing problem is NP-complete. I'll shut up now.
rmutt, Sep 09 2000
  

       OK, I can see the fun in designing a game that simulates the intricacies of loading the supermarket conveyer belt efficiently. But I have to disagree that efficient packing does much to speed things along in checking out. A densely packed belt is just going to move slower, as the check out person has to remove more items in order to get the belt to move the same distance as a loosely packed belt.   

       Lets assume that the checkout person will check things out at a constant rate (C). I think we can assume that any semi-competent person loading the belt can load items onto the belt at a rate (L) equal to a greater than the rate the check out person can get them off. (L > C)   

       Now, I assume that the only reason that a person in front of you in line can be irritating for packing inefficiently is because it seems that their inefficiency is slowing you down. (Unless inefficiency is just irritating all by itself ...which I can understand also ;) )   

       Now obviously, you can not start loading your stuff onto the belt until the person in front of you is done loading theirs. Based on the fact that you will always load them up faster then the check out person can unload them you will always be waiting idly for the check out guy to catch up to you.   

       I have actually given this a lot of thought in the past and came to the conclusion that the bottle neck is not the loading of the conveyer belt. (Now a training game for the dude packing the bags at the end of the belt? There is where some serious training could be had.)   

       In fact, I think it subconsciously does a lot of good to have the belt moving at a faster pace (i.e. the loosely packed belt) so at least there is some illusion of progress.   

       On a side note, I agree with the Fish as to not voting for your own ideas. My vote is assumed, I would rather the tally reflect the opinion of everyone else only.
blahginger, Sep 09 2000
  

       I think you have a good idea here. But I have a better one. Here in Japan the stores all have you pack your own groceries. It really doesn't take all that much time, and it's not that annoying a task. Stores in the US should do the same thing. Sure saves on labor!
Vance, Jan 26 2001
  

       Au contraire! I think the real solution to the Tetris problem (other than increasing the dose of whatever one takes against the obsessive compulsive disorder that makes one consider such problems in the first place) is to *add more labor* and have a competent conveyor packer at the belt's start, just like we'd all prefer a competent bag packer at the end.   

       In fact a well-trained pair of packers could speed the whole process up, by allowing the bag packing to be parallelized because the bag packer no longer has to wait for the heavy bag of rice to come through before packing the squishy tomatoes.   

       (Hm. If the bag packer could be automated by having things fall just right, we could just move the bag packing intelligence to the beginning of the conveyor belt, and just play tetris for real.)
jutta, Jan 26 2001
  

       No way, dudeman!   

       The Japanese solution saves labor. It eliminates the packing bottleneck (since everyone takes his/her cart to a long table where they can pack at their own pace and in their own fashion).   

       So now you want to double the number of packers. And this extra labor cost will accomplish what that the Japanese solution does not? I challenge you to answer.
Vance, Jan 29 2001
  

       Instead of adding more workers at the front end, or improving efficiency in the middle, why don't the supermarkets electronically brand all items with a radio device that charges your account when you leave the store? It would certainly piss off shoplifters when they started receiving monthly bills for all the wheelbarrow wheels and candy bars they thought they had gotten for free.
oooga, Feb 18 2001
  

       So you are not allowed to shoplift until you sign up for autobilling?
blahginger, Feb 18 2001
  

       Gamers who shop thank you, you're to kind
AElemental, May 17 2003
  
      
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