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Business: Supermarket: Fast Checkout
REAL Express Lanes   (+9, -5)  [vote for, against]
Provide faster service lanes driven by “Market” economics

I detest supermarket express lanes that are not express. Problems include people checking out with more items than the limit, inept register personnel, or slow paying customers. Since time is money, there should be some monetary incentive available to speed up this process.

With the computer systems available today, supermarkets should be able to determine a realistic limit on the quantity of items purchased in order to have express customers serviced within three minutes (let’s think like the McDonalds hamburger chain here). With this limit in mind, the following “cash incentives” can be created to motivate both cashiers and customers:

1) Cashiers could be awarded bonuses or docked pay based on their ability to maintain the requisite service time. Get the customer out the door faster than average, you get extra money in your paycheck; Dally and you lose pay.

2) Customers will be docked in two areas. First, the price of every item over the posted item limit will be doubled (paying for that 7-11 convenience store speed), based on the top cost items. Second, the total cost of your transaction will be incrementally increased a certain percentage for each second (in excess of a predetermined average) spent fumbling for your cash or card. Frugal customers will make like Boy Scouts and have their payment ready before hand.

Of course, a few time-in-motion studies will have to be done to make sure realistic standards are implemented, and customer response times shouldn’t be added to the cashier's transaction time totals; however, I’m sure that the technology is available to keep track of all this.
-- wasraw, Dec 19 2000

Got me thinking about lines . . . [wasraw, Dec 19 2000, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Time-To-Wait Displays http://www.halfbake...-to-wait_20Displays
I don't know why people don't like my idea... [gb2000, May 15 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

The other night I spent probably 30 min checking out in an 'express 20 items or less' lane when I only spent 15 min shoping. It was due to this dumb cashier and another customer in line who took it upon himself to get a few extra items. I would agree with the Idea except that people would never go for it. A person might, but people never will.
-- barnzenen, Dec 19 2000

Targeted at the right niche market, I think that there is enough economic incentive for a business to provide this type of "value added" service.

Don't have to deal with the limited selection of convenience stores, and you still get out quick.

Any help out there from an economist??
-- wasraw, Dec 19 2000

I'm with you on this one, wasraw. Justice should come swift and hard on the first person to violate the law. You know, to set the pace. A mug shot area and a bulletin board with previous offenders would be setup and, in the state of Cali, there could be an extension of the "3 strikes" law covering supermarkets: on the third violation, all express privileges are revoked and you are required to checkout in the longest line.
-- iuvare, Dec 19 2000

If you are in an exceptionall hurry, YOU should pay for it, not regulate/force other people to do something.

Why not pay some small amount whenever you want to wait less... $1 usage fee for an express lane might be quite a good idea. If line gets too long, just increase the amount and it will get shorter in no time (of course, people that were waiting there originally will pay the previous amount, the new one would be only for new-comers).

Certainly, there could be something like a penalty if you have too many items... not DOUBLE, but something reasonable.

It could also come with a service-guarantee: if you aren't served within, say, 5 minutes, you don't have to pay the express line fee.
-- danilom, Dec 20 2000

Yeah! I like the service guarantee thing. But there's got to be motivation in both the seller's and buyer's interest.

Work / Pay fast - positive reinforcement, Work slow / Check out too many items - negative reinforcement.

Any of y'all ever have a puppy?
-- wasraw, Dec 20 2000

The only prob with paying for it is that you shop express lane when you're only buying a couple of things (and therefore not spending much money anyhow). I think that the positive incentive thing is good as are the "customer reprocussions." But you would, of course, need "normal" lines where customers and cashiers could chat, et cet...
-- Urania, Jan 15 2001

Would be nice if the express lanes were 'no coupon', as well. I hate having to stand behind someone as they argue for 10 minutes to save five cents...
-- StarChaser, Jan 15 2001

Checkouts as we know them today are going the way of the dinosaur. With technology being trialled and introduced you will not have to even unload your trolley on the way through, a super scanner will simply detect everything in your trolley as you walk through the checkout. A simple swipe of your card as you exit and you're away. Total time elapsed, next to zip. Then we will be faced with Electronic Payment Only lanes, or Cash Accepted Here lanes.
-- Alcin, Dec 04 2001

There were supermarkets near where I live that let you scan your own items, but that doesn't seem to be a very popular approach, as it may well be more time-consuming if the cashier queues are short (especially for your first few tries at it).

There's also plenty of contradictory evidence about how paying people based on performance actually affects their workrate. It's common for staff at factories where people are paid for piecework to agree (unofficially) a standard performance level that they all stick to.

Making people pay more for better service could be the best way to go: all those yuppie businesspeople who don't think they should have to queue with the plebs and waste their precious time and money could be forced into their own pastel-coloured ghetto to queue with their own kind.
-- pottedstu, Dec 04 2001

My local supermarket regularly has 50% of the checkouts unstaffed; if there's less than four or five people waiting at each one, it's not worth opening another. They choose between paying more staff to man checkouts and pissing people off who have to wait. Pissing people off is infinitely cheaper in the short term, and probably in the long term too, because every other supermarket in town is just as bad (three are run by the same company, the other three by competitors).
-- angel, Dec 04 2001

The main critocism of this that I have would be the lower level of customer service. One problem would be that the cashier would be effectively given an incentive to rush all their customers through as quickly as possible, which would mean that they would project an image of impatience to the customer, which would in turn make the customer feel unvalued in the supermarket. If every unsatisfied customer was to tell 10 friends then you could potentially have 11 unsatisfied customers. Also, you are likely to have mass arguments if you charge a customer more for taking longer to go through a checkout. What happens if an item dosnt scan - its not the cashiers fault and its not the customers fault, but both would be paying a financial penalty.
-- tarby, Jan 24 2002

I don't particularly want any better service at the cash register than a quick checkout and handling of the purchase. I don't want it to be a big social event. I just want to get what I'm trying to buy and go. It always irritates me to get stuck behind someone who wants to be chatty...
-- StarChaser, Jan 25 2002

you are right on the money my friend. i just lose it in the so called express lane!
-- earlzkman, Jan 27 2002

the store I go to has self-service express lanes where you scan the items, bag them, pay for them and leave...its almost completely automated...
-- urklnme, Jul 10 2002

Most stores around here keep track of how many items an employee checks out per minute and they have to keep up a certain rate.
-- bspollard, Dec 11 2002

What gets me are all the signs that say "X Items or Less." Any half-literate person knows it should be "X Items or Fewer." You can have "fewer" things that are countable, and "less" of something uncountable. ("Fewer" doughnuts, porpoises, holidays; "less" rain, confusion, window putty.) So if your ideas catch on, will you please straighten that out too? Thanks.
-- Ander, May 08 2003

Interesting to see the state of supermarket science 20 years ago. Now that we have RF tags for products you'll just walk through a stile, see your total and bag it up. Or maybe bag it up first and just head for the parking lot. You've checked that little box that authorizes auto checkout and billing. Don't they do this in Asia already?

All these machinations with the checkers and paying for express will be unnecessary. Just move along, now.
-- minoradjustments, Aug 28 2023

I like this one.
-- 21 Quest, Aug 28 2023

-- Voice, Aug 28 2023

random, halfbakery