Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Queues join roads for rage

  • Print

Waiting in cashier queues is a frustrating part of shopping, often so irritating that "queue rage" is a new phenomenon sweeping across North America and Europe. Irritation escalates wherever people are delayed by slow-moving cashier lineups.

The resulting phenomenon is very much like road rage, and is especially prominent at supermarket tills.

Despite a prevalence of exasperated shoppers, the physics of queue rage are not well-known. But accumulating anecdotal information suggests tempers readily flare due to lineup disgruntlement.

"Waiting in line is a way of life," said Richard Larson at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "People often spend more than 30 minutes a day queuing."

Researchers conclude most people resent having to line up, and according to Gillian Fuller, that is largely because "queues are a form of control."

In some cases, miscreant behaviour, such as barging into an established queue, can generate hot tempers.

"Queue rage can readily develop if we have to wait in line more than twice the time we expect," said researcher Terry Green.

There are several possible contributing factors that make lining up unpleasant.

"People, often female shoppers, bring their grocery carts to the till, then remember they forgot an item or two and they abandon the cart, holding up a line of other shoppers, while they go and fetch whatever items they forgot," said a head cashier at Fairway Market in Victoria, B.C. "That can hold up a line for several minutes and some people get upset.

"Another frustration seems to stem from the amount of time it takes some female shoppers to take money from their purses to pay for items," she added. "Often they watch items being rung in, then place the purse on the counter, open it up and search for, then remove a wallet or billfold, take out appropriate bills and, while holding the wallet with one hand, with the other hand, search for and take out a coin purse and remove coins, often one by one in a very meticulous and time-consuming fashion.

"Sometimes, those actions are accompanied by idle chit-chat with a cashier, especially if the female shopper happens to have a baby or young child and the cashier is female," she added. "In contrast, male customers seem to be much more efficient and they rarely gab with cashiers."

Some published reports suggest female shoppers can go through up to four times as many individual actions as male shoppers while paying for items at a grocery-store till.

According to a Tim Hortons shift supervisor, indecisive customers are the main reason for frustrations in lineups.

"They don't seem to think about what they want to get until they are actually right at the cashier," she said. "Often, the worst offenders are parents with kids -- because the kids never seem to be able to decide what to order, then often change their minds."

According to a recent New York Times report, research into the physics of lining up has revealed several generalities.

One discovery is that an "express line" is not faster, and is usually slower, than a regular checkout line. That is because each person in a line adds 48 extra seconds to total checkout time, but each extra item adds only 2.8 seconds.

So it is better to add 17 items to a grocery cart than to add one extra person to a checkout line. It usually takes longer to check out more shoppers with fewer items than fewer shoppers with more items.

Other findings include the discovery that young shoppers tend to move faster through checkout lines because their lives are more rushed and they usually have other higher priorities that demand their attention. By contrast, some adult shoppers, especially seniors, consider shopping a sort of social occasion in which banter with clerks and cashiers can be a significant part of the outing.

"For some reason, many seniors, especially women, don't start to reach for their money until the last item has been rung in," said one long-time cashier. "They watch every item being rung in like a hawk, and then, while getting out their money, they often engage in exchanging pleasantries with cashiers, all of which takes extra time."

In fact, such exchanges and setting up items to be rung in takes most of a cashier's time -- only 2.33 hours of a regular eight-hour shift actually involve tendering payments.

Many suggestions have been put forward to present indisputable rules for selecting the fastest-moving checkout line from among several available options in order to minimize frustration.

"I avoid lines with kids at all costs," reported one media commentator. "Parents get distracted and suddenly the kids want something different."

But there are no hard and fast rules, the Fairway Market cashier suggested.

Robert Alison is a zoologist and

freelance writer based in Victoria, B.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 21, 2011 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Rinelle Harper and family thank man who found her

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  070527 The 21st Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Assiniboine Park. The Orlan Ukrainian Dancers perform on stage.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Would you visit Dalnavert Museum if it reopened?

View Results

Ads by Google