by Amy Reiter in News, July 21st, 2014
by Troy Johnson in Shows, December 8th, 2013
Is it you, or does it feel like, no matter how hard you try to pick the shortest, fastest-moving line at the grocery store, most of the time you make the complete wrong call and end up crawling along at a snail’s pace, stuck behind someone who needs a last-minute price check on an item or is fumbling around for his or her frequent-shopper card or is simply bent on chit-chatting the afternoon away with the cashier — while customers who come after you and slide blithely into other lines are out of there in record speed?
It’s not just you.
“When you’re selecting among several lines at the grocery store, the odds are not in your favor. Chances are, the other line really is faster,” science writer Adam Mann explains in Wired. “Mathematicians who study the behavior of lines are called queueing theorists, and they’ve got the numbers to prove this.”
As we’ve seen in Guy’s Grocery Games, navigating a grocery store is not an easy feat. You go in for milk and leave with six bottles of wine (on sale!) and a bag of chips. Our friendly grocers are just honest businesspeople trying to sell some food. We would never accuse them of Jedi mind tricks.
Okay, yes we would. No consumer arena has been as psychoanalyzed as much as the grocery store. Like any responsible business owner, grocers have studied their consumers and learned what makes us tick. Often referred to as “the racetrack,” a grocery store is designed to get you into the “track” and make you go as slowly as possible through every aisle. Most of the major products have been strategically placed to maximize your time and money spent.
Here are a few tricks of the trade:
1. Locked Door Behind You: Grocery store doors are usually one-way. Once inside, you’ll have to walk past a few special offers to find the exit. It’s like when the frail, screaming victim in a horror movie realizes the only way out of their current environment is through it. Instead of killing you, grocery stores just want to sell you some Oreos.