DailyDirt: Waiting In Line Isn't Fun
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Queuing theory is a subset of applied math that looks into the behavior of waiting in line and algorithms that optimize various aspects of this particular kind of resource allocation. Retailers of all kinds are interested in this kind of math because it can improve customer satisfaction and get more products out the door. Apple reduces long cashier lines with employees who can accept payments anywhere in its stores. Fry’s Electronics has the giant single line that feeds into a massive array of cashiers (aka the serpentine line). There are self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, but there’s no silver bullet to eliminate waiting in lines. Here are just a few more links on this problem of civilization.
- Ever pick a checkout line at the grocery store and think “I always pick the slowest lane” once you’ve committed to a particular cashier? The math says that the odds of picking the fastest lane are against you, so you’re most likely right that you never pick the fastest line. [url]
- Waiting in line at Disney can be cut short with its Fastpass system, but what does Fastpass really optimize? FYI, Disney doesn’t let you hire disabled kids to cut in line anymore. [url]
- The best system for boarding planes is not the one that most airlines use, but Southwest’s boarding method does pretty well. A few studies have looked at how to board planes more efficiently, but the Jason Steffen method isn’t used by any airline (and there’s little incentive for most airlines to change what they’re currently doing). [url]
If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.
Filed Under: algorithms, boarding, cashiers, fastpass, jason steffen, math, optimization, planes, queuing theory, serpentine line, waiting
Companies: disney, southwest
Comments on “DailyDirt: Waiting In Line Isn't Fun”
Ugh, nothing is worse in the checkout lane at the store than the person who decides they’re going to pay by check… Only, they just heard their total, and NOW they start looking for their checkbook. Rather than, you know, filling everything out but the total ahead of time… Or even just having it in hand ready to go! I’m the type of guy who usually shops without a cart and only has 2 or 3 items in hand that I specifically came in for, and this drives me crazy. Express lanes are the greatest myth of all time!
So what is the logic behind Whole Foods – multiple lines in both 10+ items and express sections allocated to registers by disembodied voice and overhead display – and Trader Joes – humungous double line snaking through entire store (often, in NYC) and allocated by worker at head of line responding to flag waving at available registers? Is there more sense to one than the other?
Trader Joes seems quicker on the whole, though it offers numerous opportunities for impulse purchases as you pass various shelves, which may be why they do it.
But there must be a line of reasoning which proves one quicker than the other….