We're getting in line to pay at Trader Joe's, and my boyfriend and I stake out our options. We've got the one lady with a full cart, and we've got the three people with baskets. We think. We calculate. We rationalize. "Well, that line is more transactions, but this lady's got so much stuff, but does the stuff in her cart equal the stuff in their three baskets combined?"
This is silly, but it happens all the time. The obsessive need to win the race causes friends to wait in two lines at the movie theater, and see which line moves faster. At the end, one friend jumps in the faster line. Hey there, good job, you saved two minutes of your life! It's kind of like the dad who jumps out of the car on road trips to see what kinda gas mileage we're getting. It's making a science out of something relatively negligible.
But we all do this. Why? The fact is, people hate waiting. We're imagining all the better things we could be doing. In fact, I believe time actually multiplies itself while we wait. Minutes feel like hours. It's awful! How can retailers make waiting less of a tiresome roadblock and more of a seamless transition?
Maybe we could learn while we wait. Or be entertained. Or be given a puzzle to solve. Or socially connect with other waiters. Or sample products, or pet bunnies, or shake hands with the manager. Anything would help.
I saw one attempt to make waiting more pleasant. My local Jewel-Osco just installed TV screens at their checkout lines, so shoppers can watch helpful cooking tips while they wait. It's not bad. It's not great, but at least it's supplementing our boredom and frustration with a great recipe for tuna casserole.
So if we can't speed up, and it's a crapshoot which line will move faster, at least give us something to do. This way we won't end up making sad comments like "Dang! That guy with the white sneakers just paid! We could've been next."