Whenever I go grocery shopping, I try to get in and out as quickly as possible.
I'm not interested in staying in the place that sells the food -- I want to go home and eat it while binge-watching whatever show I'm currently addicted to on Netflix.
I'm probably not alone in this regard.
This is basically what I feel/look like when I'm waiting in a line:
Yeah, I clearly need to work on the art of patience.
That's why when I go to checkout I often avoid lines where I see people with a large number of items, even if there are just one or two. Instead, I typically head over to the line that says 15 items or less, even if there are more people.
But I'm apparently doing it all wrong.
According to science, it would be quicker for me to get behind the person with a full cart.
Every person requires a fixed amount of time to say hello, pay, say goodbye and clear out of the lane.
In total, according to Meyer's research, all of this takes about 41 seconds. On top of that, each individual item takes about three seconds.
If you do the math, it's a lot smarter to get behind someone with a full cart than to get in line with a higher number of people carrying a few items.
For example, based on this formula, one person with 100 items will take an average of around six minutes to process, while getting into a line with four people with 20 items each would take an average of around seven minutes to process.
Yes, this might seem small in the grand scheme of things, but consider the fact it's estimated Americans collectively spend an average of 37 billion hours a year waiting in lines. Think of all the time we could save!
I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to get in line behind whoever has a cart stockpiled like there's a zombie apocalypse next time I go shopping. It's science.