I was doing my weekly grocery shopping today and I was waiting in line to checkout. Now it was close to normal shopping hours (as in the shops outside were closing so there was less people in the shopping centre, so the supermarket was going into ‘extended shopping hours’)… and they started to shut down checkout lines.
They were going from 5/15 checkouts, to 3 checkout lanes.
It got me thinking, I’ve never seen 15/15 checkouts ever opened. They are all functioning, but usually you’ll get 5, and in busy times, you might get 10. But I’ve never seen 15/15. Is it by coincidence that supermarkets may have a large amount of checkouts that aren’t used? I understand that there might be 1-2 for contingency in case some of them fail during a busy period, but that would make the total number around 12, rather than 15+. There are also about 15 staff members around the entire supermarket ‘doing their own thing’.
However, despite seeing only 3 lanes open, and I was in a line, I didn’t feel that I was stressed out about waiting.
Saying that, in another supermarket (Aldi), there is 5 checkout lanes, they get up to 4 working at a time, but usually only have 1-2 on (and there are always people in there), and I think the perceived time waiting feels much longer than waiting in 3 lines with 15 lanes shut. Furthermore, Aldi only have about 4 people who are constantly on their feet operating the store.
Now knowing that supermarkets are strategic goldmines for marketing (like putting the milk at the far wall, putting certain products in eyelines), I wonder if anyone knows if the abundance of shopping lanes is deliberate part of the strategy by supermarket designers, or is it just that they want to make sure that there are enough lanes. Ideas?
I think if they cut down on the amount of lanes, you would feel a lot slower. Also if you decreased the amount of people around, it will feel a lot slower (less chance to get things done)
If they increased the amount of people looking like they were working, it would feel faster, because it would look like there is more work happening around the place.
It’s a curious thing, and I really enjoyed thinking about little conspiracy theories like this. Thinking about design always amuses me.