Choosing queues to minimize wait time

An article in the New York Times (September 7,2016) titled “How to pick the Fastest Line at the Supermarket” describes how choosing a line with one person with 100 items may be faster than a line with four people with 20 items each, with the former taking six minutes and the later taking seven minutes on average. The main issue, the article claims, is the setup time per customer – the time to say hello, pay for the purchase and say goodbye.  Given the estimated 37 billion hours spent by US customers in line each year, these details can improve service time.  But the article also claims that estimation of waiting time is a mental calculation with customers overestimating their wait times by 36%. How should service times design their architecture to influence both the actual time and perceived time ? How can service systems decrease setup time for queues, thus increasing productivity, while maintaining customer service perceptions ?


About aviyer2010

This entry was posted in Capacity, Operations Management, productivity, retailers, Service Operations, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Choosing queues to minimize wait time

  1. Kyle Harshbarger says:

    This is the second blog I’ve seen write about this article. The author also mistakenly thinks a customer has the choice between a “serpentine” line and single server queues (this choice is normally made by the business owner)

    I’m not sure the author found a ton of new info since Apu told us how to find the shortest wait time on The Simpsons 20 years ago…

    “Apu and Marge wait at the back of the long line in the express lane.

    Apu: Mrs. Simpson, the express line is the fastest line not always.
    That old man up front, he is starved for attention. He will talk
    the cashier’s head off.
    Abe: {Ah, there’s an interesting story behind this nickel. In 1957, I
    remember it was, I got up in the morning and made myself a piece of
    toast. I set the toaster to three — medium brown.}
    — Then he tied an onion to his belt, “Homer and Apu”

    Apu: Let’s go to…that line.
    Marge: But that’s the longest.
    Apu: Yes, but look: all pathetic single men. Only cash, no chitchat.”

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