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Checkout Line Efficiency

By December 6, 2003October 4th, 2023systems

We’ve all felt it—the frustration when checkout line efficiency seems to be missing. You’re in line, ready to buy, and then you’re held up by a small detail.

Picture this: you’re at the store, your cart filled with several identical items, like those Campbell soup cans we all love.

Instead of a swift, single scan, the cashier scans each can one by one. It could be some high-level algorithmic thinking. But that’s probably not it.

You’re certain that there’s a faster way, a simple shortcut that lets all items be counted with just one pass of the scanner. And you’re probably right.

Look, here’s the thing: shortcuts exist. It’s just that not everyone is aware of them or knows how to use them.

I don’t fault the cashier. Maybe they weren’t trained on this feature. Or perhaps they know about it but haven’t mastered its use. It’s not just about checkout lines either.

Think about how often we see folks in offices not using keyboard shortcuts, even when it’s right there, staring at them every time they print or save a document.

It’s not that they don’t care about being quick. Maybe it’s just a lack of knowledge or training.

So, let’s spread the word, help each other out, and make checkout line efficiency a standard everywhere.

After all, who doesn’t love a good shortcut?

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  • Su says:

    A few years ago I worked as a temporary secretary for a small construction firm with only one secretary. During my training day, she was showing me how to use the Fed Ex website to prepare labels for packages. This company shipped many packages by Fed Ed per day. As we finished the first one, I pointed to a button on the screen that said, “Prepare another label” and said, “And then you just press that to do the next one?” And she said, “No, you have to do them one at a time. You press Log Out, and it takes you back to the log-in screen, and then you log in again, and do the next package.”

    I thought, “That’s odd.” The next day, on my own, I experimented and discovered that you could in fact use “Prepare another label” to do exactly that without logging out and in. I have always wondered what the full-time secretary thought that button was there for.

  • Ted Roche says:

    I worked at an insurance company in the mid-80’s, and came across the CEO’s secretary entering figures into what would become the annual report, in Excel. As she typed each number into Excel, she also punched it into her desk calculator. When she was done, she summed the numbers on the calculator, and entered that figure as the total in Excel. When I explained and showed her that Excel could do that for her, she was much impressed. She thought that Excel just let you enter numbers into little boxes. Some folks just don’t know and aren’t willing to experiment.

    In the case of the cashier, though, I wonder if it was more laziness. Many products come in similar boxes (strings of 50 and 100 Christmas lights, for example), and they’d actually have to pay attention to distinguish one from the other, rather than dragging everything over the scanner.

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