Here’s How to Pick the Fastest Grocery Store Line (It’s Not the Express One)

Updated: Apr. 01, 2022

There is a science to picking the line that will get you out of the store the fastest—this technique will save you loads of time.

Costco wholesale checkout lineJeramey Lende/Shutterstock

You’re in a hurry at the grocery store, and the lines are long: Do you queue up behind the person with a full cart or slide over to the line with four or five people holding baskets? According to Dan Meyer, a chief academic officer at the math site Desmos who has studied grocery lines, get behind the shopper with a full cart of goods.

“Every person requires a fixed amount of time to say hello, pay, say goodbye, and clear out of the lane,” Meyer recently explained to the New York Times. His research indicates that process takes about 41 seconds; it also takes about three seconds to ring up each item. An express line with four customers carrying baskets with around ten items each will take about five minutes to clear. That guy with 60 items in his cart will get through the register in less than four minutes, according to Meyer’s findings.

Choosing a line with a clear line of sight to the cashier is another key to picking the correct line, reports the New York Times. If cashiers can’t see the end of the line, they are less motivated to work quickly as they have no visual cue as to how many people are actually waiting to be rung up. Check out these things your clerk won’t tell you.

Other ways to get through the line as quickly as possible include:

  • Be on the lookout for either chatty cashiers or chatty customers. Those are not the lines to be on if you need to be somewhere in a hurry.
  • As you set items on the belt, turn the barcode toward the cashier to make their job easier. Also, take care not to annoy the person ringing you up by avoiding the 13 things cashiers wish you would stop doing.