supermarket shopping queue

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the queue you choose at the supermarket is always the slowest. Whether you’re queuing at the checkout, sitting in traffic or just waiting in line at the post office, it feels like the queues around us always seem to move faster. Well, that’s all about to end.

David Andrews, author of the new book Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster? The Myths and Misery, Secrets and Psychology of Waiting in Line, reveals some of the top secrets to picking the fast lane.

“The slowest lane will always be the one you are personally in,” Andrews writes in his new book. Why? That’s because when you’re in the fast lane, you don’t even realise you’re moving more than those in the line next to you.

According to Andrews, it’s largely psychological. If someone cuts in front of you, it exacerbates your state of frustration and adds to your perceived wait time.

There are ways to choose a winning queue though. Follow these five line commandments and never wait again.

Rule 1: Choose the line with more men

Researchers from the University of Surrey have found that men hate waiting more than women. Pick a queue with more men in it, as they’ll likely be in a rush too.

Rule 2: Think twice about the express line

The allure of the express line might be strong, but studies show it isn’t necessarily the best option. Mathematician Dan Meyer reviewed check out data from his local supermarket and discovered that the fastest queues have fewer people, not fewer items.

He found that each person in line adds 48 seconds to the wait, while an individual item only adds 2.8 seconds to your time in the line. When you consider the time it takes to process payment, swipe rewards cards and finish a transaction, it makes sense to opt for a line with fewer people.

Rule 3: Withdraw cash before you shop

Paying with cards may seem like the easiest option but Meyer found that cash-only lines are much quicker. Withdrawing money before you shop has also been shown to help with budgeting and preventing unnecessary purchases, so it’s a win-win.

Rule 4: When in doubt, choose the left line

Fact: Lines to the left are often shorter, because the majority of people are right-handed, and studies show right-handed people naturally gravitate to the right.

Rule 5: Master your mind

A lot of this frustration that comes from waiting in a slow queue is psychological, so Andrews recommends having a distraction on hand. Grab a magazine or bring your headphones and tune into your favourite radio station to make passing time that little bit more pleasant. 

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