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June 18th, 2007

One Big Line or a Few Little Lines?

A while back I wrote about the perils of line berth. I still see people give too much space in line but, you know, it’s only been a few months since I wrote that… the Ping needs time to percolate.

Almost as important is the “one big line versus a few little lines” scenario. This morning at the airport, I was in line to buy some breakfast. The restaurant had two registers open yet, everyone made one big line. The person at the front of the line would then determine which register to go to (thanks to the ever-helpful cashiers.)

I maintain that it’s better to just pick a line and stick with it. When you’re at the grocery store, for instance, you don’t make one big line and then filter down into one of 27 registers, no. You pick a line and go. I think that works better for most situations, including the airport restaurant and the drive-up ATM.

What do you like?

Posted in Everyday Life

Steve A June 19, 2007, 12:58 am

I like the UK version of queueing. Everybody lines up, stays in line, doesn’t mess about, gets whatever done and LEAVES. U.S. lines are horrid. It’s like trying to herd cats.

Ciao,

Terry M. June 19, 2007, 11:30 am

Fry’s Electronics. They have one big line, and will have anywhere between 2 and maybe 40 registers opened depending on how busy it is. When you are the head of the line, the next available cashier flashes a light, and you proceed to them. This is definitely the way to do things. When there are many short lines, without fail I pick the slowest, the people in front of me will get held up with a price check or whatever gets people held up. Having multiple lines cures this problem, it is efficient and eliminates bottlenecks.

Ryan June 19, 2007, 2:15 pm

It also lets the store management more accurately determine how many people are waiting for a cashier and how many more employees need to be brought to the registers. At least for big stores.

Paul June 25, 2007, 12:22 am

Interestingly, Whole Foods in Manhattan is going to the “one big line” model:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/23/business/23checkout.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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