While empty lanes will always get you out of the store quickest, trying to judge which line will be fastest is more luck than anything else. Here's how to best get through long checkout lines during the holidays.
Bill Hammack, also known as The Engineer Guy, uses research about 19th century telephone systems to explain checkout lines in the video above. The basic premise is this: at any given time, there may be a large rush to the cashiers and there won't be enough cashiers to fill the need, causing delays. A queue for each lane exacerbates this, while one unified line (as some stores, like Whole Foods, have come to adopt) will move much faster — up to three times faster for a line serving three cashiers.
They also note, just as importantly, that there's a high chance that at least one of the other lines will move faster than yours — so the "pick the fastest line" game we often play when checking out doesn't usually do us much good. The moral? Stop stressing, pick a line, and make sure you've planned out your busy holiday weekend so you aren't pressed for time. Also, if you know of stores that use the one, unified queue approach, shop there — you'll get through checkout a lot faster. Check out the video for more information.