By Dave Healy
We call them lines. Brits call them queues. They’re what we stand in while waiting.
For most of us, lines are a necessary evil, part of the price we pay for living in cities. It’s become easier to avoid lines in some areas of life. There aren’t any at amazon.com or at a host of other sites where one can shop and transact business of every kind.
But even denizens of cyberspace still sometimes find themselves in line. And once there, the motivation usually is to get through as quickly as possible.
Merchandisers, recognizing that not all queuers are created equal, have devised ways to speed things along by separating the sheep from the goats. One strategy is the “10-items-or-fewer” line, invented to ease the frustration of shoppers who only stopped in to get a couple of things but find themselves behind someone stocking up for the impending apocalypse.
Another way to accommodate shoppers with only a few items is the self-checkout line. This approach is a continuation of a development that began in 1917, when Clarence Saunders opened a Piggly Wiggly grocery store where customers could take items off shelves themselves. Previously, you told a clerk what you wanted, and that person brought your items to the counter.
Now at the grocery store we roam the aisles ourselves and sometimes even bag our own stuff. And in some stores we can check ourselves out without a cashier’s assistance.
Coming to Speedy Market
That option will soon be available at Tim & Tom’s Speedy Market, 2310 Como Ave., in St. Anthony Park. According to store manager Ted Spreigl, an additional checkout line dedicated to self-service will be operational by mid-July.
Spreigl said the impetus to add self-checkout at Speedy came from NCR, the company that manages the store’s register system.
“They approached us last summer about being a test case for self-checkout at a smaller store,” he said.
The front of the store will be reconfigured to accommodate three lines instead of the current two, and one will be self-checkout. The goal, said Spreigl, is primarily to give shoppers an additional option, especially those who have only a few items.
“During the lunch rush we get a lot of customers who might buy only a sandwich and a can of pop,” Spreigl said. “They want a quick in and out.”
Spreigl said he sees self-checkout as another step in making Speedy more accessible and adaptable. He emphasized that the two cashier lines will remain and said the new setup will not change staffing levels or affect customer service.
“We think self-checkout will benefit both customers and employees,” he said. “Cashiers as well as customers get frustrated when lines are long. This development should improve things for everyone.”
Dave Healy lives in St. Anthony Park and is a former editor of the Bugle.