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Why the other line is likely to move faster…

Bill reveals how “queueing theory” – developed by engineers to route phone calls – can be used to find the most efficient arrangement of cashiers and check out lines. He reports on the work of Agner Erlang, a Danish engineer who, at the opening of the 20th century, helped the Copenhagen Telephone Company provide the best level of service at the lowest price.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. Peter says:

    One queue, multiple servers seems to be the rule rather than the exception at banks nowadays. Unfortunately, grocery stores aren’t designed for the longer queue length required…so you always get stuck behind the lady with the screaming kids, or the person who need to empty their change purse to come up with enough for their purchase.

  2. KurtRoedeger says:

    I always seem to get stuck in the slowest line, even if I pick the one with the fewest people or the people with the smallest amount of items. So I changed my strategy to just picking the line with the cutest cashier no matter how many people. I figure that if I’m going to stand here, might as well have something nice to look at.

    1. GFK's says:

      Strangely, my father has the exact opposite theory. He always chooses the line with the ugliest cashier.

      His theory is that the manager is nice with the cutes cashiers, but the ugly ones have to be real effective if they want to keep their job.

  3. migpics says:

    I’d like to apologize if you got stuck behind me and my screaming kids. It’s really not them it’s the fact that they are assaulted with impulse buying racks when we’re at the cashier and they have trouble saying no to the candy, the magazines, the balloons, the gum and all that jazz.
    Maybe cashier lines would go faster without all the impulse buying racks.

    1. vrandy.myopenid.com says:

      You’re forgiven, unless you’re trying to pay with a dozen or more unsorted, possibly expired coupons, or more than nine pennies.

  4. ticker47 says:

    I just discovered this guy a few weeks ago (likely from Make) and I find his videos absolutely fascinating for all of how simple the concepts are. The queuing theory is actually pretty interesting, because you do feel like you’re in a never ending line at some of the stores with one line. I never even though about the fact that it’s the simplest and smoothest way to get people to the register and out the door.