Express Lanes Not for Everyone

Oct 07, 2002
George Anderson

Express Lanes Not for Everyone

By George Anderson

Visit a D’Agostino’s supermarket in New York and you might find something missing: an express lane. Some D’Agostino’s, not all, have eliminated express lanes believing that when they are empty they increase the waiting time of shoppers on the non-express lines. The chain believes that operating all the lanes in the same fashion is generally fairer to consumers.

A piece in yesterday’s New York Times, points out that D’Agostino’s store by store policy is not being embraced by some of the chain’s local competitors. Gristede’s and A&P continue to operate express lanes in all stores.

Another grocer, Fairway, has taken the polar opposite approach with “one vast express aisle that has 10 registers.” The reason for this lies in the differences between the stores says Gilles Reinhardt, a professor of operations management at DePaul University in Chicago. “Express lanes, he said, attract customers buying prepared foods, which have a higher profit margin. The profit justifies the store’s diversion of personnel from the regular lines. By this reasoning, Fairway, which is more dependent on prepared food, should have more express lines than D’Agostino’s.”

Moderator’s Comment: Do express lanes improve the speed
in which consumers checkout or does it actually slow traffic down?

True story.

Shopping in a local supermarket on a busy Sunday morning,
I begin wheeling (with 20 items) to a regular lane. A cashier pops out from
one of the express lanes and says she can check me out.

“But, I have more than 12 items.”

“You could go wait in one of those lines if you want.”

Seeing the long lines, in some cases stretching into the
gondola aisles, I quickly begin putting items on the conveyor belt. At least
two other express lanes were completely open. The cashiers at those stations
decided against looking for shoppers to checkout. This scenario is a common
occurrence. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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