Science Says Switching to Shorter Store Lines Rarely Ever Works

We have all done it when standing in line at our grocery stores. When it seems that the store line we are standing in is going nowhere we make the jump. But now science is now telling us that switching to shorter store lines rarely works, and that we shouldn’t bother making that switch to another queue. So unless a cashier comes and opens up a new register right next to you and there is no waiting, researchers claim that skipping from the line you are in over to another one is usually counterproductive on average.

Say No to Switching Lines

Scientists from the prestigious Harvard Business School have discovered recently that whenever a person discovers that they are at the very back of a line, they are much more prone to making decisions that will backfire on them. The overall issue is due to the notion that no person wants to be “last,” as reported in The Guardian.

When you find yourself standing in a line and there is no one behind you, then you are about 4 times more likely to determine that a nearby line next to you would be a much better option and make the jump. But the chances are about equal for those people who have waited longer for service than if they would’ve just stayed where they were.

Really a Perception Issue

This notion is very interesting since the amount of time that you wait in a store line actually has absolutely nothing at all to do with the quantity of people who are waiting in line behind you, but it will strongly affect the way you perceive this situation.

When there are no other people behind them and they perceive another line next to them moving much faster than their line, they will usually choose to switch lines without considering other important factors.  For example, the line beside them could have moved faster for that one instance because some lady only had 2 items, but the very next customer could be some dude with 90 items and 45 coupons, and then they will not be moving at all for a while. 

Yes, there will be times that your line jumping may work to your advantage, but odds are that it will not work in the long run, and if there are people standing behind you then you are a lot less apt to make the jump.

So unless you get that occasional golden ticket when a person free new line suddenly opens up, most of the time you will be much better off to remain in the very first line you choose to stand in. Even though you may start at the very back in the beginning of your wait, there will eventually be some poor sap that will stand right behind you.

So be happy with this choice because you now know that science says switching to shorter store lines rarely ever works.