Revealed: the supermarkets with the fastest queues

Mother and daughter paying at the checkout organic grocery store

Are you always in the slowest supermarket queue? Do you dash around the store, only to end up stuck behind five people who are moving at a glacial pace? And is this all because of the supermarket you shop in?

A new study by The Grocer magazine has found that some supermarkets are just better at keeping the queues down than others. It sent mystery shoppers to branches of the big four supermarkets around the country, and got them to time their queues, before compiling the averages.

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Sainsbury's apparently has the shortest queues, with an average wait of one minute and 40 seconds. Tesco was next at one minute and 51 seconds, while Morrisons was third at one minute and 55 seconds.

At the other end of the spectrum, Waitrose shoppers wait one minute and 59 seconds, while shoppers at Asda will spend the longest standing in line - at two minutes and 14 seconds.

The study also looked at how long staff took to scan the shopping. Sainsbury's scored best again, with an average of three minutes and 43 seconds, followed by Tesco at three minutes and 54 seconds, and Morrisons at three minutes and 59 seconds.

Waitrose came in second from the bottom again with an average time of four minutes and three seconds, and Asda was the slowest, at four minutes and 14 seconds.

The good news is that all the supermarkets showed improved queueing times. In fact, the mystery shoppers scored them on a variety of measures - including car parking, store layout, availability of items and shop floor service - and they improved across the board.

Beat the queues

If these kinds of figures seem like idealistic pipe dreams for your local supermarket, then the good news is that you don't have to commute to a faster store, because there are some rules that will help you pick a faster queue wherever you shop.

The rules were devised by Dan Meyer from Demos, who calculated that items take around three seconds each to scan, while paying for them takes around 41 seconds. It means that standing behind one person with loads of items is better than waiting behind lots of people with less shopping each.

Of course, it's worth checking the shopper too, and whether they are moving quickly, or showing the signs of being someone who will take their time to pack their bags. Anyone with children may take longer, while a couple shopping together may be faster.

He also highlighted that fruit and vegetables that have to be weighed will also slow people down.

Finally, think about how you load the conveyor belt in order to speed yourself up, make sure the barcodes are easily accessible, and that any matching items are together so they can be processed more easily.

But what do you think? Do you get frustrated by queues at your supermarket, or have you devised a foolproof approach? Let us know in the comments.

Seven of the craziest supermarket glitches
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Seven of the craziest supermarket glitches

One of the most popular glitches, was a wine deal at Tesco back in November 2012, where a series of offers clashed, leaving a bottle of £9.99 wine selling for £1.50.

The 'three wines for £10' deal apparently clashed with a '25% off when you buy six or more bottles' deal. The 25% was accidentally taken off the original price rather than the reduced one, leaving the wine at rock bottom prices. Deal-hunters cleared the shelves around the country.

Perhaps the most popular glitch from Tesco came in June 2011, when instead of taking £4 off the cost of a £20 case of beer, the supermarket accidentally started selling the cases for £4. The ensuring rush was nicknamed the 'beer stampede'.

Sadly not every supermarket pricing glitch comes with such a happy ending for consumers. In March last year the bargain-hunters thought their luck was in, when Tesco accidentally priced the new iPad at just £44.99 instead of around £650. Sadly it spotted the mistake before shipping the goods. The small print on its website meant it could refuse to sell at this price, and refund their customers instead.

In September 2012, Asda was responsible for one of the most expensive glitches. The Asda Price Guarantee offered vouchers to customers who could have got their shopping cheaper elsewhere.

However, when certain trigger products were in the basket, the supermarket massively under-priced the shopping at other supermarkets, and offered huge vouchers to shoppers. In many instances the vouchers came to roughly the same as the cost of the shopping.

In April, a mistake on their website resulted in Tesco selling 8 packs of Bulmers cider 568ml bottles for £5 - rather than a six pack for £8.

Deal-hunters snapped up the deal online, and had varying degrees of success. Some had their order delivered in full, others had six delivered for £5 - and were able to negotiate their way to another two, while others were offered six for £5 or their money back.

October last year saw one of the most famous glitches, when Tesco Terry's Chocolate Oranges were subject to two deals at the same time, and the price dropped from £2.75 to 29p. There were plenty of people getting chocolate oranges last Christmas.

A buy-one-get-one-free deal went awry at Tesco in March. People putting four tubs of I can't Believe It's Not Butter or Oykos yogurt packs into the trolley were only being charged for one.

Soon the online deal-hunting community was in action, with one person bagging 50 tubs of butter and 22 pots of yogurt for £8.79 - a saving of £133.89.


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