I first wrote this piece in 2012 and have revised some minor bits, but honestly, things haven’t changed–still the same old, same old. . . .)
Have you ever noticed that the more you hurry, the slower you get? It’s true, especially in lineups.
I went to my bank. The lineup had only three people in front of me. And checking out the tellers, I could see that two of them were just winding up their business. The lineup would be a quick moving one. No. It was unbelievable how everything slowed down when I got to the head of the line. I’m sure I could have bought and sold some stocks if I had some; moved my meager funds around the world and had a long, leisurely lunch with the bank prez. See, just when you think you’re ahead of the game, you’re suddenly behind.
Last week I was at the supermarket and with my five items, headed for the Express Lane. That’s the lane that allows 7-items or less and is a cash-only lane. There I was thinking it was my lucky day because only one person was ahead of me. Yep, you guessed right. That person had 15-items she had already unloaded on the counter and her debit card at the ready. The cashier gently pointed out that this was the cash-only express lane that accepted 7-items or less; but, because there was now a lineup of six customers behind me, the time and trouble reloading her stuff into the basket and shuffling her off to another lineup was more trouble than it was worth. Then the lady had to search her ginormous satchel to find her wallet. So, rather than being 10 minutes ahead of myself, I was now 10 minutes behind.
And how about my experience at the department store? I barely stepped inside the door and there was my one and only perfect wool sweater—the right style, the right colour, the right size. Of course I wasn’t going to leave it! I grabbed this perfect sweater and ran to Customer Service. There were two cashiers, cheerfully and merrily working away, so the lineup though long, was moving quickly—until it stopped at the lady in front of me. Suddenly, the cashiers weren’t looking so cheerful or merry and neither was working very efficiently anymore. Three dreaded words when you’re in a lineup—Exchanges and Returns.
It seemed a lady was returning an item that was the wrong size and colour. She wanted to exchange it for another item she had found. Straightforward enough. No. There was paperwork. Cashiers have to kill 20 trees to show the paper trail of a return and credit this to her account. Then a new sale, but the new sale was more money and the lady wanted the same discount as the returned item. Well, that cashier was going to be tied up for awhile. We turned our attention to the second cashier. Her customer showed a minor flaw in the sweater she was purchasing and wanted a discount. The cashier explained the sweater already had a considerable discount and the pulled thread could be easily remedied with the use of a crochet hook. There was a lengthy discussion on why the customer didn’t own a crochet hook and she didn’t see why the store couldn’t discount the $100 sweater down more. It didn’t matter when the cashier patiently explained the sweater was already reduced to $14.99. All of us in the lineup wanted to cheer when the cashier plastered this smile on her face, gritted her teeth and suggested the customer forget the purchase and move along.
See, more proof that just when you think you landed in a fast lineup with a quick get-away, you inevitably can put down roots, waiting for your turn to come up. And, from my experience, don’t look for the shortest lineups—they’re usually the longest. I think that’s why supermarkets have all the snacks, chocolate bars and magazines near the cashiers—nourishment and entertainment as well as clever sales to people held up by short lineups.