Luck of the Line

A couple weeks ago, I told a friend that I was "heading to Trader Joe's to spend more time waiting in the checkout line than shopping."

"What do you mean," he asked. "The lines aren't that bad at all. Not since the first couple of weeks."

"Weird. I've waited in ridiculously long lines every single week. When do you go?"

"Usually Sunday afternoons," he explained. "I was there last Sunday at around 2, and the express line and regular line were the same length."

"I was there last Sunday at 1, and the line was all the way back to the bread section."

"Well, I guess you just had bad Trader Joe's line luck."

Out to prove him wrong, I walked into the store this afternoon around 3, and I searched for the line as I entered. It was nowhere in sight! This was a small miracle. I was finally due for a short wait. The "end of line" sign was hovering over the cereal, just a few feet beyond the "six items or less" express line sign. I headed back to the produce section and started shopping.

The store became a bit crowded as I started shopping. By the time I came out of the frozen food aisle, I discovered that the checkout line was growing like kudzu on a hot summer day. In ten minutes, the line had literally quadrupled in length. And after going to grab two more items in the next aisle, the line had reached my usual starting point: the bread section, three-quarters of the way around the store.

In fact, by the time I got through the line 25 minutes later, it had reached its tipping point, circling the entire perimeter of the store:

While in line, I noticed that some customers had found a way to circumvent the long line. The express line is for people with six items or less. At a grocery store that practically encourages impulse buys, that's an absurdly low number. But, I watched people enter the express line with six items and pull items into their basket as the line passes through the dairy and cereal sections. So, you could end up with eight, or even ten items in the express line.

Is it dishonest? Maybe, and that's why I haven't done it. I fear I may incur the repressed anger of the suspiciously friendly Trader Joe's "crew members."

By the way, I just noticed this picture on the Trader Joe's website:

Now I don't feel so bad. Little did I know that people have apparently been waiting in line for Trader Joe's for generations. And thanks to my luck, I usually feel like I've been waiting that long, too.

5 Moments of Idiocy:

Blogger diane said...

this is why you bring a shopping buddy with you when you go there. someone stands in line with the cart and the other runs around and shops.

3:36 PM  
Blogger dmbmeg said...

diane-I must say, that is pure genius.

I don't get the Trader Joe phenomenon. Are people really that starved for banana chips? Plus, the two buck chuck gives you the worst hangover. You would expect more from $2 bottle of wine. Whole Foods, all the way.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

diane - Brilliant! And an enterprising homeless guy could probably rent himself out as a shopping buddy.

dmbmeg - I was skeptical of Trader Joe's at first. But take my purchase yesterday: they have their own brand of Pirate's Booty for $1.49. The bag is bigger, and the stuff is just as good as what goes for twice that at Whole Foods. Is it a good deal? You bet. Is it worth the wait? That's definitely debatable.

6:06 PM  
Blogger PJ said...

Excuse the ignorance but does a guy really stand around holding an "end of line" sign?

2:48 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

PJ - Yes. In fact, they have TWO line-sign people: one for the main line, and one for the express line.

3:19 PM  

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