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Shop queues are winding us right up

Colourful toy people queuing

We Brits are supposed to be a polite lot when it comes to queuing, but that doesn’t stack up with the latest stats. It seems we’re more likely to huff, puff and take a hike than hang around and pay.

How many times have you stood in a shop queue, shuffling from foot to foot, anxiety mounting with every second as involuntary tuts start to come blurting out?

And then the anger sets in. Why is that woman taking so long to get her money out? Why doesn’t that shop assistant just shut up and serve? And why the hell aren’t there more shop assistants in the first place?

Come on, admit it – you’ve stood at the back of a queue getting grumpy more than once. As much as we’d all like to think we have perfect queuing manners the reality is that they make us inpatient, and often inconsiderate.

Well, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Barclays’ research has found that over two thirds of people have abandoned a queue entirely and three in ten avoid going into a shop if they can see it has long queues.

OK, the research was conducted purely to tout Barclays’ new ‘contactless cards‘ as the saviour to all our queuing woes, but the findings are ringing pretty true in our ears. In June we surveyed 14,000 shoppers and 43% admitted they found queuing irritating.

But it’s even more irritating if you’re spending less money. Apparently, shoppers are more likely to abandon queuing for a purchase when the item is lower in value. Now this is something I can relate to – a packet of chewing gum can take a hike, but a pair of new shoes? Well worth waiting five minutes.

Do shop queues wind you up?

Only when they're really slow moving (51%, 74 Votes)

Yes, I avoid them at all costs (33%, 48 Votes)

No, it's just part of life (15%, 22 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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Jane Winfield says:
5 August 2010

More and more shops are installing self service checkouts. In my local Tescos these checkouts are always busy. I personally would rather queue and keep somebody employed! The checkout staff at my local store are now being asked to concider less hours as a result of these checkouts. If we dont stop and think about this, in a few years time we will be serving ourselves whatever size shop we are doing, and our unemployed figures will include lots of checkout staff! So take a deep breath and relax as you queue!
In the case of chatting store staff I will always make a comment, even while still in the queue, in the hope this gets them to buck up their ideas!

Supermarkets – have already driven the small shops out of the market – losing low skill jobs (I am not being disrespectful)

Now they are removing low skill jobs from their stores by self service checkouts – A MAJOR problem in this country is the 2,000,000 job shortfall – the supermarkets should be stopped – They already make enormous profits.

I will not use such checkouts – I expect SERVICE!! It may be fine if you buy your single lunch sandwhich to use one – but not if like me – buy your weekly shop at one go to save transport costs. £70 worth of groceries do not fit into such a checkout.

YET the number of NON SS checkouts in my Sainsburys is ONE – so there is always a LARGE queue in front of it – AND they have about EIGHT normal checkouts empty!!.

Rather like their policy on selling alcohol (a national problem) their drinks isle is the LARGEST in the store. GREED before SERVICE.

If there was a closer non ss checkout store – I’d use it.

Another issue with Self Service checkouts (and some manned ones in shops where staff training is poor) is that if you are disabled in some way which relates to your sight, and therefore have a Card where you still sign for the purchase, the self service till is useless because as soon as you pop your card in it starts to sound an alarm and call an assistant. This holds up the queue, annoys & embarrasses the customer with the card and the ones queuing behind and often foxes the assistant who probably has never been trained to handle signature cards and sometimes ends up trying the transaction 2 or 3 more times and / or calling a manager before they can clear the sale.

I absolutely and totally agree with the two comments above as well.

Personally I will queue quite happily if I believe that the queue is because there is a genuine “rush” or that the shop is doing all that it can to provide adequate staff, but if I see a queue at a self service till, and there is no manned till to go to, or if I see assistants gossiping rather than serving, I dump the shopping and leave, telling any member of staff who challenges me exactly why.

It is not fair that customers and underpaid staff should suffer because store owners and managers are excessively greedy for reduced wage bills ergo greater profits and I won’t trade with any store which seems to be doing that.

Ignored Customer says:
3 May 2011

It is not just supermarkets. M&S is by far the worst offender. At M&S Meadowhall on a Tuesday morning (not school holiday) we could not find any of the till points with a queue less than 20 people. The only satisfaction was in finding a Manager who just shrugged his shoulders at the problem and was then handed an armful of clothes as we left and went to Next.

I was a bit confused by the article in the August edition about ‘Savvy queuing’. I’m not totally convinced that your research matches my own experience. Personally, I prefer a (supermarket) queue with several customers with just a few items rather than 2 customers with full trollies. But, a key point to bear in mind is that, if you are using a store you know well, you’re more likely to know the check-out staff. You’ll know the ones that scan quicker, or the surly ones that you prefer to avoid. Or, even better, the ones that you can have a chat, laugh or flirt with.

You’re doing a job you may not enjoy, they’re probably also doing a job they don’t enjoy, so taking the trouble to have a chat, while not holding up other customers, addressing them by their name on their tag creates a mini-personal experience that can give a little sparkle to a brief encounter. Don’t forget the old maxim, “What goes around, comes around”.