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09th Nov 2015

Here’s the reason why supermarket queues next to you always seem to be moving quicker

Who said patience is a virtue?

Paul Moore

Who said patience is a virtue?

We’ve all been in that slowly infuriating position before in the local supermarket. You’ve just come home from work, your stomach is making those threatening hunger groans but the only things in your fridge are whiskey and an old pear.

The mad dash around your local supermarket is almost akin to a hyperactive 7-year-old because you’re grabbing everything that’s in sight before frantically racing to the checkout to beat the queues…but there are always queues. Always.

Bacon shopping

Author David Andrews has written a new book entitled Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster? on the phenomenon of supermaket queues and his research is pretty interesting.

According to Andrews “regardless of time actually spent, the slowest line will always be the one you’re standing in”. It seems that our collective patience will forever be tested due to the way that our brains perceive time.

We only notice how fast the other queues are moving when ours are going slowly and even if you’re standing in the actual ‘faster queue’, you won’t even recognise this fact because you’re too focused on unloading the trolley and paying.


The book does give some tips and details about how to select the fastest queue so it’s not all bad.

  1. Pick a queue that has more men in it because they’re less patient than women and thus more likely to give up.
  2. Choose queues that veer more to the left because most people are right-handed and have a natural inclination to turn right.
  3. Select a cash-only queue because studies have shown that they’re easily the quickest.
  4. The most obvious point – join the queue with fewest people in it.

Stick to these rules and you might find yourself tucking into your food a little bit sooner than you thought.