Getting Unstuck in the Grocery Line

Every two weeks, I make the trek to my local grocery chain to pick up my kitchen basics. After walking down aisle after aisle and sifting through to find my favorites, I come to my largest dilemma. Standing in the checkout, I have a choice: do I brave the line, or go to self-service?

This mental debate is about finding the quickest and most efficient way to accomplish the task at hand. We do it all the time. The grocery store clerk, who is there to check out my groceries, can sometimes be too inundated with other customers to outpace the self-checkout. On the other hand, the self-checkout is by nature slower than the clerk because it forces the customer to pick up each product, examine for the barcode, scan, and bag. Multiple factors, including but not limited to the number of groceries in my cart, go into my decision. My focus, without thinking it consciously, is on throughput.

We as customers have been trained to not only notice when glitches occur, but know how to make up for it. Yet, when we make these little changes to alleviate slow-downs and bottle-necks in our lives, are we really the beneficiaries of service? When we take the time after ordering our Starbucks to make a quick trip to the dry cleaners, are we as satisfied as when we move seamlessly through a line and instantaneously have our coffee ready to pick up? There is a misdirection of service in this sort of conscientious decision making; we are alleviating the company’s problem for them, which is not the consumer’s role. We desire throughput to get us through the day, and we seek it out to make our daily errands and chores smooth and orderly.

A company that understands this need and thinks throughput is virtually unstoppable. Instead of waiting for the customer to recognize a glitch and make up for it, the company actively seeks out bottle-necks and restructures to create better flow. The throughput company understands its role, and thinks with the customer in mind, catering to their needs. As a result, consumers are fulfilled, and will keep coming back.