Line forms here


Last weekend, I went to buy some shirts at a fairly popular clothing store. When it was time to pay for my purchases, I went towards the cash registers. The checkout area was split into three rows, facing two different directions. Since every register had the same green light, I had no idea which ones were open. So, I figured I’d stand and wait for the next available cashier to signal for me.

But then I noticed the problem: there was no sign or floor decal showing where to stand or where the line forms. People seemed to be buying things and processing returns at all sorts of locations, without any obvious pattern. So I took a guess and went to the right, and others lined up behind me. Despite our growing queue, some people ignored us and just walked to distant registers. We finally gave up and moved back to what was apparently the “official” waiting area, perhaps christened as such by people who shop there more often.

This should be pretty obvious, but if you ask customers to form a line, always tell them where the line starts and what it’s for. Something as simple as “Checkout line forms here” or “Wait here for next cashier” can save a lot of hassle for customers, reduce conflicts during high-traffic periods, and make your staff more efficient. In the online world, this means making sure that the button to check out or complete a transaction is clearly marked. And since customers can’t see what happens behind the scenes (after all, there’s no cashier scanning and bagging their items), including a progress bar with an estimate of how long it will take to submit their order is a smart practice, too.