The express lane headaches
By Michael Kennedy
We all know the feeling. You just ran into Wal-Mart for one thing, but all of the checkout lanes are full. Logically, you move to the express lane, where there is a 10 item limit, but the person in front of you has no less than 30 items in his cart. It’s a sad reflection of society. Shouldn’t there be a retribution for this brazen disobedience?
When the store is busy, Wal-Mart instructs their cashiers to deter customers with too many items. However, this just doesn’t happen. Cashiers would rather avoid confrontation than to follow company policy in this instance.
Wal-Mart, Kroger and other stores with express lanes should levy fines on customers who exceed the posted limit of express lane items. Since honest arithmetic mistakes may occur, the fine should be incremental, penalizing the most egregious offenders the most.
It is important to ensure that the fine is substantial enough to be a deterrent. Too small of a fine may actually cause an increase in violations. A moral incentive, the desire to do what is right, is keeping most of us from using the express lane with too many items, but if this moral incentive is replaced with a financial incentive that is too small, far more people would happily pay the fine than to wait in the longer line. People hate to wait in lines.
An example of this can be found on the highways. Many cities are converting their carpool lanes into High Occupancy Toll lanes, allowing travelers willing to pay a toll in a lane with less traffic than the others.
There is a fear that this may happen to express checkout lanes as well – but people who are willing to pay money to get out of Wal-Mart more quickly would probably have abused the express lanes in the first place.
Stores must also resist the temptation to publicly give the collected funds to charity. This would make the corporation look good, but would encourage customers to exploit the express lane. The offenders would rationalize that it was okay, because it was “for a good cause.” The corporations should instead keep the money and in turn hire more cashiers to expedite the checkout process.
During the busiest hours, the fine should begin at 50 cents per item over the limit and should increase by 10 cents per item. For example, a customer with 20 items in a 15 or less lane would have to pay $3.50 in fines, enough to keep them from continuing to abuse the system, and to make the checkout experience more pleasant for everyone.