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Today's Best Buy Experience

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33 replies to this topic

#1 of 34 OFFLINE   Chuck C

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Posted December 17 2002 - 09:12 AM

Well I went in to pick up Minority Report and the BTTF Trilogy. As I entered Best Buy, the first thing I saw other than the blueshirt that greets people were two giant racks filled with each DVD. So I grabbed a widescreen copy of each and browsed the store. I saw the usual...TVs (lots more LCD and plasma these days). How do they expect to sell TVs when they aren't even calibrated (not even a little) and get the same crappy signal? Anyway, the clincher was the line. Not lines, but 1 huge line about 60-70 deep. I watched as people cussed under their breath as they made it to the end of the line. To my surprise, it went very quickly. It turns out there was one dude directing each customer to different checkout locations as they became available. Despite being in a line of about a million, I was out in five minutes from the time I got in line until the end of the transaction. Efficiency.

#2 of 34 OFFLINE   Jeff Pryor

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Posted December 17 2002 - 09:45 AM

My local Best Buy used this same check-out procedure last time I was there. I agree, it's a good call.
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#3 of 34 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted December 17 2002 - 10:02 AM

Same here, in and out in under 5. Of course the line was only 5 people deep. Last week I walked right up to the service counter to make my purchase (avoided the line altogether). I was in and out under 2 minutes. At that time the line was about 60 people deep.

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#4 of 34 OFFLINE   MikeAlletto



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Posted December 17 2002 - 10:09 AM

The best buy here setup the 1 big line on the day star wars 2 came out. Its actually better. Before the lines for each checkout would extend back into the cd aisles, now they route it down a big tiled area between appliances and everything else. Makes it less crowded for everyone else not in line. Going to best buy the week before christmas though is just asking for headaches.
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#5 of 34 OFFLINE   Jonathan Burk

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Posted December 17 2002 - 10:14 AM

Fry's had been doing this for 15 years. I wonder if they'll be adopting some of the other Fry's characteristics?

#6 of 34 OFFLINE   Alex-C



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Posted December 17 2002 - 10:21 AM

one line theory - actually a good thing. fast food restuarants and banks bought in a long time ago. even though it appears you're about to wait in an Indiana Jones ride type of snaking double back line, it goes much smoother.
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#7 of 34 OFFLINE   Paul_Medenwaldt


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Posted December 17 2002 - 10:35 AM

The BB's here in Minnesota just started doing this setup recently with the one line. I haven't decided if i like yet. Would I like to be in a line of 10 at a chashier or in one line of 50 waiting for a chashier to open up. I think its a psycological thing. I may be intimiated by long things though :b Paul
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#8 of 34 OFFLINE   Evelio Figueroa

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Posted December 17 2002 - 10:47 AM

[quote] As I entered Best Buy, the first thing I saw other than the blueshirt that greets people...... [quote]

The mistake I made was going inside a Best Buy wearing the same type of shirt! I've been asked several times if I work there! Posted Image My company logo is only on the front. Guess I need one on the back also. Posted Image

#9 of 34 OFFLINE   Todd Hochard

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Posted December 17 2002 - 10:58 AM

Haha. I made the mistake of walking into Target one time in khakis and a red polo shirt. Surprisingly, I was able to help a few people.Posted Image
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#10 of 34 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted December 17 2002 - 11:10 AM

One time I accidentally went into Disney World wearing a mouse costume... ok nm.. If there are any military folk here they are familiar with the one line to all cash registers process. In the commisary it can look overwhelming with literally over 150+ people in line with 1-2 full shopping carts but it does go by quicker than you'd think.

#11 of 34 OFFLINE   BrianW



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Posted December 17 2002 - 01:28 PM

I've always liked the one-line approach. It's the most egalitarian approach since it guarantees a FIFO arrangement, and it prevents a select bunch of people from getting screwed just because they weren't psychic enough to know that some guy ahead of them would need a price check.

But I've seen it go overboard. In sharp contrast, I once went shopping in a store called House of 1776 in which there were several lines. I couldn't just pick up my merchandise and wait to pay for it at the checkout like in a normal store.

* I had to wait in line to look up the desired item in a wedding gift registry database, so I could be given a "registry scan card." 10 minutes

* I then had to wait in the "card scanner" line to get my merchandise card scanned. 20 minutes

* There I received a "merchandise inventory card," which I took to the cashier line. 30 minutes

* After paying for my merchandise, I had to wait in line in the "merchandise pickup" line. 45 minutes

I had to wait in FOUR SEPARATE LINES for ALMOST TWO HOURS just to buy one stupid item! The store wasn't even that crowded, but everybody in the store was in line for something. Can you imagine a Best Buy, even on a slow day, in which every customer in the store is in one of four lines for something? And can you imagine having to wait in all four of those lines sequentially before you could leave with your merchandise?

But the thing that bugged me most is that some "efficiency expert" worked very hard at (and got paid good money for) designing this insanity and saw it as a GOOD thing. It was actually this way on purpose!

Oh, and here's the clincher: When I finally reached the counter to pick up my merchandise and leave, I was politely told that the item I had just purchased was out of stock. I had to wait in yet another line (the longest, slowest line in the store) to get a refund.

I wasted a whole day there, all for nothing.

Yeah, I think Best Buy is definitely doing things right.

[Edit: To be fair, if I hadn't been buying this item as a wedding gift, I wouldn't have had to wait in the first line. But I still missed the wedding because of all the time I spend in this stupid store. Posted Image ]
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#12 of 34 OFFLINE   Evelio Figueroa

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Posted December 17 2002 - 01:55 PM

[quote] One time I accidentally went into Disney World wearing a mouse costume...ok nm.. [quote]
Posted Image Gee, Why didn't I think of that.

As for this one line thing, they should try it with rush hour traffic! NOT!!

#13 of 34 OFFLINE   Bill Slack

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Posted December 17 2002 - 02:28 PM

Last X-Mas I just sweet talked the cell-phone girl to ring up my few purchases. Not even a five minute wait, that way. Posted Image

#14 of 34 OFFLINE   Keith Mickunas

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Posted December 17 2002 - 02:30 PM

Back in my simulations and modeling classes we did simulations showing that this kind of queueing reduces the average wait time. Basically you don't run the risk of getting into the wrong line where every person is writing a check and the computer doesn't have the price of the item. Having seen it at Fry's work so well (of course they have 60 registers during the holidays) I was glad to see Best Buy trying it. I first some them experimenting with it shortly before episode 2's release on a slow night. Ever since then I've seen them doing it on occassion.

#15 of 34 OFFLINE   Philip_G



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Posted December 17 2002 - 02:42 PM

fry's has been around for 15 years? I had no idea.

#16 of 34 OFFLINE   Denward


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Posted December 17 2002 - 03:22 PM

There's a branch of Operations Research/Industrial Engineering called Queuing Theory. It's a proven fact that the single queue/multiple server model is superior to the multiple single queue/single server model. Basically you can think of the servers as being in a line to wait on the customers. As soon as a server is available, BAM!, they're matched up to a customer. There's no downtime for a server which reduces the overall wait time for the customers. And as already mentioned, it guarantees fair FIFO treatment for the customers. My experience at Best Buy this weekend was that they had the single queue model going, but the guy who was assigning people to different lines was really just guessing. I ended up assigned to a line with 3 people ahead of me and when one of them needed a price check, people who were behind me ended up getting out the door before me.
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#17 of 34 OFFLINE   John Miles

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Posted December 17 2002 - 03:35 PM

fry's has been around for 15 years? I had no idea.

Longer than that, I'd imagine. Their Sunnyvale (Santa Clara?) store was mentioned prominently in Steven Levy's canonical Hackers as an influence in the Bay Area computer culture dating back at least to the early 80s.

#18 of 34 OFFLINE   MarcVH


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Posted December 17 2002 - 04:16 PM

As long as no cashiers are ever idle, one line vs. multiple lines won't make a difference in average wait time for customers. In practice, a single line makes the wait time longer, because there's a slight delay between the time a cashier finishes a transaction and the time that the person at the head of the line walks over to begin the next one. What it does do is reduce the variance in wait time and increase perceived fairness, which is often preferable to maximum throughput.

#19 of 34 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted December 17 2002 - 05:22 PM

Actually the single line manager (?) tells the next customer which line to go to. If there is only one person in the line then the manager points the customer to that register so there's always at least 2 people at a register. No delay that way.

#20 of 34 OFFLINE   Keith Mickunas

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Posted December 17 2002 - 05:34 PM

Marc, I have to disagree with you on this. Using Scott's suggestion, you minimize the downtime to the point that its effictively null. However you will prevent people from waiting in queues that end up with a single exceptionally long transaction. This does make a difference. Now granted someone with Apu's skills at picking the right line will see their average wait time increase, the overall average wait time will drop. Unfortantely my operations research books are at work, and my lecture notes are buried away in a box so I can't site any sources right now, but I assure you when I first was told this in class I felt the same as you, but after examining the statistics and doing my own simulations, I found there is a signficant decrease in the average wait time.

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