Mild Dermatographia

German Grocery Store Checkout Lanes are The Best


I spent a few months in Germany and quickly grew to love their grocery stores. Coming back to Canada felt like I’d stepped into a bizarre, incompetent dystopia. Allow me to set the scene.

You just finished filling your cart at Aldi/Lidl. You have your produce, your meats, your diary, and maybe a Käsebrötchen or Brezel from the cute little dispenser machine as a reward for shopping. You get to the back of the line and find yourself at the checkout lane in the blink of an eye. You place your items on the conveyor belt, begin frantically packing your items into your cart as the sour-faced middle-aged woman virtually throws your items at you, then pay after wiping the sweat from your brow. The whole payment and packaging experience is done in -5 minutes.

Now you’re back in Canada, and have your cart full of much of the same. You get to the back of the line and wait. And wait. And wait. You wonder what’s taking so long and look to the cash register. Someone is standing, watching the cashier scan their items. They pay, then they begin bagging their items and putting them in the cart. Still a few more people in line. You fall asleep. Finally, someone nudges you; it’s your turn. You put your items on the belt. The employee is working at a reasonable pace, and you have your items bagged and in the cart by the time they’ve scanned the nastolgia pretzel.

What makes the experience so much more streamlined in Germany than in Canada? Checkout design. Behold my brilliant ascii art.

Here is a German conveyor belt:

begin ================== cashier == end

Here is a Canadian conveyor belt:

begin ================== cashier ==================== end

In Germany, the section of the checkout after the cashier is super short; there’s only space for a few items, so you’re forced to load as they scan. Contrast that to in Canada where, if all your items fit on the belt before the cashier, then they’ll fit on the belt afterwards. Human laziness kicks in, and so people wait until everything is scanned and paid for before bagging and loading their stuff. That, or they don’t know any better. Either way, I’m excited to be back in a country that does grocery shopping properly.