Today when doing my grocery shopping the lady at the checkout counter expressed warm and heartily her appreciation for the way I positioned my products on the conveyor belt. She liked how the barcodes where all facing up and aligned the same way and how the products were not piled, but placed one by one in alignment with the edge of the conveyor and the scanning area. I had been doing that for years, but that was the first time someone showed their appreciation for it. Given a proof that the system is actually doing the staff a favor and not simply satisfying my own OCD tendencies, I decided to write this guide on how to go about positioning your goods at checkout.
I first started being conscious about how I placed my goods on the conveyor a few years back when a local supermarket had the text "Please place your goods with the barcode up" on the grocery dividers. At the same time I started noticing how people would often stressfully pile up their goods as fast as they could fit them on the conveyor, as though racing to place the next grocery divider on the belt. Ironically this habit actually slows the checkout proces as the clerk has to depile the stuff and search for the barcode on every product.
Here is how you should do it if you want to do the clerk a favor and get out and on faster.
Position the barcode up
And preferably rotate all goods so the barcode is in the same corner, this allows the clerk to scan each product using the same simple rotation.
Place products one by one
The clerk is only able to handle one product at a time anyway - no reason to stack them.
Align products along the edge of the conveyor closest to the clerk
This way the clerk does not have to reach for your goods and you avoid the bottleneck effect where your goods are piled up as the conveyor belt narrows down before the barcode scanner.
Group your products
Goods with a quantity discount are much easier to handle when placed next to each other. As an exception to the rule you can pile them up since only one barcode need to be scanned for these groups.
Sort your products by how you pack them
Usually you would want large and rigid goods (e.g. milk, flour and bags of rice) first and smaller and fragile goods (e.g. eggs, grapes and caviar) last, this is easier to pack and ensures your fragile purchases does not get squashed. Also if you bought a shopping bag to contain your products, you want to place that first on the conveyor.
Consider the aesthetics
With your remaining time and energy while waiting at the checkout counter consider the aesthetics of the placement of your goods. You can sort your products in colors, shapes or themes. Any aesthetic idea can justify breaking the above rules, but stick to the efficient placement as your baseline.