New technology aims to take the wait out of the grocery store lines

SEATTLE -- Americans spend about 37 billion hours each year waiting in line -- about 4 million years many Americans describe as a waste of time.

Now, Fred Meyer says it's using new technology to turn back the clock.

"It's the make or break experience for customers shopping in our stores," said Brad Carter, District Coordinator for Fred Meyer.

So Fred Meyer decided to cut down their queues. Six months ago, shoppers at the Ballard store spent an average of 4 1/2 minutes at checkout. Then executives embraced a new tool.

"Since we've rolled out and embraced the new technology, Que vision, we've been able to get that down to less than a minute," he said.

Carter says all check stands in the building now have heat sensors that act like people detectors, counting how many shoppers come in and check out.

A computer uses the data to calculate how many lanes will need to be open in 30 minutes.

But what about the impulse purchase? Supermarkests earn $5.5 billion a year when shoppers pick up tabloids or gum to quell the agony of waiting. But Carter says less time hasn't affected the bottom line.

"If anything it allows us to sell more because shoppers have a better shopping experience they're going to be more willing to come back and shop with us again, Carter said.