Wednesday, June 4, 2008

We're Not Going to Dilly Dally at Target This Time!

"We're not going to dilly dally this time!" That was what my wonderful wife told me when we went to Super Target(619) last night to pick up a few things. She was grumpy because of her appetite.
This is really very exciting to me. When I'm on my own I usually try to optimize what I'm doing so I can achieve my goals as quickly as I can while not sacrificing quality. It's not all that often that I get to try and make a trip with my wife as efficient as I possibly can. This is the type of thing I live for.
We knew what we wanted to get, we had our requirements. I wanted some fruit, some juice, a couple of frozen pizzas, some microfiber cloths and a few other things. My wife wanted orange juice.
On the drive to the store I proposed a route through the store: park in the usual spot, head in, get a cart, go straight to automotive(microfiber), then head toward the frozen foods(pizza) via the rear main aisle, go to the refrigerated juices(orange juice), then head to the non-frozen juices(juice), get the other things en route to produce then head to checkout.
With the route in place we headed into the store. Since we were not going to dilly dally I walked at my natural pace--fast. I walk roughly twice as fast as other people.
When I walk I constantly look for optimal routes to get to my destination. I look for bunched groups of people, children, and other obstacles that may slow me down--I'm not a complete jerk, I don't want to run anyone over or anything. I look for stretches of open aisles that I can easily walk through.
From the carts to the automotive there was a little congestion around the books and CDs, but nothing too bad. I maneuvered the cart through the people then hit a nice stretch of empty aisle. A nice brisk pace got me to the automotive section. I spotted the microfiber cloths and found a couple bundles for a very reasonable price. To keep my momentum in the aisle I lead the cart with my right hand in the front and use my left hand to get the items I'm interested in. I make my purchase decisions(is it what I need, and which one is the best price). I'll spot what I'm going to buy a step or two before I reach it. To load the cart I grab the item with my left hand and drop it in the cart while moving towards my next destination.
I then proceeded along the aisle along the right wall to meet up with the rear main aisle to head toward the frozen foods. Aside from a little bunching around the toys, the path was unobstructed and I only had to slow down to normal person speed around the kids looking at toys
Once I hit the frozen aisle I went back to leading the cart with my left hand and got the pizzas I wanted with my right. I knew what I was going to get before I even reached the aisle. The only question would be whether there was something new or whether the pizzas I wanted were out of stock. Neither was the case. I had to stop to open the door. But once I got the pizzas I wanted, Freschetta thin pizza, I moved directly on to the refrigerated juices. My wife grabbed the orange juice she wanted and seeing limeade that she likes I asked if she wanted some, she said yes and I grabbed it and brought the cart to her. She put her juice in the cart and we proceeded to the non-refrigerated juice aisle.
This one was a little tricky. There were people at the end of the aisle, right where the juices were that I was interested in. As I stopped my cart to look for the juices I wanted, Old Orchard Blueberry Pomegranate and Old Orchard Wild Cherry, an older woman was walking her cart through. I moved my cart out of the way for her and she walked through and thanked me. She also stopped right in front of the juices I wanted and spend a good 30 seconds deciding on a V8 Fusion juice. This was going to cost me a little time. Normally when I need to wait for someone before I can get something I can still see the items and decide which ones I'm going to get. This time her cart was blocking the area where my regular juices are. I had to wait then make a decision, then get the juice. Looks like Target isn't carrying the wild cherry juice. Bummer, that is my favorite.
I picked up a couple Blueberry Pomegranates and a Welch's Strawberry Kiwi--both juices that I had had before, otherwise I would have checked the label. Then it was on to the Asian/Mexican/Kosher/Italian aisle to pick up a few Zatarain's jumbalaya's to go with the kielbasa at home. They have it with brown rice now, sweet. A couple of boxes, again leading the cart from the front within the aisle. We then moved directly towards produce. I saw they had cherries so I picked them up. I then went to their smoothies and picked up a couple of Bolthouse Farms smoothies. The wife grabbed a few other things in the area and we proceeded to checkout.
My strategy for selecting a register is to look at how much stuff is on the conveyer and look for over-sized items in carts, they're deal killers. I proceed from the area by grocery toward the opposite wall. As I'm walking I look to see which register is the farthest fastest register and use that as a baseline to the registers that I walk by. I look for team members(Target employees) that are standing in front of their registers, that means there isn't a line for that register.
Once I get in line I then unload my cart.
My unloading process is as follows. I get the most dense items(juice) unloaded and put them towards the front of the conveyer. I then put boxed goods behind them, pizzas on the bottom Zatarain's on the pizza boxes, I then put the produce and the microfiber clothes furthest from the cashier. The reason I choose to do it that way is for efficiency. As the cashier is scanning the items she is also looking at how she is going to bag them. Heavy things like liquid containers and cans go on the bottom. Light durable things, like boxes, go in the middle. Light and delicate things, like produce and eggs go on the top. If the conveyor is loaded in that order the cashier has to spend less time figuring out the order.
When it comes our turn to check out I say hello to the cashier and tell her paper--not as bad for the evironment. I then swipe my credit card in the scanner and sign. That's a nice feature at Target. I can take care of the payment before all the items are scanned.
As the bags get filled I load each into the cart. Once the cashier is finished scanning the items she tells me the price and hands me the receipt. I can then proceed to the car. One thing I could have done to make the process faster is to put the cart with the others by the door and carry the bags out to the car. Instead I carted them out. As I approached my car I transitioned into leading the cart. With my right hand I opened the rear door of my car. I then loaded all three bags into the cargo area. My wife dropped the cart in the corral. While she was doing that I closed the rear door and then proceeded to get into the driver seat. While she was on her way back to the car I started it and buckled up. When she entered the car all that needed to be done is for her to fasten her seatbelt.
That is how not to dilly dally at Target.
There are a few things I try to do when I need to shop, or do anything, quickly.
  1. Know what you're there for. Have a set of must have items.
  2. If you know where those items are plan a set of waypoints that will go by those areas.
  3. Make a baseline decision before you get to each decision point--if its something you regularly buy you probably already are familiar with the different brands and package sizes. You may even know exactly where they normally stock the products you want to buy. If you see a competing product or sale that offers a better price, go for it. Otherwise you have your baseline.
  4. Always look for the least congested route towards your next waypoint. If the aisle you're in is congested look for parallel aisles. Sometimes the longer route is actually faster than the shorter route.
  5. Be mindful of your body and the cart. Think about the most efficient way you can get your items from the shelf into the cart. You can improve your efficiency by walking next to or in front of your cart. Be careful of your heels if you walk directly in front of the cart.
I believe the principles offer a reasonable compromise for making the best purchases in the least amount of time. When time is not at a premium

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