Re: poly: Buying groceries

From: James Rogers <>
Date: Mon Nov 09 1998 - 18:04:43 PST

At 11:40 PM 11/9/98 +0000, you wrote:
>Buying my groceries today during rush hours, I had to wait some
>five minutes in a queue in order to pay. During this time I
>thought of the following simple way of cutting the queues: Instead
>of having every customer pay for his groceries, let everybody
>activate a randomizing machine when they are about to exit. With 50%
>chance a green light flashes, and with 50% chance a red light
>flashes. If green light, then you just pass without paying; if
>red light then you pay twice the amount you'd normally do.
>Isn't this simple enough that it might work, if only you could
>get past people's inertia and their attitude problems against
>gambling etc.?

This presents a few practical issues:

-The ability to time average purchases in this manner depends on what
fraction of the persons total income the purchase represents. A poor
person may not be able to afford groceries that cost twice as much the
first time they walk into a store, even though the cost is averaged over time.

-Relatively low volume businesses (e.g. new companies) would probably have
similar reservations about conducting business this way. A short term
deviation from the long term statistical average could bankrupt a company
in the short term.

-How would businesses maintain inventory control? Assuming the store
maintained its inventory, you would still have to stand in line, although
it would be somewhat quicker since you don't have to pay every time.
However, clever or loose inventory control techniques/technologies may
eliminate this necessity.

>It would be possible to remedy this but on pain of introducing
>complications. You could have each customer choosing how much they
>want to pay. Then they pass the random device and if green they just
>pay what they agreed to; if red they pay (or get) twice the
>difference between what they agreed to and the price of their
>merchandise. By making a rough estimate of how much you are buying
>for, you could thus reduce the risk.

Money is exchanged in both cases. The only room for improvement is in
reducing or eliminating checkout-time inventory maintainance.

Both of these systems are likely to give accountants headaches.

-James Rogers
Received on Tue Nov 10 02:14:54 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:30 PST