I’ve noticed this holiday season that Wal-Mart is taking a different approach towards attracting customers: respecting their time. Around black friday back in November, Wal-Mart was promising more open cash registers for shorter lines and quicker checkouts. Near Christmas I heard commercials advertising “gift card only” check-out lines, enticing people to purchase gift cards without all the hassle typically associated with checking out at Wal-Mart during busy times.
Shopping involves more cost than just the cash you pay at the register: it involves gasoline costs for driving to the store, wear and tear on your car (extremely small cost), but most importantly time. Time spent driving to the store as well as time spent shopping and subsequently checking out has real value, despite that fact that a disturbingly large number of people fail to explicitly recognize this fact and organize their lives with it in mind. Impatient people (like myself, frankly) get a visceral reaction to seeing a long waiting line in any situation, but there is a very real and somewhat measurable economic cost to waiting in line, since it consumes several minutes or perhaps hours of your time.
So aside from its excellent drive to cut sticker-price costs for consumers while shopping, I am pleased to see that Wal-Mart is now trying to cut time costs for consumers, representing once again that Wal-Mart really “gets it”. I sincerely hope that other companies follow Wal-Marts lead and begin to allocate resources within their company in a way that respects the value of time of their customers.