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Cash-Only Lane to Become Express Lane

After many months of trials, we have determined that our efforts to encourage more cash use at the Co-op have not panned out and have decided to convert the cash-only lane that adjoins Customer Service to an express lane.

Our quest for cash
In some ways, given some cyclical patterns we experience in the use of credit cards at our registers, the data on the cash-only lane’s effect are still inconclusive. Credit use did dip for a month or so but is back up and growing at pre-trial rates. We suspect the dip had at least as much to do with a concerned member’s article in our March 2007 Reader, “Paper or Plastic: Think About What’s in Your Wallet” (www.willystreet.coop/newsletter/newsletter-archive/0703/paper.html). Cash use is up from when our trial began, but it actually goes up every year over the summer, and we don’t seem to have dramatically departed from that pattern.

Ideally, we’d keep the cash-only lane open a full year to both be truly able to examine its impact and to have that much more time to encourage our shoppers to bring cash or get it from the ATM as they enter. This effort itself costs us money, though, in that in order to encourage shoppers to bring cash, we have established a guaranteed schedule of open times for the cash-only lane. As a result we often have a cashier (who in our organization makes at least the Dane County Living Wage!) sitting idle, waiting for a cash customer. And the kicker: cash is, of course, accepted at all lanes. We know many of you have favorite cashiers and that the “true” lanes, with belts and full bagging stations, are faster for large loads.

In the end, our strong read of our experiment is that whatever savings we are able to achieve in transaction fees were not be able to defray the cost of having a cashier sit idle throughout much of their shift. Also, given our experience so far, we don’t believe it prudent to convert one of our primary lanes to cash-only. We will be turning the lane along the Customer Service aisle into an express lane.

About the express lane
Kristin Esselstrom, our Front End Manager, has worked with her team to define how the express lane will be used. The new express lane will be for purchases of 10 items or less and will be open during peak times. We will not have a set time for opening the lane and will instead leave when to open it to the discretion of the Front End’s Shift Supervisor. There may be times that it is used in the morning to help with early rushes, and we see using it frequently during both the lunch hour and the post-work/dinner rush. We will respond more to the flow of our shoppers, instead of having a structured time to have the lane open.

At the time of this printing we are waiting for equipment necessary to convert our lane to be able to accept credit and debit cards so we can’t yet tell you with certainty when it will open. Please look for signage designating it as an express lane soon.