In search of the most mind-numbingly glacial checkout lanes in all the land, where understaffing, apathy, and/or incompetence all combine to create the perfect storm of shopping delays? You're already there, fella.
Baltimore has been officially dubbed the slowest city in America, following a survey by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association that measured how long consumers are waiting in line to check out at the grocery store, see a bank teller, buy clothes, or get a meal.
Of 25 cities, Baltimore came in dead last, scoring an average wait time of 5.13 minutes. But don't head to D.C. to save time. The nation's capital was in the back of the pack with Baltimore, landing in 24th place with an average wait time of 4.58 minutes. Fastest on the list was Phoenix, where buyers spend an average of 3.05 minutes sitting tight in store checkout lines, followed by Portland and Minneapolis.
The 2006 Wait Time Survey zeroed in on the top 25 U.S. cities based on population. Anonymous shoppers were sent into banks, clothing stores, traditional restaurants, and grocery stores to measure how long patrons are biding their time in lines. Baltimore's clothing stores, supermarkets, and restaurants were particularly pokey, with the survey ranking the city in the bottom three in those areas.
The president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, however, was non-plussed. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association? "That is suspect in itself,'' scoffed Joan Hatfield. Nevertheless, she was armed with answers. "We have quality service in the Baltimore region,'' she said. "Sometimes it does take time to provide such superior service.''
On a snappier note, Baltimore banks ranked in the top three cities, registering wait times in teller lines of just 1.50 minutes.
So, banks aside, next time you've got a cartful of groceries to purchase, or some new duds to buy, just queue up with a crossword puzzle. Or two.