A supermarket express lane is a cashier checkout designed for a limited number of items. The idea of having an express lane is to allow those with only a few grocery items to get out of the store quickly. Many grocery stores have a 10 items or less express lane.
The express checkout usually has a smaller counter area than the regular checkout lanes. It's also narrower since it is not made for grocery carts to go through. The hand held baskets in supermarkets are used by express shoppers. Shoppers that need only one or two items may not even use a basket and instead just carry the items in their hands to the express checkout.
Using the express lane often saves time waiting in line at the supermarket. Even if you're not the first one in line, if the people in front of you have 10 items or less, it should take less time than if you have people with cartloads full of groceries in front of you. Yet, sometimes it may be faster to check out a small number of items in a regular lane if there are many people lined up in the express lane, but only one or two in the regular lane.
In determining if the express checkout would be the fastest, try and estimate the number of items ahead of you rather than going by the number of people in line. Also, some cashiers are quicker and more experienced than others so you have to allow for this and be patient. Sometimes, the line may be stalled if a customer is questioning the price of something or needs to exchange an item.
Some supermarkets today have automated checkouts that may even replace the express checkout in a particular store chain. Many of us prefer having the cashier put our items through, while others appreciate being able to check out their groceries themselves. If a grocery store doesn't have an express lane of some kind, shoppers may be tempted to pay a bit more and buy their extra milk or other items at a convenience store.