Still Waiting For A Solution To Waiting In Lines

from the time-holding-its-ground dept

Having to wait in line for a bathroom, concert ticket or driver’s license is an unpleasant experience that can prompt a visceral reaction in people. As kids we learn that “cutters” are among the worst people to walk the earth. So it’s no surprise that a new startup, which will allow people to sell their place on a waiting list to the highest bidder, is causing an outcry. People are aghast that the person in front of them might not really be someone who has waited a long time, but rather someone who paid money for the spot. Either way, it’s not the same thing as cutting, since such a system doesn’t actually push anyone back. Also, waiting lists aren’t the same thing as physical lines since you don’t have to have waste your time only to watch someone drive up in their SUV and take a spot in front of you. All the complainers are actually saying is that they resent the advantages that wealthy people have, though this applies to anything. On the other hand, the people who are excited by this company seem to think the service is a lot more revolutionary than it is. The company makes the bold claim that, “…the system that will change how people think about time.” Yes, waiting in line is a big inefficiency. The time that people spend waiting is pure waste, unlike the money they spend to actually get the product, which gets recycled into the economy. But again, waiting lists aren’t the same as lines. You’re not wasting your time when you’re in a waiting list because you’re not prevented from doing something else simulatenously. It would be interesting if a company developed a market-based system for making physical lines more efficient, but this might be problematic for a different reasons. Time spent camping out for a playoff or concert ticket is a sign of being a diehard fan. Yes it’s wasteful, but the group of people who make it in will often be the best at cheering on the team.

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Comments on “Still Waiting For A Solution To Waiting In Lines”

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dorpus says:


As AMERICAN kids, we learn that “cutters” are among the worst people to walk the earth.

If you go anywhere in Asia/Europe, people (e.g. well-dressed women) will just barge into line in front of you without saying anything. If you raise a fuss, then you are the “loud arrogant American”. In Asia/Europe, you are supposed to just fight your way forward without saying anything.

ET says:

Re: Correction

Dorpus, obviously you have not been in Europe very long/very much and have had potentially a one or two bad experiences with people cutting in line. I’ve been there several times and for extended periods of time and I can’t say they are that much different from us Americans in that aspect. I think the problem here is exactly HOW you “raise a fuss”. Either that or you just had bad luck with a cutter with a bad attitude… and that happens everywhere, even in our beloved “Land of the free” here…

Aaron deOliveira (profile) says:

Equity position?

Is there equity in waiting? You’re investing your time, name, various intangible resources. So this company is trying to create equity here and make it liquid.

Personally I’d like to see it go forward. It’d be an interesting experiment. Yes, the initial blowback will be that waiting lists get incredibly long and that opportunists will stalk ticket sellers and the like. I believe that the market will balance itself out though. Just like real estate, when too many people pile on the price goes down until enough people get off and a balanced market is achieved.

In the long run I could see this service benifiting people. Much like eBay does. eBay has really driven down the price of a lot of items and at the same time made a lot of money for a lot of people.

Joe Smith says:

Nothing new

The business model only works if the person maintaining the list honours the assignment of the spot. A sports franchise with a long wait list for tickets (the example given) may not want to alienate fans by condoning this type of thing. In the sports context this is simply a variation on scalping tickets.

Selling a spot in line is not new. For example, for popular aircraft when there is a long lead time between the order date and when the manufacturer will have time to build the aircraft production slots have been sold for years.

A few years ago I had a customer whose most valuable asset was a committed production slot for an aircraft.

thecaptain says:

They sort of do this at the theme park around here.

You can buy for extra cash a “priority pass” which allows you to cut in at the long lines for the rides.

When I heard about this, my reaction was rather like the ones described…BUT:

1) A pass is only for 1 slice of time during the day (there are 3 – 3 hour periods that passes can be purchased for and the passes are ONLY good for the period of time purchased)

2) A pass holder cannot get priority seating (IE: at a rollercoaster for example, you can only sit in the middle, not in the front or rear cars)

3) The pass itself is only good for 5 rides within the time period, so you get to cut in 5 times and that’s it

4) Some “feature” rides are exempt from the pass…

All in all, its an interesting compromise.

Jamie says:

Re: Re:

In my experience, the theme park passes are just a way for the park to raise its prices without seeming to have done so.

They charge you an admission price, but then also charge you for a “priority pass.” If most of the customers buy the “priority pass” then, the lines for the rides will stay the same for those who bought the pass. For those who didn’t by the passes, they will simply have to wait a lot longer than they did before the passes started being sold.

Most people buy the ‘priority pass” and wait in lines that are almost as long as they used to be. A few people don’t, and now wait even longer than before since they are not in the priority line.

So in the end, there is really no difference in practice to what would have happened if the park had simply raised it’s price.

That said, I don’t think that the priority passes are the same concept as what this article is reporting. The priority passes just put you in a higher priority line, where this moves you to a different location in the same line.

sha says:


No, no, no. At first I was thinking well, hey, if you have the money then by all means, but then I remembered a concert I wanted to see. A friend and I were so excited that we were at ticket master HOURS before the tickets went for sale. I wanted to make sure to get a front row seat (1st 10 ilses at least) because I’m petite and the main reason I don’t go to concerts is b/c most of the time I’m standing behind people that block my view. Well, come to find out when the box office opened that ALL the good seats had sold already. When I asked how that could be since we were here so early and only second in line. She said that these companies electronically buy the tickets within the first few seconds and they were the only ones with access. My story might be a little off in some areas b/c it was 6 or 7 years ago. But I was infuriated that I would be up and waiting so early and these @$$holes still got first dibbs. So no, I don’t support this idea. initially it sounds ok, but naaa.

Greg Andrew says:

Sports franchises extablish waiting liss fpr very specific reasons; they want their fans to feel that the process is fair and noy dependent on money. If companies like this step in, the franchises ‘ reasons for the waiting lists will vanish. The waiting lists will cease to exist and the franchise will just end up selling to the highest bidder.

justok says:

won't float

In New Brunswick, Canada, the provincial government is trying to ban place holders in the line for the ferry to Grand Manan Island. These place holders aren’t needed when leaving the island because people can make reservations, but no such reservation service exists for people going or returning to the island. Despite the use of a place holder by a resident returning from cancer treatment on the mainland, the government deems it necessary to stop the practice immediately. They plan to build a new building this fall that would allow use of a reservation system.

I’m sure there is a line already forming to complain to the transportation minister, but no word on if place holders are allowed.

Anonymous Coward says:

But won’t this actually help scalpers more than honest fans? It seems to me that a scalper could just buy all the early spots in line and then sell them to highest bidder. At least when a scalper is actually holding the ticket (s)he could be arrested or whatever the punishement is. This system would allow them make scores of money without inccuring the legal implications of buying a ticket and reselling it at a higher price.

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