Shake Shack lines are legendary. Although wait time averages 30 to 40 minutes at their Madison Square Park location in NYC, still 1500 customers buy their burgers each day. If we assume that during the past 10 years 1500 people waited at least 20 minutes daily, then the total would be close to 109.5 million minutes.
You can see below that as of Shake Shack’s tenth anniversary on June 12, 2014, combined customer wait times would have been more than two centuries.
Where are we going? To the tradeoffs that lines create.
The Reasons We Stand in Line
If we stand in line to self-signal, that 20 minute wait at Shake Shack confirms our foodie status. Or you can let the world know that you are a trendy techie by entering Apple’s never ending queue for the newest iPhone. Meanwhile, at Disney World in Tokyo, couples display their mutual commitment by enduring the hours-long wait for inexpensive personalized leather bracelets.
Still, you must be thinking that some of us just don’t do lines.
Instead we could hire a line stander. Last week, the Supreme Court line started forming at 6 am, 100 hours before the oral arguments for the same sex marriage case began. But for $50 an hour a line stander could have done the wait. In NYC, the founder of Same Ole Line Dudes says people hire him for events like sample sales and getting SNL tickets. (Interesting that you might pay him $25 for the first hour and then $10 each additional half hour to avoid a sale line.)
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
Whenever I think of the tradeoffs that lines create, time first comes to mind. The decision involves whether the value of the wait is worth more than whatever would have occupied that time slot.
We could even ask if 208 years of Shake Shack wait time is worth society’s opportunity cost.