I wonder whether culture created queue problems at Rio 2016.
In a recent podcast, Freakonomics host Stephen Dubner told about his line problem at a European Championship soccer tournament. Arriving at the stadium for a German-Polish match, he and his son went to the end of the line. After the line barely moved, he discovered that newcomers from Poland were positioning themselves near strangers at the front “like happy little barnacles.”
Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, practice “queuing days” were scheduled because the Chinese were unaccustomed to Western-style lines. In France, Disney tried to solve queue jumping problems by using handrails that were closer together. As a Disney executive explained, “At the Disneyland Resort Paris, while British visitors are orderly, French and Italians never saw a line they couldn’t be in front of.” In the Middle East Disney copes with queue attitude problems by increasing their capacity.
At the other extreme, the Japanese are known for their queuing patience. Like the British, the Canadians, the Germans and the Americans, they share certain queuing norms. In one experiment, an economist offered to pay people for a spot at the front of a line. Refusing the money, people let him in the first time he tried but said no after a second attempt. The researchers believed that the reason was a norm that says we should not cut into lines.
Our Bottom Line: Supply and Demand
Supply and demand provide the basic reason that lines form. Whenever there is too much demand or inadequate supply, a queue results. Then though we can ask why certain groups maintain an orderly line and others do not.
Sources and more: Although we have looked at lines before, this Freakonomics podcast made it worth returning to the topic. Economically motivated, disorderly line standing prevails in countries like India but not Canada. But also, the NY Times says that French and Italians display comparable behavior at Disneyland.