Because of a software glitch, some of the Queen’s mourners were told the line started in North Carolina.
Queen Elizabeth II Queues
Identifying the end of the lying-in-state line, the location service, What3Words, had been wrong 40 percent of the time during the first three hours. In addition to North Carolina, it told people to go to California. Still though, a crowd management expert said the planning for the crowd was excellent The wait, at its max, was 14 hours when the line closed. But then, mourners created a queue for the queue.
The line planner told Wired that first, you have to be very aware of bottlenecks–that, for example, were at security screening. Otherwise, managing the crowd, there are three, variables: the arrival rate, the service rate, and psychology. The London underground and mainline rail network mostly determined the arrival rate. However, they said the service pace was trickier to calculate, especially because psychology related to the slow walkers that took a long times looking and the faster paced people.
Three Kinds of Queues
For most of us, lines involve three possibilities. Sometimes we have no choice. Our queue is unavoidable. At other times we can refuse to wait. And yes, the third possibility is when we want to wait for something.
You know the list. At the airport, we wait to pass through security checkpoints. There are also lines we cannot avoid at government-related offices like the DMV.
The characteristics of a pleasant queuing environment include distractions like TVs, music, and employee visibility. Studies have indicated that one way to feel better is having more people behind us. We get comfort from knowing others will have a longer wait.
Research indicates that (under normal circumstances) we are only willing to make a quick stop at the ATM–no more than 3 minutes. And just slightly longer–3.6 minutes–in convenience stores. Meanwhile, we will stand in line for 8 minutes in a drugstore. Another 2017 study reported that we get impatient after 5 minutes 45 seconds.
For a fast food drive-thru, USA Today tells us that during the summer of 2021 wait time increased by more than 25 seconds to an average of six minutes 22 seconds. The study involved 1500 people that ordered a hot sandwich, a side order, a drink, and a special request. They went to 10 major fast food chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Dunkin’. Not only was the wait time up but so too were the inaccuracies with Chick-fil-A making the most mistakes..
Behavioral economists tell us that we signal something about ourselves through the queues we want to join. A 20 minute wait at Shake Shack when it first opened confirmed your foodie status. A night club, a restaurant, an art exhibit could also attract individuals who value the service or product more than their time. One researcher found that art lovers were happy to wait an average of 59 minutes to see a Paul Gaugin exhibit.
Our Bottom Line: Cost
One common denominator for all three scenarios is time. When the wait actually exceeds or just seems to exceed our expectations, its cost increases. That cost can determine when we abandon the queue. Or, it can make an essential queue ever more frustrating.
My sources and more: Wired and Gizmodo had the tech story of the Queen’s queues while USA Today told about drive thru times. Meanwhile, having quoted a past econlife, I wanted to include the sources I used several years ago. They included an article on queue psychology that led me to this one from the Atlantic. Then, for the academic research, Chicago Booth and Freakonomics had a good overview. Finally, for some fun, iPhone X lines are here.
Please note that our featured image is from Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters via the NY Times.