Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Waiting in line: keep it fair!

All of us have spent time waiting in line -- whether at the DMV or department stores or...you name it, we've waited in that line!
Waiting in line: using automation to enhance fairness

Generally, people waiting in line aren't happy about the wait -- many think it is a waste of time, boring, tiring and generally unpleasant. Thus, any organization facing lines wants to enhance their operation.

There's an entire field of study about lines: queuing theory.  It started in Denmark about 100 years ago.

Queuing theory, says Seth Stevenson in a recent Slate article, has transitioned from a mathematical process to more of a psychological analysis. More about feelings than formulas, in other words.

The element of fairness is key to the latest queuing studies and systems.  Queue rage (yes; that is a concept!) develops when waiting in line and somehow someone else is served ahead of their perceived time. No one wants that, to be sure!

There are multiple ways of handling the queue fairness issue and CPS' QuikLine manages one of the most prominent solutions: the serpentine (or single, wrap-around) line.

There are other line psychology issues; we'll be discussing them in future blogs. Meanwhile, take a look at QuikLine with a serpentine line servicing about 20 cash register lines: Whole Foods Foggy Bottom Washington DC. Here's QuikLine video highlighting multiple lines serving about 40 cash registers: Whole Foods Union Square New York.

What type of queue makes waiting fair in your mind?