Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have published a study in which they suggest we’ve all been lining up wrong – and they know how to fix it.
Lining up for the launch of a new game, console, or system is a rite of passage for gamers. It is a badge of honor to be “that person,” the one who waited outside the electronics store in their bivouac tent, cooking canned soup off their propane stove, for three days just to be the very first person to own a Virtual Boy. Now, researchers from Denmark – that wretched hive of scum and villainy – say we’ve been doing it wrong this whole time. (Note: Denmark is a wonderful place with wonderful people!)
What Trine Tornøe Platz and Lars Peter Østerdal, from the University of Southern Denmark, propose is this: the “first come, first served” principle of queuing is a “curse.” We should not be rewarding the parking lot campers; instead, the last people to arrive should be the first to receive service.
Their logic is this: incentivizing people to arrive early ends up causing the longest average wait times. Under their alternative model, people change their behavior, arriving at the queue at a slower rate. This alleviates the dreaded “bottleneck scenario,” and thus congestion and long waits.
In an experiment involving over a hundred volunteers, this seemingly crazy notion actually held water. A close second to the “last come” model is the “random order” model, a bit like how airplane boarding works, or drivers leaving a parking lot all at once after a big event. Despite the efficiency, most volunteers agreed it all felt a little unfair.
Even one of the main researchers isn’t entirely convinced, according to his interview with the BBC.
Now, I’m all for science trumping common sense – but this is a step too far. Who thinks this could ever be implemented? Besides, line-ups are the best time to play my 3DS. When am I going to finish Fire Emblem, if not when I’m stuck at the passport office for eight hours?