The Theory Of Making You Wait

June 18, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Seth Stevenson talked with MIT professor Dick Larson about queuing theory. Highlights include:

  • Queuing theory is the theory about…queues. The ones we face at banks, supermarkets, or even virtual ones on the telephone.
  • The field got its start in Denmark with the invention of the telephone. Telephone companies needed to know how many operators to hire based on how many callers there would likely be.
  • Queuing theory addresses three aspects of human nature: We get bored in lines, we don’t like waiting longer than we thought we would, and we hate it when people are served out of order.
  • It is mostly a perception game and Disney is the king of manipulating these perceptions at its theme parks.
  • Video screens in Disney lines advertise the ride ahead – making the wait less boring.
  • Disney also places estimate times to reach the front of the line – but it pads them so that you always reach the front before you were told you would.
  • Disney also operates on a single line system so that it’s not possible for people who joined the line after you to be served before you.

To read many more interesting and quirky examples, including the company that put in mirrors to reduce complaints about long lines, why telephone systems still depend on queues, how restaurants deal with the problem, what the New York City subway does, what Wendy’s, American Airlines, and Citibank disagree about, what happens when you put queue theorists together in a line, and the field of business that queue theory fits into click here.

Source: Slate