I just finished reading “Perspectives on Queues: Social Justice and The Psychology of Queueing” by Richard Larson that I wrote about earlier. He argues that the perceived utility of waiting in a queue is a nonlinear function of queuing delay, and multiattributed. These are my favorite parts:
“Social justice” is a measure of how frequently first in, first out (FIFO) is adhered to. For example, customer satisfaction for Wendy’s (which has a single server queue) is higher that that of McDonalds and Burger King (which have multi-server queues), despite customers in the Wendy’s queue waiting twice as long on average as McDonalds and Burger King customers. This was attributed to less “social injustice” as compared to the “undisciplined” multi-line queues.
Air passengers who flew through a Texas airport complained about having to wait for their checked baggage. At the time, the baggage handlers weren’t unloading the planes in FIFO order. When the problem was “fixed,” the passengers still complained. Apparently, on the early commuter flights, commuter passengers with no checked baggage could be seen exiting the airport to catch taxis in full view of the passengers waiting for their checked baggage, infuriating the waiting passengers who felt that justice did not prevail. The solution was to move the airplane disembarkation station farther out and to use the most distant baggage carousel, increasing the walking time from one minute to six minutes. With the extra walk, baggage was generally ready for passengers and social injustices were no longer apparent. I’m not sure justice was really served by making everyone wait longer, but complaints dropped to zero by the “Perception Management” technique.