Tag Archives: social justice

queuing, cutting in line, and social justice

Page Six ran a story about wealthy Manhattanites who hire “black-market Disney guides” for $130 an hour (or $1,040 for an eight-hour day) to cut in line for the rides at Disney World. The guides are people with disabilities who, according to Disney rules, are allowed to take up to 6 people to the front of the ride lines.

At face value, this may seem like a good trade – people who pay do not have to wait in line. People who do not pay more have to wait. But of course, this is not how we really feel about queuing.

This story became popular because hiring guides with disabilities violates the social justice principle we associate with queues. First come first served, no exceptions! This is especially important since single line FIFO queues, like the ride queues at amusement parks, have the highest expectations of social justice. We are someone less concerned with grocery store lines with multiple servers and multiple lines, where a late-comer to one line can be served before someone who has been waiting longer in another line. We reluctantly accept the Law of Lines.

I blogged about the psychology of queuing long ago based on Dick Larson’s research on the intersection of operations research and psychology [Link]. Dr. Larson and his collaborators found that people are willing to wait longer on average to ensure that no one gets special treatment. Special treatment means that someone violates the first-come-first-serve queuing rule. Multiple servers with a single queue preserve social justice.

In reality, we accept many deviations from FIFO/FCFS queues. For example, frequent fliers can register with the TSA and pay an annual fee to get expedited screening at many hub airports. We accept this. Frequent fliers skipping the security queue is not unlike the wealthy people who purchase a “guide” at Disney to avoid waiting. The difference is that the TSA expedited screening is an official way for cutting in line whereas the Disney guides are working around the way the rules are intended to work (cutting via a technicality).

What are your favorite ways to avoid queuing?


Haiti and OR

Like many of you, I have been following the news from Haiti with disbelief and incredible sadness.  I am interested in hearing about how OR is helping with the relief efforts.  If you know of any such work, please leave a comment!