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Who Likes Lineups?

October 2nd, 2018

Collectively, us North Americans spend over 40 billion hours in lineups each year. No wonder, Greens (when possible) just go online, Oranges bail, and Golds lose their mind.

But we endure them over and over again. Toronto recently opened their first Cheesecake Factory and the first weekend lineups were over two hours for a restaurant that, according to most people, isn’t that good. We endure lineups at grocery stores, our mandatory coffee stop, for an elevator, and almost everywhere else.

Disney amusement parks, which are way more about lineups than actual amusement, puts huge work into analyzing their guests’ perception of lineups in order to keep them happy. It turns out that it’s all about distractions, having something to do in the line, and the perception of how long it’ll take to get to the front. Who knew social scientists work on this?

Disney has lots of lineup entertainment, and manipulate your expectations by overestimating the length of time in line. That way you’ll be pleasantly surprise that “it took less time than I thought…” Elevator banks often have full-length mirrors to give you something to do/look at while waiting. (Looking great, Ms. Orange…yes, your tie matches, Mr. Gold…beautiful smile Ms. Blue…no, Mr. Green, you don’t need to look in the mirror to see yourself thinking…) It’s also why stores have their candy, impulse stuff, and magazines in the cash register lineup…

Unpreventable lines has an entire industry working on helping us not have a meltdown. I’ve always hated flying into Kansas City. My luggage always takes forever to finally show up. Yet, I’ve always loved the international arrivals at the Calgary airport where my luggage was often on the carousel before me! Well, it turns out that’s not exactly true. Perceptions aren’t reality…

Houston averaged one minute to walk from the gate to baggage claims, and seven minutes for luggage to show up. And people were ticked off all the time. After their studies, the airport moved the arrival gates away from the main terminal and sent the luggage to the outermost carousels. The result: Same total eight minutes, but passenger complaints dropped to near zero!

So next time (every time) you’re in a lineup, do what Greens do: Look around to see what they’ve done to occupy your mind and your eyes. And share what your first Color is, what you’ll line up for, and how long before you bail…

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