Dear Rude People: Quit Cutting in Line

I was at IKEA today, and ended up buying just one very small item, a $5 shelf. When I got to the checkout, I was startled to see that there were only two registers open, and there were about 8-12 people in each line. I was surprised because it was 11:30 on a Thursday morning. Why were there so many people at IKEA at that time of the day?

Anyway…

One line seemed slightly shorter than the other, but it was further away. I started to stress over which line to get in, and decided to just stay where I was. As you might have guessed, it was a bad decision. I had chosen the slowest line.

With all this extra time on my hand, I started thinking about why things like this still happen. Why should customers have to guess which line is the best one to get into, and then get annoyed (well at least I do) when it’s obvious they made the wrong choice.

I’ve been to several places, such as airports, where there is a simple queuing system in place where everyone just gets in one line, and then when a cash register opens up, the next person in line goes to that register. Such a method enables the customer to avoid the stress of trying to decide which line to get in and treats everyone fairly, operating under the principle of first come, first serve.

However, picking the wrong line wasn’t the real problem. When I thought about it, the odds are likely that half the time you pick correctly.

The problem occurred when IKEA opened up another line, and people just jumped from the back of the line they were in, and went right to the front of the new line.

In my book, there are not many behaviors more obnoxious than cutting in line.

IKEA could have handled it better by hand picking who goes to the newly opened register, or better yet, not letting the problem occur in the first place by actually thinking about designing proper queues. I also noticed that there were no self-checkout registers at IKEA; I think that would have also helped avoid these problems.

Of course, being a proper gentleman (i.e., a wimp), I did not say anything to anybody about my frustration.

I then got in my car, and the problem repeated itself.

I was driving down a four-lane street, in the right-hand lane, when the car in front of me stopped in the middle of the lane to let someone get out. I went to pull into the left lane to pass the car, when I noticed all the cars that had been behind me pulling into the left lane and passing me. First, it was the car that was four cars behind me, then the one that was three, then the one that was two, and finally the one that was right behind me.

Am I the only one who views this as grossly unfair? To me, it’s just like cutting in line at the grocery store or IKEA.

To me, the proper etiquette if you are the last car in line in that mini-pileup in the right-hand lane, is to pull into the left lane when you get a chance, and then wait while the cars that were ahead of you can now pull into the left lane as well, with all cars maintaining their original position in the lane.

That’s what I do, but I rarely see other people do it. Everyone is in such a rush to get somewhere that they just think about themselves, and have no problem cutting ahead of you when the opportunity presents itself.

And when it happens in the car, I’m usually a little more aggressive than I was at IKEA, either honking my horn or waving my arms in disgust.

As I was looking online to see if other people also get upset about line cutting, I came across a fascinating article on Wikipedia that was all about line cutting.

There were some interesting takeaways:

  • According to one study, a person cutting in line has a 54% chance that others in the line will object. With two people cutting in line, there is a 91.3% chance that someone will object. The proportion of people objecting from anywhere behind the cutter is 73.3%, with the person immediately behind the point of intrusion objecting most frequently.
  • Drivers who bypass traffic by waiting until the last possible moment before merging are sometimes considered to be “cutters,” and are frequent instigators of road rage.
  • In former Communist countries, where waiting in long queues was a near-daily occurrence for some, especially at times of rationing, the act of waiting in line and the code of conduct associated with it is much more institutionalized and regimented to this day. In Russia, for example, the art of queuing is finely-honed: it is acceptable for a person to leave the queue to use the bathroom (or similar brief diversion) and then return to their original place without having to ask permission.
  • In Spain, an arriving patron asks “¿Quién es el último?” (Who is last?) and is then behind that person in the queue, which is not always a physical line, but may be merely a jumble of people with the same objective.
  • (I remember in London it was quite bad. You would go into a crowded pub, and there was no system to put your name on a waiting list. You would just keep circling the pub waiting for a table to open and hope that you were the closest one to that table when that happened. Otherwise, someone that came in to the pub 45 minutes after you could grab that table.)
  • In some instances cutting in line is sanctioned by the authority overseeing the queue. For example, amusement park operators such as Walt Disney have virtual queue programs whereby a limited number of patrons can pay for the privilege of cutting the line for an attraction by arriving at a pre-designated time. Common penalties for cutting the line without this privilege range from being forced to the back of the line to ejection from the park without a refund.
  • At airports, where wheelchair-using passengers are given priority boarding, a new phrase, “miracle flight”, has been coined.  At the conclusion of the flight, these wheelchair-using passengers are able to miraculously walk off the aircraft, so that they do not have to be among the last to disembark.
  • It was reported that an 18-year-old National Serviceman in Malaysia was bludgeoned to death after he attempted to jump the queue at a food counter. Another notable incident occurred in New York City at The Halal Guys food cart, resulting in the death of the man who cut in line. The man who killed him was found not guilty by reason of self-defense.

So line cutters, you’ve been warned. Apparently, not everyone is as mild-mannered about your rude behavior as I am.

It’s a pretty simple concept – first-come, first-serve.

And perhaps more importantly, just be nice to people.

*image from Humber Business

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