Serpentine queues bad for business and profits

September 23rd, 2008 - 2:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 23 (IANS) Waiting in serpentine queues is bad for business, whether it involves depositing money in the bank or paying for groceries or availing services, according to a study.But time is money. Both individuals and businesses may suffer as queues become serpentine, avers Tel Aviv University (TAU) mathematician Refael Hassin, a professor.

His utilisation of game theory to cue himself into queues and their economic outcomes turns common sense upside-down and could help businesses boost profits, or make society a more pleasant place for everyone.

“I don’t suggest that companies hire more cashiers at the sight of a growing queue. With some basic analysis, however, peak times of wait lines can be determined, and businesses can ensure that customers stay happy while waiting, by offering them entertainment like TV or maybe cappuccinos.”

But sometimes the lines themselves are the problem, Hassin believes. His study suggests that waiting times are affected by a number of random variables, according to an Eurekalert report.

People who gather in a crowd might be serviced more efficiently than people standing in line. Sometimes, disorder creates its own order.

In an ice-cream shop, for example, an arriving customer who the display case will experience shorter waiting times for service than when the same number of customers wait patiently in line.

“Customers are often selfish and ignore the effect their behaviour has on others.” Hassin’s research was inspired by the lack of an organised queue system in Israeli society.

These findings were published recently in Management Science.

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