Three days ago, when I went to the Railways reservation centre for cancelling a ticket, going there early (about 25 minutes before the place opened—it usually takes 1.5 hours; it took only 40 minutes this time), I began to think “I must find out what the optimal time to arrive here is”. Arriving too early (two hours early, say) is obviously stupid, and so is arriving at peak hour. Again, apparently many people had similar thoughts (“If I’m there before the place opens, it will be empty-ish and I can be done soon”), but were awfully inefficient in their implementation: the place was practically full by the time it opened. It rapidly grew after the last 15–20 minutes; so if I’d arrived 10 minutes later, I’d have left considerably more than 10 minutes later. The matter clearly allows for much thought.
I’d almost forgotten about the thought, until I saw this post at the Tasty Research blog.
It is disturbing to see so many people post enthusiastically about queue-butting.
Anyway, it appears that “Queue Psychology” or “Queuing Theory” is quite established:
* Karl Kruszelnicki has some very interesting things to say in Part 1 and Part 2.
* This BBC article takes a look at “evolutionary psychology” in general, and talks about queues in passing.
There are also allusions to a “You are how you wait” article, but I can’t find it on the net….