The other day I was talking to a friend of mine from high school about this problem that she’s been having with her next-door neighbor and her daughter. She thinks that because they are not as quiet as they used to be, then that means that something has happened, and she is taking it personally.
I remember reading something about that, when somebody has certain issues, and there is some kind of unfavorable change in the environment, people can sometimes take it personally, and assume it was something they did, or worse, assume it is another example of them always getting the short end of the stick.
Like once I had this friend, and we were waiting in line to get our food at this fast food place. She had number seventeen, and they called numbers fifteen, sixteen, and then eighteen. She looked discouragingly at her number and mumbled something about things like this always happening to her.
Of course, if you were to do an engineering analysis of the restaurant, the restaurant staff, and the time and resources required to produce each order, and then compared that to orders number fifteen through eighteen, you very well may draw the conclusion that order number seventeen was the most labor and resource intensive (e.g. double bacon cheeseburger, extra pickles with well done fries, no salt). It would then be completely logical (especially if you were waiting in line with Mr. Spock) to expect order number seventeen to take longer than the rest.
This extremely common situation is made worse by the idea that people have about what the world “should” be like. Restaurants “should” always give out the food in the order that it was ordered.
Then you open up a whole can of worms from the restaurants perspective. Should they always give out the order numbers sequentially, no matter how long each individual order takes? What about somebody like my friend who ordered a pretty specific order, and somebody right after her that ordered something simple, like a cheeseburger and fries combo? Do you hold up the line in order to make sure your orders are in order in order to not offend those orders behind her? Or do you try the best you can, and take a broader approach, and work as efficiently and quickly as you can in order to please as many customers as possible?
Sometimes when I’m at the supermarket, and there is a bunch of people waiting in line, and the next checker over opens up. Sometimes he or she will shout out “I can help whoever is next,” which of course leads to a brief period of social anarchy of biblical proportions, where the first will become last and the last will become first. Especially if the last isn’t shy about throwing some elbows in order to secure a first in line position in the newly opened check stand.
Then there are other, (usually older) more experienced checkers who make an effort to actually walk over to the next person in line, and single them out to be first in the next line. This usually results in a much more calm transition, as people are prone to accept the new checker’s authority on the situation, and follow suit. Itâ€™s not uncommon to see strangers checking with each other to see who is going to go over to the next checker, and who is going to stay in the current line.
I’ve never worked at a supermarket, and I don’t know if they have a policy for how to handle such a situation, but it just seems that for everybody involved, ensuring an orderly transition from one long line to two shorter ones is much better than eliciting some social anarchy.
I remember reading a study done a number of years ago regarding line psychology. People were presented with two options, at a hypothetical fast food restaurant. Option one is you walk into the place, and choose between four open registers. Whatever line you choose, you’ve got to stick with it no matter how slow it moves. (Of course, Murphy’s Law dictates that no matter which line you choose, it will be the slowest.)
Option two is one gigantic queue, where you line up like for an amusement park ride, or at the bank. Then whoever is next, can just say “next!” and since there is only one line, whoever is next, is next. This seems to be the most preferred by businesses, as it takes away the problem of dealing with line jumpers and how to handle the situation of a newly opened register.
But it is least favored among customers, as it completely takes away any choice they may have when they walk into the place. It gives the impression of being herded like cattle, something people don’t particularly enjoy on their lunch break. It also makes it seem that you will be waiting longer, despite numerous studies that show you actually will have less of a wait in a general queue than when you have to choose your own line.
Push may come to shove when you are forced to decide which is important, personal choice and freedom, or efficiency, even if the efficiency is customer oriented, as it gets them in and out quicker.
Often times, we prefer the illusion of choice even when, in the long run, having a choice means waiting longer, despite the length of the wait being the number one criterion for making the choice in the first place.
Quite a paradox, that.
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