Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Fair queueing systems.
  (+7, -3)
(+7, -3)
  [vote for,

The problem with queues (such as you find at grocery stores, airports, banks, roads...) is that the person who reaches the front of the line isn't sufficiently incented to hurry up.

If I'm checking out my groceries, and I spend an extra 30 seconds rooting around for my checkbook or chatting it up with the grocer, and there are 10 people in line behind me, that's 5 total person-minutes of wasted time. I only see it as 30 seconds of extra time -- and I'm about to leave anyway.

"Express lanes" (e.g. maximum 8 items) are helpful by letting quick people get in quick lanes, but they shouldn't just be determined based on the number of items in your basket.

Instead, I propose a general system where after you go through a line, it measures how long you take to do your thing. It prints a coupon with that amount, which you can use to get into a *real* express line. (Or not, if you took a long time.) That way people will hurry up quickly because it can offer them substantial time savings later. (Or maybe instead of getting you into an express lane, the coupon lets you pass slower shoppers in the same line.)

These coupons should also be traded on a liquid market, so that people with lots of time can effectively sell it, and people with lots of money can buy time.

egnor, Jun 29 2000

Ticket Barrier Lane System http://www.halfbake...ier_20Lane_20System
Another queueing solution (hard time limits per lane), specialized to a particular application. [egnor, Jun 29 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]


       The fairest queuing system has a single queue for multiple checkouts. This ensures that one person taking an inordinate length of time to check out, does not hold up a specific subset of queuing customers. It also eliminates the "Oh no I've picked the wrong queue!" irritation.   

       The disadvantage with this system is that it requires a large organised queuing area, which is impractical in most circumstances, and does not penalise an individual shopper for tardiness.   

       I propose a system similar to one used by supermarket delicatessen counters, whereby customers ready to proceed to the checkout obtain a numbered voucher, which are called in turn by checkout operators. Those taking too long to proceed to checkout will miss their turn and have to obtain another ticket, whereas speedy shoppers could take the risk of claiming their ticket on entry.   

       This will eliminate all queuing space, enabling supermarkets to fill the freed up area with further product displays.
Lemon, Jun 29 2000

       OKay. The fairest (unfair) queueing system... Put all the old ladies in one queue, all single blokes in another, families in another etc. By applying this segregation you are dividing common interests also. What old lady is ever in a rush? The kids in the families queue can play with each other and not peeve off other people who just want to leave. Obviously if a queue is empty then anyone can use it, but not make a queue at it unless it's your queue. Aah supermarket bliss.
ponda_baba, Jun 29 2000

       Lemon's idea would encourage ticket touts. But then if you're really in a hurry and want to pay for the place at the front of the queue it could be a good thing.
hippo, Jul 05 2000

       Personally I use a variation on Ponda Baba's annotation. Calculate the average age of those in a queue times the number of items. Few items and young age guarantees a quick lane. Old age regardless of the number of items always takes valuable time. With average age only the number of items are a significant parameter. Always works.   

rrr, Jul 30 2000

       Lemon's idea could even be better if there were multiple places in the store to get a ticket, maybe at the ends of all the aisles. The ticket dispensers would be small printers linked together so the next number would be available anywhere. Pick up a ticket when you think you'll be finished in a few minutes and wasted time would be minimal.
magneto, Sep 10 2000

       The only problem with your system, ReindeR, is that <At least where I shop> they have like 10 registers, but I've only ever seen three open at once, max. Usually two, and quite often 1. So there's a line that goes halfway around the store for one register, and you don't have a choice...   

       <has an idea and goes to make a seperate listing for it.>
StarChaser, Sep 10 2000

       Curiousity - what happens to mothers, like me, who on one day will spend 5 minutes trying to keep the munchkin happy in the checkout line, and the next day have to speed through for my bread, milk, and whatnot. I'd prolly be stuck in some long, slow line just because my kid dropped his pacifier three-hundred times.
dagrrl, Nov 19 2000

       You could have multiple personas. Basically, you-with-kid and you-without-kid would be treated as two different individuals. This wouldn't break the system.
egnor, Nov 20 2000

       Aristotle: if people in the long queues were killing each other you'd have an evolutionary process that ultimately led to everyone being quick....
imagooAJ, Nov 20 2000

       [Aristotle] Possibly some problems with the implementation of your idea, but it would make a great computer game.
hippo, Nov 20 2000

       I suspect that the only way such stores could make any money, would be to sell the TV and video rights.
Lemon, Nov 21 2000

       The best and fairest method would just be to have a large jug near the exit to the store. People could just stuff however much money into the jug they felt their groceries were worth. There would also be a pad of paper on which folks could write down their credit card numbers. No more checkout lines.
Vance, Jan 29 2001

       I got two tickets for the cheese counter going cheap...
Pretoria, Jan 10 2002

       I vote for angry stares, loud "ahems", and enough registers being open to make everyone's wait reasonable.
beland, May 26 2003

       Well, fair queue too buddy.
BunsenHoneydew, May 24 2004


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