Saturday, January 12, 2008

Efficient queuing, Emirates style

How can we reduce the amount of time waiting in line? The Undercover Economist has the answer:
Imagine a bank queue in which one customer arrives per minute, and one customer per minute is dealt with by staff. All it takes is a cashier on a cigarette break, or a sudden rush of customers, and you could have 10 people in the queue. At that point, each person has to queue for 10 minutes, even though people are leaving as quickly as they are arriving. Somehow the queue must be disposed of.

The solution is elegant and unexpected: new arrivals should go directly to the front, to be served immediately after the current customer. Queues would then be very short, because once a customer was pushed back a couple of places he or she would give up and go home.
This is the system that I encountered for the first time when I moved to the Emirates. Who knew it was the most efficient? Yet another case where unbridled pursuit of selfish interest produces the socially optimal outcome.

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3 Comments:

Blogger i*maginate said...

And if 5 ladies were amongst the queue of 10, the last 5 would leave, according to your formula...so the queue is halved ;-)

11:22 PM  
Blogger rosh said...

hahaha! similarly with the driving culture. People have no shame or self respect in cutting queues - there is not even a bit of remorse, shame or lack of respect. I get a fit when people cut into traffic queues - baboons!

6:56 PM  
Blogger Dubai Entrepreneur said...

I am a bit disappointed by this post. The assumption that people will simply leave is very unrealistic. People will not leave. Then what? There will be quarrels and possibly fights, which would create even further delays.

This is not even close to efficient. I know that this is sarcastic, but come on..

8:42 PM  

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