the edge of waiting in lines



I was at Disney World and Epcot in Florida with my kids this past weekend.

There was a waiting line for every attraction and ride.

Some of the lines were long.

Others were very short.

Each ride or attraction had an estimated wait time.  Disney has got the waiting line layouts and wait time down to a science.  They hire university professors and engineers to design the layouts of their waiting lines for optimal performance.

The lines weave people back and forth, up and down in a very definite pattern in a small amount of space that keeps the line moving and keeps the people waiting in line relatively calm.

They also ask for active participation from people waiting in a line.

A Disney attendant scans a magnetic card and hands it to selected people when they enter the line.  When that person reaches the front they collect it and run it through a scanner again to record and calculate a very accurate wait time.

The fascinating thing to me was behavior of the people waiting in line.  Almost 100% of the people waiting in line were using their smart phones or tablets, texting, taking pictures, doing social media updates, etc.  As a result, they were not paying any attention to their position in the line.

The use of technology created large physical space gaps between people in the lines. The gaps remained in the lines until the attention of the people using the phones or tablets was somehow brought back to the line they were waiting in.

Usually by an irritated adult accompanied by a couple of screaming kids who did not like waiting in line!

The physical space gaps increased the wait times significantly in all the lines.  The physical space gaps appeared to alter the optimal performance of the design layout for the lines.  I wonder if Disney needs to re-design its waiting lines and consider the impacts of social media?

I gathered a couple of informal data points for fun while waiting in the lines. The people using technology and waiting in the lines created gaps that remained for about 10 seconds each.

If there were 500 people in line, and each created one 10 second gap by not paying attention to the line by using their cell phone or tablet, that would add 5000 seconds or about 83 minutes or about 1.4 hours to the wait time of each line.

Of course not everybody in the lines was using a technology that created a space gap.  Some people were actually paying attention.  Others were paying attention and talking to the people around them instead of using technology.

However, do you realize how much using your phone or tablet in a line, any line, impacts the people around you?

Do you realize how much it impacts you?  What is your time worth?

Are the daily e-mails, tweets, texts and social media updates worth the extra time you spend on them when they create longer wait times in the lines your are standing in?

Do your own observations when you are in line at Starbucks, the bank, the post office, the FedEx office, etc.  What is the average time you are being delayed in a line by yourself or someone else using technology and not paying attention?

Has your perception of waiting times in lines changed?

Has the importance of using technology in a line changed for you?

Has the value of your time changed?

If not, I am not waiting behind you in any line!

Out There on the Edge of Everything…

Stephen Lesavich, PhD