Saturday, 5 July 2008

Queue etiquette and us

Every time somebody jumps the queue in front of me here, I am forced to think, why only here? why doesn't this happen in the US or the UK, as much as it does here? Are people more ill mannered here? Do they lack basic courtesy?

Many of you would have tried reacting to the queue jumpers by telling them that they are supposed to wait. And you'd also have noticed that some people are quick to apologize and fall back, but some react indignantly as if you have encroached on one of their fundamental rights.

But, what exactly is the root-cause of this behavior? Believe me, it's not that people who jump queues have fundamental flaws in their character. I know people who are perfectly considerate of others in most situations, but then, react differently when put in a queue situation. I've had such people reproach me for waiting my turn, when others behind me were eagerly jumping the queue.

So, what exactly is the psychology behind this? I think it has a lot to do with conditioning. People are conditioned to think that if you don't fight for what you want, even if it means using unfair means, you won't get what you want. And every time someone succeeds in getting his way in such manner, the belief simply gets reinforced.

So, the next time you see someone jumping the queue, tell them politely that you are waiting ahead of him/her in the queue - this I'm sure most of us try to do.

But more importantly, next time you see someone jump the queue, talk to the person serving the queue; because if they serve someone who just jumped the queue ahead of someone else, they have just reinforced the belief that made him/her jump the queue in the first place.


Ms Cris said...

You are right about the first part. It almost never works telling them politely, either they bring up some lame excuse smiling or they stare you down to ashes. It bugs me to the core when I see queue jumpers. It somehow defies the basic sense of fairness you attach to the world.

Telling the server now is a new deal. I will try that next time.

റ്റെഡിച്ചായന്‍ | Tedy said...

I'd like to add one more point there, Nithin - the role of 'discipline' as stated by the lands' culture. I don't think discipline is anywhere one of the pillars of India's modern culture; neither is discipline advised on, nor is it enforced.

Another good example of queues and discipline in India, is the scene of people boarding a bus or train!

The Minking Than said...

Some time back I had shared my views on Why Queues are fair. I agree with everything except one aspect - that those who jump queues have nothing fundamentally wrong in their characters. In my opinion they do have a flaw. They don't have an idea about the aspect of fairness and why it is important in a system. Tell the server strategy does really work. I use it whenever the queue jumper doesn't back up. This is the sequence of my reaction - polite reminder without hurting ego, loud reminder to build public support, tell the server to get system support. I don't think I have ever failed to throw out the queue jumper in the recent past. I used to fail when I was younger though primarily because I never got to the second of the steps mentioned above.

ariankenobi said...

One more, in lines of what tedy mentioned: The concept of 'mutual respect & regard' that the land's culture practices - with all respect, not the one that's said in
books, but the one that's seen practiced on the floor.

Mutual respect, like discipline, is one of the rare delicacies in the practiced 'Indian culture'. Definitely everything is inter-related, and might be much of a catch-22 situation.

Queues definitely lack it!

Nithin Rajan said...

All the best! I do remember your blog about one of those incidents:)
@ted, @arian
I have a theory there, in practice, discipline and mutual respect tend to degrade in situations where there is scarcity. So the apparent lack of respect is driven by a scarcity mentality - and I feel you'd see the same in any developing/under-developed countries. Not that I'm justifying it, but that is human nature.
Now if you ask where is the scarcity in the queue situation? I feel it's a perceived scarcity rather than a real one. A queue server who encourages jumping is actually justfying that perception.
I wouldn't want to put all queue jumpers in one box. As I had described, there is a kind that react positively when we reason to them - they do not need a fundamental correction, just a little nudge does the trick. The latter category, who do not, those I agree can be called fundamentally flawed.

The Minking Than said...

Isn't an underlying lack of respect of care for fairness evident in all cases of queue jumping? Isn't that an indication of a flaw?

Reia Organa said...

@ted, @arián: Not sure if you could outright blame India's culture - I haven't yet seen anyone from India jump a queue here in the USA. So, its probably not the basic nature of a person to do so, but an effect of the mob psychology (or, social facilitation theory) of the land - that explains why a single person behaves in two different ways when in two different crowds/lands.

There are interesting theories in the field of social psychology, which explains such behaviors. Its not entirely incurable; mob psychology can be influenced, leveraged and re-programmed. It takes time, focus and effective leadership to mobilize it; history stands witness to many such anecdotes!

Nithin Rajan said...

That would mean that 80% of my country men(i may be exaggerating) have fundamental flaws of character, which I refuse to believe:)
Well said! By the way, why do I think I know you? Have we met before?

The Minking Than said...

@Nithin - The name is "Minking Than". Minking alone doesn't make sense.

I can rephrase my statement. If we normalize the nature of a human who tends to ignore fairness in transactions as the normal behavior - then yes all these 80% are normal and we are abnormal.

Reia Organa said...

@nithin - well, now you know :-)

Ms Cris said...

I feel left out of the discussion so back again. I disagree with everyone here but Reia Organa. When people grow up seeing unfairness around them, they take it for granted as an everyday part of life. They dont realise its unfair to be unfair. Hmm that sounds weird. Oh well now am back in the circle yipee

maroon-beret said...

good one sir