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The lost art of queuing properly.
1200 people queued for cheap fish and chips in Manchester. Some of them waited for up to three hours to buy a meal for £1 that normally costs £5.75. There were no riots, just an orderly queue. This is the way it has always been; Brits love to queue. Or at least they understand the art of queuing and are happy to participate, especially when they are getting a bargain. Although one might argue that there was not much evidence of orderly queuing during the summer riots, despite the fact that there is no bigger bargain than a flat screen TV and a new pair of trainers for free. But then again, most Brits were not rioting; they were sat at home, (or like me in their holiday cottage), watching it on a TV that somebody had queued for and paid for.
New research has found that as a nation, our love of the queue is nowhere near as passionate as it used to be. It seems that anywhere between six and eight minutes in a queue is about as much as we can take, these days. Then people start taking their custom elsewhere. Yesterday morning, my daughter and I joined a queue for check-in at Larnaca airport. After a lovely, long summer holiday, she was finally leaving to go back to uni. The queue was rather long but we were happily chatting about the kind of innocuous, superficial things that seem to absorb young people these days: which celebrity has had a nose job recently, etc etc. And I was just wondering how I would be able to fill all the free hours now that I will no longer be required at the pool or the beach to help her work on her tan. We were blissfully oblivious to the fact that the queue wasn’t really moving as fast as it should be for a full six to eight minutes, maybe even ten.
We were in the queue for those who had checked in online because, of course, my daughter had actually checked in online. And why do people check in online? Well, not just to get the seat they want, but also to make sure that when they get to the airport, they waste as little time as possible queuing to get rid of their bags. It is what you do when you are organized and want to make your journey as stress-free as possible. This assumes of course that not everyone checks in online, and if they do, there are enough desks open, specifically for them, for the whole process to run smoothly. So what is the point of having one check-in desk for those that have already checked in, and six desks for everyone else, when the online check-in queue is the longest? Add to that the fact that some people in the baggage drop line clearly had not as much as looked at the website at home, let alone checked in; they were spending far too long at our one and only desk. There are rules about these things, you know, I wanted to shout….
I have noticed that in some European countries, other than the UK, the concept of the queue has not been taken anywhere near as seriously as it has traditionally been back home. So, if we are really falling out of love with the whole queuing thing, is it a sign that we Brits are all loosening up and becoming a bit more European? No, we have just become a bit more customer service savvy, and no longer queue for the sake of queuing. Unless of course, there is no choice, as in queuing for Wimbledon tickets or the Harrods’ sale. But queuing for three hours for fish and chips seems a bit over the top, no matter how cheap they are.
There is a difference between respecting the rules of the queue, (as in how to queue), and being unhappy about being forced to wait in one for too long. Yesterday, all the rules were broken. Not only were people in the wrong queue, but those with an inalienable right to be seen first, had to wait the longest. This is just not right. While I was ranting to anyone who would listen, my daughter snuck off and joined the other queue. That way she avoided further embarrassment from me and got rid of her bags, while I was still haranguing a member of the check-in staff, at the back of our queue. Another dissatisfied customer nodded sympathetically and told me, “This is Cyprus!”.