Companies Heeding Gripes About Long Lines

If good things indeed come to those who wait, perhaps we're all in for some good fortune: A new study finds we spend two full days a year just waiting in lines.

That's two days, as in 48 hours!

But The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen says companies are taking notice of what the survey shows is growing frustration over such waiting. And she offered some tips on what anyone can do to cut the amount of time they spend waiting in lines.

One thing she doesn't recommend is cutting into them. As an experiment, Koeppen took a hidden camera along as she did that in several spots in New York, and got decidedly icy reactions.

She also chatted with several New Yorkers who made it clear why "wait" rhymes with "hate!" They expressed varying degrees of dislike for waiting in line.

Where do people despise standing in line the most?

The survey ranked the most frustrating waits:
No. 5: Fast food restaurants and delis.
No. 4: Airports.
No. 3: Hospitals and doctor's clinics.
No. 2: Retail stores.

And No. 1: The DMV!

MIT professor Richard Larson is a leading "queue expert" who's been studying lines for some 35 years.

He pointed out to Koeppen that frustration with waiting can sometimes even turn violent. Last summer, a Georgia woman tried to run over customers with her car after they cut in front of her at a McDonald's. And when someone got in front of a woman at a Wisconsin supermarket, she tried to cut off the person's nose with a pocket knife!

He's even coined a term for when someone cuts us off in line, or the line next to us seems to be moving faster, and we get angry about it.

"I call it queue rage," he told Koeppen. "It's like road rage. You feel like you've been victimized and somebody's the perpetrator and you're the victim."

But Larson says companies are paying attention to how long you stand in line, and spending billions to cut the wait and make it more enjoyable.

For example, kiosks at a health clinic outside Pittsburgh let patients check in with a few taps of a screen. They've cut wait times by 80 percent.

And if you want to bypass long security lines at the airport, for $100 a year, you can get a "Clear" card. Available at a handful of United States airports, the system reads your fingerprint, scans your iris, and enables you to fly right through security.
Larson says Disney is the master of making waiting in line magical.

At its theme parks, standing in line is part of the attraction for many.

"Disney properties, I believe, are the experts in the psychology of waiting in line," Larson observes. "Their idea is, as soon as you join the line, you may be waiting 45 minutes before you actually sit on the ride, but you actually start the experience while you're in the line, because of all the distractions and entertainment around you."

Koeppen noted that hallway elevator doors cropped up in the '50s in New York City, in response to people complaining about waiting for elevators. When mirrors were put up, the complaints stopped: They gave people something to do while they waited, such as fixing their hair or straightening their ties.

Koeppen also shared pointers to help save yourself from being stuck in lines in some places too long:

  • Book the first appointment of the day at doctors' offices
  • Avoid the post office first thing in the morning, during the last hour of the day, and during lunch
  • Shop after 9 p.m.: Only four percent of people say they shop that late.