Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Do queues get to you?

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Disorganised movie ticket queues can be frustrating.
Photo / Thinkstock
Disorganised movie ticket queues can be frustrating. Photo / Thinkstock

I love a well managed queue - the sort you find in airport immigration halls and at places like Disneyland and Disney World. These are equal opportunity lines. Once you join them your place in line is preserved. There's no chance of a wide-eyed newbie feigning ignorance as to how it all works and somehow getting ahead of you.

There's something soothing about entering the roped off zone and knowing beyond all doubt that you will arrive at the front of the line when it is your turn - not a moment before and not a moment after. The Americans are masters of the highly organised queue. You've got to love a nation that will even tell you the anticipated waiting time. "The wait for Splash Mountain is 45-minutes." That's awesome.

The weird thing is that when the queue is well managed you don't really mind how long you have to wait. If you're not forced to defend your position from would-be interlopers it's almost a relaxing experience. On the other hand, having to stay alert for prospective queue-jumpers is plain stressful.

My experience in line at Whitcoulls in 277, Newmarket, last week was downright irritating. Now maybe I have too much local knowledge for my own good but I understand the unwritten code in this store. While you wait for service at the counter, one should form a single line several steps back from the counter and roughly at its centre.
On this occasion there was one shop assistant already serving one customer. There was also an assistant located at another serving station but she was furiously working on a computer. Interpreting this as the international signal for I'm-far-too-busy-to-be-dealing-with-customers, I duly started the line in the appropriate place - secure in the knowledge that I would be the next person to be served.

But I hadn't factored in the newly arrived gentleman who - ignoring the queue I had formed - waltzed straight up to the woman at the computer and started jovially recounting a story about what he'd just received for his 50th birthday and what assistance he now required from Whitcoulls.

I don't know how people this unaware of their surroundings manage to cross a road safely. Whatever he received for his birthday - books? vouchers? - it clearly wasn't good manners, consideration or emotional intelligence. But it wasn't entirely his fault. He had an accomplice in the woman who attended to him. She would have known about the informal queuing system here. She would have understood that someone slinking in from the mall side should not have precedence over those already in the shop and waiting for attention, yet she served him rather than gently advising him of how the system works.

To successfully manage its multiple serving stations, this store needs a sign that reads "Queue here" and possibly a roped off area. And it needs staff members who understand the obvious: that people who have been waiting should be served before those with no manners.

A story about queuing would not be complete without mentioning Rialto Cinemas. What is it with Newmarket? I used to see a movie here with a friend every Sunday and never once did we choose the right queue. We'd always get in the line that moved glacially. While other movie goers were speedily served in the adjacent queue we were invariably stuck behind someone with significant and very time-consuming issues.

To make matters worse, sometimes people behind us in the queue would be invited across to the other counter where a new serving station had miraculously opened. What were we? Chopped liver? One time I finally reached the front of the queue here and the man shut down his station and simply left without a word. It's true.

Being a slow learner, I ventured to these cinemas three Thursdays ago to see the 4.10pm session of The Skin I Live In. I went up the escalator and got in line. I was the only customer there - but guess what? There was nobody serving. That's right. In that whole enormous L-shaped area there was not a single staff member.

So I waited for what felt like half-an-hour but was probably closer to three minutes. When someone finally appeared there was no apology or acknowledgement that perhaps that initial absence of staff represented pretty dismal customer service. And I understood completely: that was just business as usual for the Rialto.

Are you also bothered by poorly managed queues? What's the worst one you've experienced? Is it in New Zealand or overseas? On the other hand, what queues do you recommend - and why?

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