Friday, 3 April 2015

Fun Online Polls: Your favourite season & the value of a place in a queue

The responses to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Spring - 27%
Summer - 36%
Autumn - 33%
Winter - 4%

So, summer it is then, by a fairly narrow margin.
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Another little brain teaser this week.

What has more influence on the value of a place in a queue? The number of people in front of you or the number of people behind you?

Take part here.

Clue: you are in the queue in the supermarket and you realise that you have forgotten to buy XYZ.

There is a nuisance cost to you of doing without XYZ for the next few days. If you leave the queue to get it, there is a time cost of starting again at the back of the queue; the value of the place is equal to the time cost of starting again at the back.

If the value of your place in the queue is lower than the nuisance cost, you will leave the queue, go and get XYZ and start again.

If the value of your place in the queue is higher than the nuisance cost, you will stay in the queue and do without.

When working out the value of your place in the queue, do you count the number of people in front of you or the number of people behind you?

Lola said...

It depends....

Kj said...

That's a two-factor equation. One is the value of your place in the queue from time to get to the till, and the other is what you mention. Both have an alternative cost. You may either be in such a hurry to finish, and value the time to get to the queue so highly that you may even just ditch the queue and head out to the next shop or to a meeting you are already late for. If you are not in a hurry, and getting XYZ is of a high cost, you add in the value of the number of people behind you, and the time it gets to the till after re-entering the queue again. The two converge if you are in a real hurry to get to somewhere where XYZ is essential, then you try to jump the queue.

Kj, that sounds right, but I don't think it is.

Everything you buy has a total cost, which is the money you have to pay plus the inconvenience of going to the shops, queuing up and taking it home again.

So if the queue is very long, it is only people who really need XYZ who will queue. People who can manage without XYZ won't bother.

So the length of queue you will accept depends on how badly you want XYZ which means "the value of XYZ to you".

But I am not talking about the decision to get in the queue or to go somewhere else.

I am talking about when you are already in the queue and your decision is to stay in the queue or to leave it.

Random said...

I think it depends on the size of the queue. Being 1st in the queue is always valuable, but if there are 100,000 people queing people won't care if they are 1st or 2nd and the difference between the two will be less than if there are 4 people.
Is being 13th in the queue (12 ahead) good? It all depends on context.
I think it is neither, because you need to work out what percentile you are on (e.g. halfway there.) That's what's important, and you need to take into account that it is a scale free measure.

Derek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek said...

Oops! Giving away the answer there. Sorry!

Ian B said...

It's actually called Opportunity Cost, Mark.

Anyway presuming a constant queue speed, the opportunity cost of going back for the item is equal to the number of people behind you.

Most people however will probably incorrectly judge this on the sunk cost (I've queued this long, if I go back, that time is wasted) which is a fallacy.