Why Waiting in Line Is Torture

Alex Stone, The New York Times:

SOME years ago, executives at a Houston airport faced a troubling customer-relations issue. Passengers were lodging an inordinate number of complaints about the long waits at baggage claim. […]

So the airport decided on a new approach: instead of reducing wait times, it moved the arrival gates away from the main terminal and routed bags to the outermost carousel. Passengers now had to walk six times longer to get their bags. Complaints dropped to near zero. […]

Occupied time (walking to baggage claim) feels shorter than unoccupied time (standing at the carousel). Research on queuing has shown that, on average, people overestimate how long they’ve waited in a line by about 36 percent.

When we’re waiting or queuing, we complain because we’re bored and it feels like wasted time. Distract us or give us something to do, and the complaints stop.

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