Never Stand in Line Again?

That is the promise being made by a company called QLess, which offers “virtual queue management” via cellphone* alerts. Its home page makes this alluring statement/threat: “On average, Americans spend almost 3 years of their lives waiting in line.”

This is one area (perhaps of many) in which I am way below average. I hate lines, and waiting in general, so much that I take great pains to avoid them both, whether it’s a physical line or a telephonic one.

So the QLess premise seems promising to me, if a bit familiar: if I recall correctly, a similar technology is already in place at such fine establishments as Chuck E. Cheese’s. When you show up, they give you a little electronic box to put in your pocket so you can wander around until they buzz you via the box. Granted, the idea of using your own hardware, and not having to physically be on the premises first, is a big advantage. I can see ways in which QLess might backfire — if it’s free for customers, it may get clogged by no-shows, or even competitors — but I can also see how it might make life much more enjoyable.

*In keeping with our occasional renaming exercise, can we please stop calling the cellphone a “cellphone” and instead call it a “mobile,” as the British do, and which makes much more sense?


How about a "handy" for cellphone, as my German girlfriend calls them.

Paul Clapham

I see, so they sell their service to the company that's causing the wait and not to the consumer who is forced to wait.

I'm not holding my breath for the phrase "Your call is important to us" (which you hear depressingly often on the telephone and which usually means "Your call is not important to us") to be followed by "Enter your mobile phone number and we'll call you back".

Phil Steinmeyer

Why do you even bother repeating their very dubious claim that "On average, Americans spend almost 3 years of their lives waiting in line." when they apparently offer no support for this claim? (At least, the front page of their web site, where the claim is made, has no obvious backup for the claim).

If I send you a press release stating that "Sending a $500 check to company X will make you healthy, wealthy, and wise." (with no real evidence for my claim of course), would you repeat that claim as well?


Interesting that you say "stop calling the cellphone a 'cellphone'" rather than "stop calling the mobile phone a 'cellphone'".

Should we stop calling a spade a spade and instead call a spade a shovel?

Ok my analogy isn't a perfect fit, but I stand by the irony!

the Gooch

Standing in line is for chumps.
Owning a cell phone is for chumps.

Take a moment to display some independence and think for yourself for once and you'll have no need to do either...and be better off for it.


In Tokyo at DisneySea, you can get a 'passport' which is shaped like a card. You go to the ride you want to ride and place it inside a machine. Out pops a ticket that says "Show back up here in 2 hours to get on the ride". So you wonder around, and show back up in 2 hours and get right on the ride. You can only reserve a ticket for one ride at a time.

I think half the ride seats are reserved and half are for people waiting in line. It worked out nicely. I would reserve one ride, wait in line to ride another, and when I'm done be able to ride my first reserved ride.

Plus, it gives me more time to walk around the park and buy their stuff.


The famous Thirupathi Temple in South India already has this system. It is called Sudarshan and when you report they give you a hand band with estimated time for darshan. You can roam about and arrive at the entry point at the stated time. No need to stand in the Q till then.


3 years of your life? Something you do 20 minutes a day is 1 year of your life (assuming you live to 72.) So they're saying the average American spends close to one hour a day waiting in line? Come on.


Since when do we care about names that make sense? e.g. watch, Greenland, grape-nuts...

If we are going to go to the trouble of changing what we call a cellphone, at least let's make it a single syllable. Mobe, cell, phone, blort...whatever.

Angela K

For those that suggested that the cell/mobile/handy be called a "phone" - it already is, as far as I can tell. In my age bracket (I'm 26) very few people have landlines, and when they do, they call them landlines.


Back to the focus of the article, I HATE those pagers as I have seen them on the floor, brought into the restroom, and more than once per visit, chewed by some bugger-nosed toddler. Pagers are simply disgusting devices that you and I get to hold, restaurants have to maintain (and NO they don't typically wash them!), and have to replace due to patrons leaving with them.

The question is: would you rather have to stay within the ~30 foot range of the hostess desk, OR would you rather be able to do what you want, and get a SMS or phone call that in a sense says "we are ready to focus on servicing your needs".


I *like* queues, albeit from a distance: standing in them is the stigma of economic failure, the sure and certain sign that your custom does not matter to the person on the desk at the other end of the line. They be as rude to you as they wish, and can waste just as much of your time as they please.

It is no coincidence that we most often see queues when we are are forced to deal with monopolists; contempt for the customer is a defining characteristic of ther business model and their day-to-day behaviour.

Nor is it a coincidence that Tesco - England's most successful supermarket - are so *visibly* proactive in calling 'all hands to the checkout' when the queue gets longer than three customers.

B K Ray

I do not like lines or waiting either, but I am not a great fan of queue management like that, mostly because of the data collection aspect of it. While I would really like that the Harold's Chicken on 79th Street would collect my data so they could fix my order before I get there, I am not so happy about another data collection center adding my celly to their list (sorry, my mobile).
By now, everyone knows it is the data about me and my spending habits that is the real important thing here, not getting text'd that is it time to eat.


This is something I have half hoped for for a while...basically I hate the fact that at restaurants etc, you get that little electronic buzzer while waiting, but the thing only works within about 100 feet of the you are stuck waiting. If, on the other hand, you get a text message etc when it was your turn, you could wander a bit more around the mall or whatever.

What I DONT like, however, is the prospect of being able to get in line by making a call. Take the Colorado Rockies fiasco of selling world series tickets this fall...they sold them online and the minute they went on sale, their servers crashed because so many people attempted to access the site and be added to the 'virtual waiting room'. Had they sold them at a box office, where you had to physically show up, the whole thing would have been much more civilized. Think if the DMV tried a system where you could call in ahead and be added in to the line...everybody would be calling ahead and attempting to game the system.

In short, I like the freedom to not have to wait in line etc, but I think you should still actually have to show up to the place in question to be added to the line in the first place.

Also...I spent time living in Germany and also enjoyed the 'handy' nickname.




In CA, the DMV does the number based queue thing. It makes conservatives mad because they can no longer insult government programs by comparing them to the inefficiency of the DMV. I think that Simpson's fans are also surprised that going to the DMV no longer means standing in a line for hours. It does mean sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours.

I'm voting with the Germans on the cell naming issue. Unfortunately my German isn't good enough to know if "handy" in German actually means mobile.


I have always been of the opinion that the USPS should put in place a number-based queue system like they do in Europe. Show up, take a number, and have a seat until it's called. Here in the states, the only places that do that are bakers and butchers.


3 years in a 75-year lifespan is around an hour per day. An hour total per day for traffic, groceries, fast food, etc. does not seem unreasonable.


How exactly does "mobile" make more sense? Cellphone is more descriptive and more accurate. Mobile can refer either to a cellphone or a wireless house phone. A cellphone is a telephone that operates by transmitting and receiving from a tower that operates its own cell.


#10 is right, 3years in 75 is an hour a day.
But if you don't count traffic, since there is no way out of it, nobody spends 60mins a day in line.


I think there are restaurants that will call you rather than give you one of those LED lit pagers when your table is ready.

How about this for a new nickname, 'phone'. Since landline phones are losing share and the cell phones are gaining. One of these days Alice!