How Long Are You Willing to Stand in Line? Are You Willing to Walk Away?
Have you ever been walking down the street, only to stumble upon a line out the door and around the corner, usually at a popular gelato shop or a famous sandwich place? Naturally, if you haven’t tried whatever is being sold (for me, it’s usually food) your curiosity takes over, and you ask yourself, “What’s all the fuss about? Is it that good? Is it worth standing in line and waiting for? How long is this line?”
My curiosity usually gets the better of me, and in many cases when I am on vacation or I have the time, I’ve gotten in line just to see for myself what in the world people are queuing up for. Sometimes, it’s worth the wait. But I’ve also learned that I have to be careful about picking and choosing which spots to stand in line for, and that I always need to give myself a cutoff or a walk away point.
This past weekend I was in Vancouver BC, and DH and I went with another couple to sample one of the superior ramen establishments that we just can’t seem to get our hands on here in Seattle. The line at this place was still fairly sizable, even though it was already well past 2pm on a hot summer day. But the line was moving, and so we only ended up standing in line for about 30 minutes, which for this shop, is pretty short. Our friends told us that the line is usually at least an hour or more during the lunch rush. All in all, a successful queuing episode, and some of the best shiho ramen I’ve had in a while. After we finished, we observed that the best time to come when the line is shortest: 3pm, when no one wants to eat ramen. Of course!
In microeconomics, there is a concept called Willingness To Pay (WTP) and describes the highest price that a buyer is willing to pay for a certain item. If the buyer’s WTP is higher than the market price for said item, then a transaction is likely to take place. WTP is sometimes also known as a reservation price or walk away price in negotiations.
I started thinking about the concept of WTP because I think you can make a very strong argument that time is a good proxy for money. (In our capitalist society, time equals money.) So you could argue the Willingness To Pay is in essence the same concept to my term, the Willingness to Wait (WTW.) Everyone has a different WTP that is probably closely and often times inversely correlated to his or her WTW. Often times, the higher your WTP is, the lower your threshold or your WTW, and vice-versa.
We all know and understand the concept of opportunity cost, and Ben Franklin’s quote that “time is money” simply boils it down. (And is it a coincidence that he’s on the US$100 bill?) But I came across another quote from an academic named Charles Stanley Ross that I think perfectly summarizes the related concept about our individual willingness to wait:
“Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.”
Oh so true. I’m willing to stand in a substantial line for relatively delicious-but-affordable food, but I’m not willing to stand in the same line to say, get into a movie on opening day, or to get tickets to a sporting event or concert. I personally don’t value movies and concerts as much as I do good, cheap-ish food.
Some of the longest lines I’ve queued in have all been for some sort of food or snack. So it’s obvious where my priorities lie and what I personally value. And generally long lines signify good casual food for a reasonable price. Otherwise, you’d be dining in a restaurant that takes reservations, etc. and paying a much higher price with higher barriers to entry. But often times, we don’t factor in our time into the prices of the food item we are purchasing. That amazing $10 bowl of ramen you’ve had to wait for 1.5 hours to eat? The price is probably more than the actual $10 you paid if you were to incorporate your lost time (or the opportunity cost of lost time.)
So what’s the downside of waiting in line for delicious-but-affordable food? One danger (besides hallucinatory behavior, if you’re too hungry at the beginning of the ordeal,) is the beginning of dangerous thinking. I’m talking about the Sunk Cost Fallacy. It’s sometimes known as “throwing away good money after bad” and more often than not, it can be applied to how we use our time and other resources after we make a poor decision.
A few months back, I came across a terrific article in The Atlantic that spoke directly about the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and how we as humans have a hard time moving on, especially when we’ve sunk in considerable time and resource into something that isn’t working out the way we expect.
Sunk costs are the investments that you’ve put into something that you can’t get back out. They are the years you spent training for a profession you hate, or waiting for your commitment-phobic boyfriend to propose. They are the thousands of dollars you spent on redecorating your living room, only to find that you hate living in it. Once you’ve realized that you probably won’t succeed, or that you are unhappy with the results, it shouldn’t matter how much time and effort you’ve already put into something. If your job or your boyfriend have taken up some of the best years of your life, it doesn’t make sense to let them use up the years you’ve got left. An ugly living room is an ugly living room, no matter how much money you spent making it so
.… [P]eople are generally loss-averse. Putting in a lot, only to end up with nothing to show for it, is just too awful for most of us to seriously consider. The problem is one of focus. We worry far too much about what we’ll lose if we just move on, instead of focusing on the costs of not moving on: more wasted time and effort, more unhappiness, and more missed opportunities.
I’ll tell you another personal story about the Sunk Cost Fallacy as it relates to one of the busiest and most popular restaurants here in Seattle that I will never frequent again on a Saturday night. My parents wanted to take DH and I out. I suggested one of my favorite places, The Walrus and the Carpenter, since it serves great seafood at reasonable prices. I knew the wait was going to be insane, and so we stopped into the restaurant at 5pm to leave our names. Big mistake on a Saturday night, as the restaurant opens at 4pm, and the outside patio area was not open, reducing their dining area by 50%. The hostess told us it was going to be a 2-hour wait. We said no problem, and went to another bar to wait out the 2 hrs. We came back at 7pm, and it was insanity. Of course there is no bar area and so we stood outside in the lobby for another 45 minutes, and finally moved into the 3 stools they had available. By now it was almost 8pm, and we had been waiting for our table for nearly 3 hours. At 8:20, we were finally seated.
And while the food was quite good, the entire evening was pretty much deflated because we waited almost 3.5 hours for a table, and we were starving. We probably would have had a much more enjoyable evening had we thrown in the towel early, and just ate an early dinner at any of the other wonderful restaurants in Ballard. But no, I was being stubborn (“We’ve already waited 2.5 hours, and we can’t just give up now!”) and DH and my poor parents had to suffer the consequences.
Sometimes walking away is the best decision you will ever make. As in the wise words of Elaine Benes, “I say we leave now, we go to Skyburger and we scarf em down!”
I couldn’t agree with her more. (And I can’t have movie popcorn for dinner, either. I’d also rather lick the food off the floor!)
So what about you? What are some things that you are willing to stand in line for? What’s the longest time you’ve lined up for food, and was it worth the wait?
Happy Friday and may you not wait in absurdly long lines this weekend!
Interesting piece 🙂
Have you ever read Seth Godin’s book The Dip? The sunk costs concept (although he doesn’t refer to it by that term) fits in really well with this, it talks about goals/aspirations and the investment needed to get there, and how we decide whether it’s worth it.
I guess gambling is another prime example of ‘sunk costs’. Once you’ve put $XXX into that slot machine…
I do hate waiting in line, and I will avoid it if there’s an alternative. Like you, I’m more inclined to wait a reasonable amount of time for some really tasty food, but I’d never camp out in front of a ticket office/concert venue.
I haven’t read The Dip, but I have heard of Seth Godin. (Here’s one of my favorite talks he gives on TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_this_is_broken_1.html) Interesting that you categorize gambling as a sunk cost activity (as do I, I’d much rather spend my money eating at the buffet, which is an absolute sure thing, versus giving it away at the tables.) But others who enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment simply consider it “the cost of being entertained” for 2-3 hrs, or however long their limit lasts them at the tables or the machines. I guess our ability and willingness to wait for certain things really depends on our personal preferences and tastes.
I guess you’re right about the gambling, there’s certainly more than one aspect to it, and entertainment is a pretty important one.
Wow, you waited 3 hours!
I must be very wait-averse since the most I can remember waiting was 30 minutes for a table at Crystal Jade in the IFC. I also waited 20 minutes at a Japanese place in Elements before bailing. In both cases the automated, digital number system gave me constant info about how fast the wait was going and helped me decide whether it was worth waiting any longer.
I think HK people have the least amount of patience when it comes to waiting for good food. A lot of it is that there are so many good food options to choose from, so who needs to wait? Besides most all restaurants take reservations. I can’t remember waiting for longer than 30 mins anywhere in HK because in a city like HK, the time=money rule is probably most evident and visceral. (Just watch what HK people do even before the “fasten seat belt” sign goes off on any CX flight! And don’t even get me started on the ensuing footrace to immigration.)
PS: Last I checked, Crystal Jade has 1 Michelin Star!!! At what other airport train station can you find 2 1-star restaurants? Only in HK!! 🙂
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
Arepas from Venezuela. Arepa is the Venezuelan staple. It is a hominy corn flour bread, similar to the Mexican gorditas or the Salvadorian pupusas. They are very easy to make and we eat them at home without any problem. Make the bread, and when ready, fill it up with whatever you find in the refrigerator – short of spaghetti leftovers. Anything goes in the pocket: ham, cheese, octopus, sausage, egg, chicken, cut up hot dogs, you name it. We give them names depending on the staffing: Reina Pepeada, guaya, etc.
Arepas are best when you are just out of a party, almost wasted, say, 4 a.m., and with a bunch of equally wasted pals. Then you line up. You never know for how long because you are too far gone to care. You shout your order over the counter, and sit on a stool or wait standing. The order usually includes a blended juice of some sort of extravagant combination of tropical fruits and animal body parts (yeah), medlar and mango, or if you feel daring, orange juice- carrot -beet and bull eye (yeah, bull eye). Oh, the memories of home.
It seems in Seattle now if you’re not waiting for a table in a restaurant on the weekends (and sometimes weekdays) that place isn’t going to be *that* great. I live in the neighborhood of Molly Moon and on these days after dinner, the line will go up the block and around the corner, as if it’s everyone’s last day on earth and there will be no more ice cream tomorrow. Regardless of how good the food is supposed to be, 3 hours is just insane. Not sure I would’ve waited. (PS: The lines are what’s keeping me back from going to Walrus & Carpenter.)
Hahahaha! Yes, I think there is just a dearth of good restaurants, and Seattle folks have recently discovered what good food really tastes like. The summer lines at Molly Moon are insane and I simply refuse to go. And I’m never going back to W&C on a weekend either… unless I can get my butt there by 4pm to get my name on the list. I learned my 3-hr lesson. And honestly, the food isn’t particularly complicated, but it is very fresh and well prepared, and the price point is attractive, hence the lines out the door. That’s why it’s such a hit. But I’m glad for places like W&C b/c it spurs on competition and shows other restauranteurs that this is what it takes to kill it in SEA. Overall, we the consumers win b/c eventually, the trend catches on and more great restaurants will pop up everywhere. And the one that takes reservations will have my vote and my dollar.
Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. I never check out FP and just now I did and there you are 🙂
PS: Maybe you should treat yourself to a 3-hour wait at the W&C to celebrate?
Thank you, Susan! Ugh, never again. I hope I’ve learned my lesson by now! We should get coffee if you’re back in SEA. I will PM you!
Sounds good. Maybe we can grab Jen? But she seems very captivated by the shiny big things she’s seeing in the stores and buying them up like a storm.
Sounds good, I’ll send round an email to you both! 🙂
My husband and I have gone by that line many a time… we once went to get frozen custard in CapHill from Ballard and by the time we had driven back (the whole trip, including getting the custard was less than 30 minutes on a Saturday night), the line hadn’t diminished. My husband, feeling a little snarky that night, rolled down his window, and yelled: It’s not worth it. as we drove by.
His philosophy is to never wait more than 30 minutes for any restaurant. I think it’s a good way to go. Cut your losses early, otherwise it starts feeling like the lottery, ‘If I buy just one more ticket, I might win 30 million dollars this time.’ / ‘If I wait just 5 more minutes, I might get seated.’
I wish I had heard your husband as I was wilting in line! 🙂 I think you’re totally on to something and that the 30 min rule is a good rule to abide by. Just don’t be like me (or Jerry, Elaine, and George, for that matter) and let 3 hrs go by before you throw in the towel!
Haha, love that Seinfeld episode!
In general, I am not willing to wait. I remember queueing up in front of some super duper stylish club in London for what felt like hours because some friends insisted that that was the place to be. I agree with you, after waiting a serious amount of time it seems silly to leave. That’s why I decided to just not wait anymore. That being said, I do wait a lot – just not in line in front of restaurants but rather for all sorts of handymen… And they are definitely not worth the wait, they don’t even take off their shirts!
So next time when I see someone licking food off the floor in Seattle, I’ll know it’s you!
Hahahahah! I LOVE Elaine Benes! “I CAN’T have popcorn for dinner!” Exactly! 🙂 Yes, the next time you’re in SEA and see a strange lady eating food off the streets, it might just be me since I couldn’t stand waiting in line anymore, and am too late to get real food…
Oh, bummer, handymen who do not take off their shirts?! Ugh, totally not waiting for, unless you need the actual maintenance service… 🙂
To me my time is very important, there is nothing that I am willing to stand in line for!
Amen to that! I’ve learned that this is probably the way to go. And to also set a much higher WTP for myself. Now, if only we could figure out what to do about sitting in traffic all day long…
I know if you live in California you can not use your cell phone to text while sitting in traffic so maybe get some good audiobooks! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com
Not willing to stand in line for ANYTHING, but I am willing to wait for some things. I’ve got a couple months ahead of me before I get my hands on a new viola that I’ve started a luthier on for me. But I don’t have to stand there and get nothing else done while he works, I puti n the order, he gets to work, and in the intervening couple months, my life goes on.
It’s not a matter of the time spent that equates to cost for me. It’s that my boredom or stress also comes with a cost. Time isn’t the only thing that’s money — stress, inconvenience, and boredom are money, too.
Great point, totally agree about how stress, inconvenience and boredom go hand in hand with waiting in pointless lines. This might partially explain why the speakerphone/handsfree phone was invented (so we can mute the cheezy hold muzak and go on w/doing whatever we need to do until we get to speak to an actual human…)
In some countries/cultures you don’t have the option to wait or not to wait – there is a line for everything!! We once purposely stood in a longer line to a food truck even though there was another nearby with a much shorter line. We assumed the longer line meant the food was better.
Ah yes, I see your point. Agree that in certain countries and economies, queuing up is simply a part of daily life and probably connotes relative value between substitute goods, whereby the longer the line=the more superior good. Which perfectly illustrates the Ross quote. Interesting distinction, and thanks for bringing it up!
Love this post. ❤
Thanks! I also think that there is a certain amount of hubris with certain restaurants that make it a special point to NOT take reservations (you can take your pick in any city.) They can get away with it because they know they have relatively insatiable demand for their product because: 1) they probably make it a point NOT to charge an exorbitantly high price for their product; 2) their product is very very good; and therefore 3) they can get away with it. If they were to charge a higher price point, the dynamic would probably change dramatically.
More and more restaurants in Melbourne are doing the ‘no reservations’ thing. I’d read great things about one in particular, and headed there with 3 friends one night. We thought we’d miss the rush (it was 5.30pm ie early, and a week night) but they said the wait would be 4 hours. No thanks. Instead we went up the road to a Japanese restaurant I’d similarly heard great things about. They said the wait would be about an hour or so, but ushered us into the front bar so we could have a drink while we waited. After half an hour, they moved us onto little sofa/stools in the next entry room, so we could order snacks. This sort of service makes waiting much more bearable, and the food in the end was worth it! But that’s about my limit for food – anything much over an hour and I go somewhere else.
Thanks for your comment. Interesting to hear that the “no reservations” trend is a global thing. I suppose you can do it if you can get away with it. But for those of us who don’t happen to be Anthony Bourdain, the no reservations policy kind of sucks. But I do appreciate restaurants who understand customer service, and who have a good policy for moving people along, like the Japanese restaurant you refer to that gave you 1) an accurate wait time, 2) moved you into a bar area, and 3) allowed you to order appetizers and drinks. This is simply smart business.
Interesting. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about quite a bit since moving to the big city from a small town. We heard about an ice cream shop that was supposed to be really good. It’s called Salt and Straw and features homemade ice cream including the super trendy salted caramel and habaneros and things like that. Not just salt. “Sea salt.” And not just caramel. “Caramel ribbons.” That’s proof that it’s good! 🙂
We drove over one night and found a line of fedora-wearing-folk (also trendy) that was literally a block long just to get to the front door.
That’s when I realized my SBIGE formula. (Second Best Is Good Enough.) The hypothesis is that the difference in quality between best and second best is more than offset by not having to wait in an interminable line. Overall, that represents a huge gain in EE (Enjoyment Efficiency).
Good post and grats on being FP! 🙂
Thanks shoutabyss! Ah, good ol PDX, hipster capital of the Pacific NW! I have not yet made it to the famous Salt & Straw (17% butterfat!) and I’ll probably never make it considering the extreme fedora-wearing-hipster-line-out-the-door you’ve described. Oh well, we can all look and drool over the pictures on their website, can’t we? 😉 I love your comments, and will hang on to SBIGE and EE. Thank you for stopping by!
Agreeing on all the points you made.
My WtW is also normally spent on foods, namely Ramens under $10, which appears to offer significantly higher Value for Money (VfM).
So I add my WtW worth $5, or premium out of my life time wallet, to get a bowl of $10 hyped Ramen.
What’s interesting is that I find myself not only tasting the Ramen per se but also habitually testing if my premium @ $5 is providing a positive ROI while tasting it.
The average quality of Ramens in Tokyo is already very high.
“In this competitive environment, this particular venue magnets all those people queueing up. So this place gotta impress me and pays me back more than I spend,” which is not $10 but $15 with premium.
This is how my psychology goes.
Rare to come across amazing bowls. Maybe once or twice a year or so to encounter the amazing. The moment when you meet the amazing gives you such a joy, accomplished feeling.
Since my expectation is set at $15 for $10 price-tagged Ramen, hard for any restaurants to beat the odds.
Because it’s so rare to meet absurdly high VfM, I am motivated to keep exploring, in reality queueing up, and eventually discover the greatest ones.
So the queueing is no longer for Ramens only, but for the joy similar to what National Geographic sponsored archaeologists occassionally cherish.
Interesting valuation, Ken. And I’m surprised that even in Japan, where the bar for ramen is ridiculously high, very few places will reach your $15 expectation. But you bring up a very interesting point that the process of finding something new is sometimes worth the hassle, and that feeling of discovery is also worth something too.
I lead a strictly No Waiting life. It’s possible through pre-planning, Google, and a self-congratulatory willingness to shift stretches of self-employment around delicious slices of self-amusement.
Also, I’m a fantastic cook* so it’s hard to put on mascara and the good pants only to have strangers watch me chew for forty-five minutes at The Place Everything Else Is Going when for half the price I could have all the ingredients necessary in my kitchen in 20 minutes, slip into yoga pants and the comfy T-shirt, and drink wine and laugh with my friend while we cook. And then watch movies.
*Caramel sea salt ice cream at Salt and Straw is good but homemade caramel sea salt ice cream with a dash of whiskey in it and a gooey lava flow of heated fudge on top of that will guarantee you a good night kiss. No waiting.
If you’re willing to eat lunch (or dinner… lunner?) at 3pm, there usually is no line! 🙂 Just like when I observed the shortest line (3pm) at the ramen shop on a hot summer day…
I like how you make the point about how a lot of our dining experiences in restaurants (especially hip and hard to get into places) are a lot about posturing and FOMO. Unlike you, I am a fantastic eater and not nearly as talented a chef, and so my WTP for really good food that I’m unable to reproduce myself is actually quite high.
Think it might be time to invest in an ice cream maker though!
Ha, ha–I like it! Here’s an easy one. You can experiment with your own sorbets by pureeing fruit, sugar, cream, and spices in a blender until it’s thick like pancake batter and then pouring it into a metal mixing bowl and freezing it about halfway. Then, pull out the bowl, beat it a bit with an electric mixer, and return it to the freezer. Experiment with this process until it’s a nice, thick sno-cone slush: instant sorbet! Works with chocolate pudding mix, too: puddin’ pops! Don’t forget to add a couple tablespoons of booze (brandy/whiskey for the puddin’ pops, rum for the sorbet.) You can find a thousand simple sorbet recipe ideas online. It’s a fantastic way to reassure yourself that you really are a genius and you really can produce something that people will drool over. Go get ’em!
Ex-Vancouverite (lived there for 8 yrs.) and we still have a place in Vancouver BC:
It’s worth waiting for quality Japanese or Chinese restaurant food in Vancouver. I’m sorry….Seattle doesn’t offer the sheer range, quality and choice. I also lived in Toronto for over 20 yrs.
For restaurant food, waiting for 1 hr. is abit much. Half an hr. or so is more tolerable. If I’m in a big city with more restaurants within walking distance, I will leave and go elsewhere. I realize coming from out of town is abit different..
I agree, it is often worth waiting for good quality Japanese or Chinese food in YVR/Richmond. However, the same cannot be said for most places in SEA… I don’t generally eat Chinese food ever in SEA. And frankly most of the so-called-Chinese-food here is simply inedible and not that Chinese. In terms of the pecking order for chefs specializing in regional Chinese cuisine, my guess is that Seattle is probably a tertiary market, and hence the least talented chefs end up here. So not only is there a dearth of demand (and a very low WTP for Chinese food) there’s an equal shortage of talent.
I like restaurants that take bookings. It might be old-skool and boring, but it is certainly much more efficient. And sometimes I am willing to pay a higher price for certainty.
Still need to wait, as they say who is waiting for that and welcome the.
Long ago I drew from Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robins’ book “Your Money or Your Life” the concept of looking at time as a factor of what you’re paid. That is, I used my overtime rate as a baseline for considering what an event or purchase might be worth. Is this worth two hours’ of my labor at the office?
Unless the meal that follows is a once-in-a-lifetime experience or a very special occasion for family and friends, it’s not worth more than 15 minutes. But we usually eat better at home anyway.
I like the concept of OT pay to value your non-working time! Thanks for pointing it out in helping us to decide what our own individual reservation price or walk-away point might be.
I’ve always wondered at the people who are willing to wait in ridiculous lines for food, and unlike you, food is one of those things I refuse to line up for – in fact, I tend to poke fun at people who line up for hours at popular joints cos I know I can get equally good food at a lesser price, without the hassle of waiting. For my part, I’m perfectly willing to wait in line for a movie I really want to watch and I’d definitely wait in line to get in to the San Diego Comic Convention (unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen as I’m halfway around the world). Like you said, it’s a question of what it’s worth to the individual…
Yes, we all have different preferences and values. Some of us live to eat, and others eat to live. Thanks for stopping by.
I value my time and so I rarely wait in line if I can avoid it. I have even walked out of doctor’s offices because the wait time was too long. Having said that, I do recall standing in line to see the first Star Wars movie when it hit the screen years ago. Now that was worth waiting for!
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For me there are several components for the decision if I wait in line and how long.
1. Do I really want the good? -Priorities-
I usually queue a long time (several hours) to get tickets for a local garden festival here – and I am not the only one. It is well loved. I WANT to see it. My priorities for this are high.
2. Can I get it with less hassle and are there other extras? – Alternatives-
If you want to get the ticket before you have to take part in a lottery and you cannot be sure you get a ticket there. Not queueing is not less hassle.
When queueing I am sure I get a ticket – and I know what the weather at that day will be like.
3. Do I have the time to queue? -Reality check-
I sometimes walk out of a line when somebody at the baker’s takes too long and I need to go to work. When queueing for the aforementioned event I usually take a few hours off of work – or a complete day. If I cannot afford to stand in line and I realize that while in the line, I walk out of it.
So, to sum it up: If my priorities lie with the good, I have no useful alternative and I can realize the waiting time – I will queue.
I like how you’re able to think through your options and weigh them out before you’ve sunk in a significant amount of time. It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn. Love your point about how in some cases, not queuing is not less hassle.
Oh man, I can so relate! Food is the only thing I will wait in line for. In fact the time my husband and I finally made it to Walrus we got there over an hour early (we would always show up, see the line and turn right back around). But this time we were determined to eat there! We hung around the bike shop sipping on coffee until a few people got in line. We jumped in and manged among the first ten people or so. The funny thing was we were served and all paid up in 30-45 minutes.
Ah, you were one of the smart ppl who managed to snag a 4pm first seating! Yes, it’s funny how once you’re seated things move along quite quickly. I think the key to W&C is that you go early enough to at least your name on the list for the 2nd seating, and that the outside patio area is open. We happened to go in the winter time and of course, on a Sat night. But I’m not making that mistake again, and I’ll forgo 3hrs of my life I’ll never get back again. And you guys have just as many (if not more) similarly good options in PDX! Thanks for stopping by!
This is an amazing piece. Reminds me of why I used to love Economics, despite not being that good at it.
Thank you madstickynotes! I’m thankful I majored in Econ in college, though in looking through some old textbooks (both micro and macro) I’m still not sure how I understood some of the concepts. Oh well, I attribute it to age and getting less and less smart. But the common sense things (like sunk costs) I’ve managed to hang onto! Thank you for stopping by.
Yes, that could be it. I majored in Econ too. I graduated a couple of years ago only but seems centuries ago.
It was a great pleasure reading this and oh, congrats for being Freshly Pressed! 🙂
Thanks madstickynotes! Yay to fellow graduates w/degrees in common sense! 🙂
Cheers, mate! 🙂
Reblogged this on BEGINNERS MIND.
There were a few times I’ve waited to eat at a restaurant. Most of those time I was disappointed. I’ve been known to walk away before and not look back.
Yes, I’ve been stubborn about eating at a particular restaurant, too, with similar results as you described. There was this one restaurant I’d frequented for years that used to serve the best seafood, so I insisted on taking family visiting from out of town. Some of it was undercooked, some overcooked, and the usual flavor and crispness had been replaced by flavorless and soggy. I was both embarrassed and furious. When I complained about it, the waitress had a “so what” attitude, explaining that they were “training” a new cook. The manager was as apathetic. No apology, no offer for a discount at the next meal, just an outstretched hand waiting for the money. It was the last time I visited the place. As Karma would have it, the restaurant changed hands a few years later.
I like the explanation of Sunk cost. I doubt there’s a single person alive who hasn’t experienced it. 🙂
Yes, I’ve had similar experiences as well. I think there is a certain amount of hubris that some restaurants have that allow them to not take reservations since they expect ppl to line up and wait. But it all hangs on the fact that their product is consistently very very good. If it starts to suck, then people can tell, and we vote with our feet and with our dollars. Customer service is still important in this country, and it’s a competitive market.
And yes, sunk costs in relationships is a whole ‘nother post altogether!! 🙂 Thank you for your comments!
Reblogged this on rwdrwd and commented:
If I have the time, I do wait, but as I am a normally a time poor person I do try to avoid it… but my curiosity of all those people (well it must be good if everyone in the district is here) sometimes can make me late 😛
If I show up at a restaurant and am told there is anything more than a 45 minute wait, I go elsewhere without thinking about it.
Same with me. Being hungry and having to wait are both my pet peeves.
Yes, it’s not the best combination out there!
I once waited for an hour and a half for high tea at the Peninsula in Hong Kong. It was delicious, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait. Curiously, some weeks later, I had the opportunity to stay at the Peninsula, and so could get into the high tea without waiting. We seized the chance, but this time, the food didn’t taste as good. Perhaps it was my brain playing tricks on me. Lots of time spent waiting = this food better be good!
You bring up a very interesting point about how our own internal expectations change the longer we wait. Yes, that’s a distinction that I didn’t quite make in the post, but you are so right on. I think it’s natural for us to have our expectations creep higher for the food/experience the longer we wait. And sometimes the experience/food doesn’t meet our enhanced expectations b/c of unreasonable wait times. A great comment and observation, and thanks for stopping by!
This makes me think of days when I really really want certain foods or on vacation and trying out a new restaurant. Let’s see I love Chipotle Mexican food. And on any given day the line may be out the door so I will wait about 25 minutes or so. I found that when I left the store hastily I wasn’t happy with the second food eatery. Now, I wait at Chipotle. If I’m on vacation I will wait maybe 45 minutes or so as I have done in the past to eat at certain eateries in Las Vegas. I wait because I know such eateries deliver everytime to tourists. Maybe, there’s a situational factor here!
Who doesn’t love Chipotle? 🙂 In fact, I can’t think of a single person! I like how you bring up situational factors (vacationing to places, and wanting to try things/places we normally would not get a chance to experience, etc.) and so our threshold or our WTW is probably much higher in those situations. Sometimes second best is just second best, and 25 minutes is a reasonable wait. I agree that certain places that cater to tourists must be consistently good… that’s why they have visitors from all over and the lines out the door. Thank you for your thoughts!
Not something I’ve really thought about, however, there are NOT too many things I’d stand in line for…And as much as I dig a good movie? I will not/ have never/and unless they’re giving away tons of CASH with the admission ticket; will never stand in a line for a movie. Time is far too precious & I stay busy trying to squeeze as much living into a day as I can…Longest ever stood in line for good food? 1 hour. And that was on an Easter Sunday sans reservations..OMG..And we’d all just come out of Mass(church) and were ALL starving. At first the group of us was our normal , cordial, tight, laughing group..and then things began to get a little tense. Like, “Which one of y’all didn’t make reservations for all of us on Easter?” And by time our table was ready? Well lets just say I’m glad the wait was over..More lines and lines is what we face these days..I hate it! I’d rather choose a time that isn’t peak time..When in the heck IS that? Lines of traffic on the way to work(and hour before I start just to avoid lines of traffic) Lines of people in the supermarket..Another OMG..One of my biggest pet peeves? A big nice, grocery market with lines & lines of cashier stations. About a cazillion! folks in one or two long lines. Come on! I’d rather go to a higher priced store; just so I won’t have to stand in a long line..Time = precious moments far too precious to stand in line waiting. Enjoyed your write 🙂
Thanks Bernasvibe! Wow, no booking for Easter brunch… ouch. I think the only off-peak time for restaurants are when no one wants to eat (from my observation, it’s around 3pm) so not the most convenient time. Don’t even get me started on traffic. But I have started using the self-checkout stations at the grocery store. At least I feel like I’m actively “doing something” like scanning and bagging my own groceries rather than just standing in line.
I know alot of people who prefer self-checkouts; when its an option. Sounds like something for me to try also..
I think there’s a balance – some things are worth waiting just long enough for. Other things, there is a point where it’s just too long to wait and you need to move on to other choices. For example, waiting an hour for dinner is okay – enough time to chat, visit other shops, read a book, but three hours is too long for me. There’s no good entering the restaurant as a ravenous beast.
Yes, I think that many of us don’t have internally set rules about how long to wait, and what might be a reasonable wait time. Had I known all-in our wait would be more than 3 hours, I would have walked away sooner. But you make a good point about setting reasonable expectations (and a walk-away point) before you sink in a ton of time. An hour seems reasonable for most places, but not much more I think. And you’re right on, it wasn’t any good since everyone was a “ravenous beast” and therefore in a pretty bad mood by the time we finally sat down.
A full stomach makes most people a lot more pleasant to be around.
I live near Cedar Point, and for those who may not know what that is, it’s a large conglomerate of lines abbreviated by roller coasters, so I’ve actually put quite a bit of thought into this. Basically my thought process is that, because most roller coasters by now are actually quite mild on the thrill scal, if there is a projected 45 minute wait or longer I’m out. That being said, I’ve found a way to feel as though I can invest my lost time. I stick a paperback in my pocket and read. I get one of two looks. 19 out of 20 people look at me like I’m crazy. then theres that one person who stares in slack jawed amazement that they didn’t think of it. Reading is honestly the best way I’ve found to reinvest waiting time that would otherwise be lost.
Ooooooh, I love your idea of carrying a good book to read as you’re in line! What a terrific idea! I remember as a kid I’d always have a book w/me whenever we were out on family outings or tagging along w/my parents on errands, but I never revisited that concept as an adult. Good thinking and way to be productive! Reading a good book in line certainly seems much more rewarding than surfing for news on your smartphone.
a book is part of what I always carry
As someone who has always been time-poor when it comes to breaks such as breakfast and lunch, the prospect of wasting my personal time queueing for longer than ten minutes is more than I can stomach. If the line is too long, I walk around the block and find somewhere else. I can always come back another day when they are less busy, and I might just end up finding something new. Little is gained by the pigheaded self-sacrifice of waiting in line, other than sore feet, a full bladder and the frustration of wasted time.
That said, I have queued for almost an hour in a DIY store where they only had one cashier working the till and the rest of the queue was getting murderous toward the other staff who were calmly enjoying their cigarette break and ignoring all the waiting customers. In my defence, I had a book in my handbag and it was the weekend, so I leant on my cart, opened my book and read, remaining utterly placid until they realised they would not get rid of my without deigning to serve me. The total lack of British customer service can sometimes work in one’s favour. I got bumped to the head of the queue just because the cashier knew it would irritate the hell out of the two women squabbling about who was next.
I love it “sore feet, a full bladder and the frustration of wasted time.” You are definitely prepared by having a book handy, and way to play it cool and annoy the other flustered customers!
Reblogged this on No Labels…Unleashed and commented:
This is one of the most informative blogs (from a financial as well as philosophical standpoint) I have read in a long time. It is definitely worth sharing!
Think it’s really up to the product, but that was addressed, and I agree. Sometimes, I’m not willing to stand in line for 90 minutes to ride Space Mountain at Disney Land, but I will wait 20 minutes for Del Taco if that’s what I definitely want to eat.
Most of the time, I’m not willing to wait in a line more than a few minutes, so I just walk away and find something else.
a little background – we have a local small , very good restaurant – they stopped taking reservations because they would have hungry people staring at empty tables – no one with out a reservation could be seated – because in the next 15 – 20 minutes the reservations would arrive. It was unfun for all involved.
so on mothers day – the brunch wait was three hours. and people waited, but they also bitched. The chef/owner of the restaurant – thought people were Nuts for wating that long.
My rule of thumb – 30 to 45 minutes is the longest I usually wait. an hour can be doable. On week nights – I want food now So I rarely wait for more than 15.
for most things – I get tickets on line if possible. I have waited in line for music shows ( smaller venues ) but usally because I am with someone else that really wanted to go. And I have never regreted it. Maybe because I was doing it to be nice?
Oh, you bring up a great point. There are certain key holidays (Mother’s Day and Easter, like you point out,) where it’s just impossible to have lunch at a nice place out since it’s crazy crowded everywhere. Best to stay home during those days and celebrate on the following Monday, where it’s going to be a lot less crowded. I’d bitch too if I had to wait 3 hours for lunch!
So if I ever start a lunch bar, I’m going to have all my friends stand in line outside the shop to make sure others walking past become interested 🙂
Yes! Sounds like a good plan to generate some initial hype. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
How far will you go for a perfect croissant? http://frenchbook.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/the-perfect-croissant-solved/
Very interesting post! I think I may have found a worthy pain au chocolat here in SEA: http://cafebesalu.com/ The owners are a couple from France and I’m pretty sure this is the best croissant in town.
Thanks for the tip. When in NY, don’t forget to check out http://www.cecicelanyc.com/ The quest for the perfect croissant is a worthy pursuit.
I loved this! I will wait hours for some things and even drive an hour for certain restaurants, but there are some, I won’t. I think we all have our cutoff points and no two people are the same. Priorities and comfort definately my driving forces when determine the “to wait” or “not to wait” question! Great read and congrats on freshly pressed 🙂
Interesting post…. and what makes it so even more for myself is that it was a topic I was talking about with my friends the other day… I am a bit of a foodie …. and I chose to walk away and it was the best choice I made … was told later it was not worth the wait
You must have chosen wisely! Thanks for sharing your comment. I think one of the must frustrating (and annoying) experiences is to wait quite a long time for something, only to be disappointed.
This is a great post! Someone was talking to me recently about how the way we spend our money reveals our priorities more than anything else- and this just goes to prove that even further, with time and money! I’m like you, I’d gladly wait in line for cheap and delicious food, but not so much for a clothing sale
Glad I’m not the only one out there who feels this way! I’ll check out your site, and thank you for your comment!
Having lived in the DC area I get the restaurant line thing, but can’t remember ever waiting a terribly long time without access to a lounge or bar area. So, the wait wasn’t bad. Now, I live in a small town about an hour from the city and there are several great restaurants – with varying price points – I think I’ve waited 15 minutes for a table before……of course, they all take reservations, so waiting is not a problem.
Six years of town living has changed the rhythm of our lives and the ‘hurry up and wait’ aspect is no longer as prevalent. I can’t remember the last time I stood in a line longer than a few minutes to get coffee from our coffee roasters….maybe a few minutes here or there during our peak farmer’s market hours – especially when it’s tourist season.
Of course, I’ve always look at economic theory with friendly suspicion….simply because we base so much of it on the rational man….I’ve never met him.
Great post and congrats on the Freshly Pressed.
Thanks Rebecca! I like your last point about the assumption of rationality in econ. Usually not a good assumption. I remember in class, the professors would always start the lecture out with “Assuming the actors are rational…” and we all know that we as human beings are often times not so rational, but emotional. Glad to learn more about the places you’ve lived, and thanks for the reminder about how we all seem to be in the “hurry up and wait” mode these days.
Great. I liked the concept of Willing to Wait. I would like to say that in my opinion time is not equal to money but greater than that because we can always get back the money but never time. Coming to my experience, the longest time I’ve waited in a queue is for immigration clearance at the airport. In that case, I really did not have the choice to walk away. Apart from that I’ve waited for a book and it was really worth the wait.
Ah, very good point you’ve brought up. I think you’re absolutely right about how time is actually > money b/c it is finite and we can really never get it back. Thanks for your insightful comment. I’ll definitely keep this in mind the next time I see a line out the door! 🙂
I don’t wait in line for food much anymore, there are so many good places in most of our major cities, that it’s just not necessary. The thing that makes me laugh is the people who wait in line for cupcakes. Every time I see it, I think about getting a t-shirt made that says, “I don’t wait in line for cupcakes.” Now pie, that’s a different story…
If you see that T-shirt, pls do LMK where I can get one too! I just don’t get the cupcake craze, but then again, different ppl have different preferences and priorities. Thanks for stopping by!
I hate waiting in long lines. Especially for food… which is why we don’t end up eating at Crystal Jade, despite my hubby loving the food there. The only thing I queue for is taxis… and the wait times seem to be becoming increasingly longer in HK. Everytime I am in a taxi queue I keep trying to calculate how much of my life I would have wasted standing in cab queues!
Thank you for your response! I guess Crystal Jade is still quite the hit! It was one of my favorite places when I lived in HK. In what other airport train station can you get killer food? I had completely forgotten the taxi queue lines and how it’s sometimes quicker to take a mini-bus. But I will say that the taxi queues in HK are some of the most efficient I’ve ever seen or experienced and that HK is probably still the most impressive city for getting things done efficiently and quickly. I’m just thinking about customer service in restaurants and the sense of urgency that things in HK get done vs. the US. I think no other city in the world illustrates the “time is money” mentality than HK, but that’s just my opinion.
That’s true! The efficiency in HK is simply amazing. For cabs, I am a huge fan of the SMS for a taxi system in Singapore.
Really enjoyed reading this, an interesting topic. Thanks for taking the time to post it 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement and for commenting! Glad you found the topic interesting.
Good post everyone deals with on a daily basis… Went to Georgetown in DC last weekend and marveled at the long line outside of Georgetown Cupcake. Dozens of mostly tourists lined up out of the store to buy overpriced* fatty/sugary little cakes in the heat of summer. But I suppose the more expensive the item, the less significant the waiting time is in comparison. And if you are wondering around on vacation, the waiting must be part of the “experience.” After all, they must be worth the wait if so many others are willing to do it, right? * $2.66 each (includes DC tax).
I totally agree with you. I also happen to be one of those people who doesn’t quite *get* the whole cupcake craze, but good observation as I might be more tempted to stand in line for something I usually wouldn’t when I’m on vacation. We have our own cupcake craziness here in SEA, and people swear by the frosting. I think they’re very good, but I’m not willing to stand in line and wait. ($4.00+tax at some places here!)
I’ve realized that I value my time more when I have plenty of money and I value my money more when I have plenty of time. So my WTP and WTW can change based on what kind of situation I’m in. Also, I liked the excerpt you brought in from The Altantic about sunk costs. I think that a huge problem for myself and others. It’s hard to give up on something you’ve invested so much in. Then again, if it’s not going anywhere, it’s not logical to continue on just because you spent energy, time, and/or money on it. Ahhhh one of those things. ha!
Good post 🙂 thanks for sharing!
I’m glad you brought up the dynamic and observation about how our WTP and WTW can change depending on our situation. Yes, absolutely true, and I agree with this general the r/ship between the two when I say that they are (generally) inversely correlated. And the whole bit about sunk costs. UGH, so true and yet, even though I know that the logical thing is to walk away, I’m an emotional being (and not always rational) and so I always have a really hard time walking away from something that I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on (ex: cheap unfinished IKEA furniture w/missing parts!!!)
Congratulations! Great post.
Where I live (Netherlands, Germany; Denmark) most people prepare their own meals most of the times and here I don’t know of any restaurants where you have to stand in line at all.
The longest I’ve ever waited in line for food was about 10 minutes at a pizzeria in the city Trapani on Sicily. They had the worst service, the uglies restaurant, but OMG, they made the best pizza I’ve ever had, so every thing else was forgiven.
What else do I wait for? On the phone. It is rediculous how bad a phone service many companies and public offices offer their customers, especially in the Netherlands. There have been times where I’ve waited for hours just to have the other person hang up on me! It’s incredible.
Interesting to hear your perspective about how most ppl prepare and eat meals at home in Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. I agree that when the product is worth your wait time, it’s a wonderful thing. Your pizza sounds amazing! 🙂 And I guess the folks who run the place know it, which is why they can get away w/awful customer service and a crappy setting. As for the phone, I’m pretty much addicted to speaker phone so you can do other things while you wait, but your story is totally ridiculous and makes me mad for you!
There is a tiny Japanese restaurant in Montreal called Kazu that opens at 5:30pm for supper. The line up starts at 5 and lasts all night until it closes at 9pm. People, myself included, have waited patiently because of the reward at the end: a five star meal at a reasonable price.
Good to know, and thanks for the tip about Montreal! I’m glad to hear that certain places are worth the wait. Thanks for commenting.
Luckily I’m not picky about food – so waiting any longer than 30 minutes or so isn’t worth it to me. Now for certain concert tickets – I’d probably camp overnight. 🙂
I don’t think I’ve ever camped overnight for anything… even for “nature” in the wilderness! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!
Nana G’s chicken and waffles and it was an hour plus (at a street food festival). I was totally happy with the time I invested on trying something new but about 30 minutes into the wait I had second thoughts.
Glad to hear that you had a positive experience at the end of your wait. Thanks for the tip about Nana G’s, and for stopping by!
I guess I’m not that much of a foodie.I wouldn’t wait anything like that long, even half an hour would try my patience especially if I was hungry. I don’t get to eat out very often and for me part of the experience is being able to have a leisurely meal enjoying the ambience of the restaurant. Even if I survived queuing I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a place where I knew others were still waiting to come in and eat. I’d feel I had to rush through my meal and leave.
In my younger days before such things as online bookings I did queue for concert tickets, my longest wait being 9 hours to buy tickets for Paul McCartney and Wings. I’ve queued to ensure I get a seat and a good view at concerts and more recently at T20 cricket matches. I’m short and not as young as I used to be so I like to enjoy these events in comfort not stuck behind people and not able to see. However my preference is always to make reservations, buy tickets online and be assured of a seat rather than risk spoiling the outing by having a long wait.
WOW!… 9 hours, but it was for Sir Paul McCartney. I absolutely agree with you about the concept of reservations and booking online. I guess my underlying complaint for certain “trendy” restaurants is that they do not offer reservation services specifically b/c they know that they can get away with it b/c of price point and quality of product. There is little emphasis on customer service or ambiance because the food is so good for the price.
I’m with you, and agree that much of the experience of dining out is about enjoying the entire experience, including service, ambiance, as well as food, but it probably means that the price point will undoubtedly be higher. Thanks for your comments and for stopping by!
Interesting post. Queuing is one of my pet hates so I try to avoid it if I can. The thing is that there are an increasing amount of restaurants in London where it is a case of turn up and wait to be seated – Polpo, Pit & Cue, Burger and Lobster, Granger & Co – so the list goes on. Thankfully I have been lucky at all of the above (so far ;o) and the longest wait of the four about was at Granger & Co, but whilst we waited – 30 mins or so – we could order drinks at the bar and sit on a table outside (I think it was in the Autumn – so not hot but not too cold either!). The whole waiting game is a bit of a bore for those with kids (which I have) as time waiting is clocking up for the babysitter. Thankfully there are still great places that you can book and therefore be seated to your table immediately. Vancouver has a great restaurant scene so there is always many possibilities waiting round the corner if the place you are trying to visit is taking too long to seat you.
Usually if there’s a queue, you pretty much have to accept that fact here, we’re British and that need to line up all neat is pretty much ingrained into our psyche!
That said… I’ll avoid a queue if I can, say if there’s a shop open five minutes down the road from one where there’s a large queue. I think the longest I’ve ever waited in line was about an hour and a half and that was for a concert, haha!
I think you bring up another great point about public courtesy and lining up (I’m sure the Brits have this down cold!) In some cultures (say in parts of China) there is no such concept of queuing, and trying to get on a bus is pure madness where the most rude and aggressive person who cuts in line and shoves hardest gets onto the bus. That said, I don’t enjoy long lines (or traffic) either but I’d rather have an orderly line vs. a mob or melee.
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Mmmmm Ramen Santouka. I waited in line for 40 minutes to get in and it was worth every single minute. And then we sat at the communal table with a bunch of strangers, but it was actually quite nice in that we were all there to enjoy an amazing bowl of ramen. Having said that, I think my max is one hour and then I’m fine to walk away.
My husband has a much lower tolerance, but we did wait at Paseo for almost an hour to try one of their sandwiches and he basically fell in love, so he’s fine to stretch out his tolerance for food that’s worth it for him.
Hahaha, YES, I think so too! (Yay to fellow food-liner-uppers!) That bowl of ramen was pretty damn good, and certainly worth 30-40 mins in line to me as well. As for Paseo’s, I’m pretty sure it’s worth the hour wait… The Caribbean Roast pork shoulder that melts in your mouth (+ that garlic sandwich spread) is making my mouth water right now! Thanks for your comments and for stopping by! I’ll be sure to consult your opinions on good places to eat if I’m ever in Calgary.
Absolutely! I heard such good things about Santouka that I couldn’t leave Vancouver without trying it.
My husband often jokes about going to Seattle specifically for Paseo’s. I’d probably break my 1-hour rule for Paseo’s actually – sooo good.
Thanks for stopping by to my place as well!
This post is fantastic! Being a passionate foodie, I would happily wait in line to have a good meal, especially if people have been raving on about it. I think it’s an exciting experience!
Reblogged this on nat·ter [to talk idly; chatter] and commented:
Fantastic piece on the behavioural economics relating to our perceived value (in time and money) for certain items or services.
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