How To Deal With Queue Jumpers

How To Deal With Queue Jumpers

If you’ve lived in the world you’ve waited in a line, and at some point in your life — if not many — someone has jumped into the queue and made you wait longer. There are a variety of “line cutters”, some with good reasons and others without, but it’s generally infuriating all the same. Here’s how to deal with people who jump the queue, regardless of the situation.

Analyse The Queue

When people wait in a queue, in essence they’re gathering one behind the other in single file — or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Unfortunately, not every line is created equal. Some curve because there’s not enough room for a straight line in the store, and some waiting areas are larger than others (such as the ones at amusement parks) to accommodate groups waiting together. Queues at stores will occasionally offer some sort of designated method of organisation, even sometimes offering a hired helper to move things along efficiently. Other stores will just let their customers figure things out on their own. Sometimes it’s the worst of both worlds, such as boarding a flight, where an organisation scheme is offered but often ignored (try paying for priority boarding and see how much difference it makes in reality).

It’s in situations lacking this organisation that the problems tend to occur most often, but these are also the type of situations that require the most sympathy. If the rules aren’t clear-cut, it’s very, very easy for any person to misinterpret the rules of the queue. Before you make any decisions about what to do, know what kind of queue you’re in. If the instructions are clear, you can point them out. If they’re not, you may just want to let the issue go. In the event you do want to say something to the cutter, however, tread carefully. It may have been an honest mistake.

Resist The Urge To Get Angry


People make mistakes often, so you don’t want to bite their heads off. Back in college, I was waiting in line for 20 minutes to make a deposit at the school ATM. It always had a ridiculous single-file line, but it was a long way to the next ATM. Another student pulled a chat-and-cut in front of me (see the video up top for a demonstration) and I didn’t say anything because I thought he was talking to his friends. When he tried to use the ATM, I’d built up so much anger that I lashed out at him. The entire queue then got mad at me, because he played the victim. In retrospect, I think he honestly had no idea I was in line. I tend to be quiet and easy to miss if I don’t intend to be heard.

When I angrily told him I was there first and I thought he was just talking to his friends, the rest of the line suddenly saw a raging little arsehole emerge from the ether. Although I earned my rightful spot back, it was with an angry mob at my back. When you bring anger into the situation, don’t expect things to work in your favour.

Know The Three Rules For Confronting Queue Jumpers


When you do want to approach a queue jumper to let them know they just violated the sacred social code of waiting, it’s important to remember the following three things:

  1. Don’t get angry. (See above for an explanation why.)
  2. Ask someone near by — preferably behind you — if they saw that person jump the queue. If they did, you now have an ally who has a vested interest in the outcome of the situation.
  3. Confront the offender as soon as possible. You’ll lose your chance if you wait.

When you confront the queue jumper, be polite. It’s possible they made a mistake and you’ll feel like an idiot and a jerk if you overreact to something that’s ultimately not a big deal. A simple sentence like, “Excuse me, but there is a queue” is forceful enough to get your point across while still remaining open to the possibility that you could be wrong and they were simply joining their friend to wait with them in solidarity. In the event that they argue and things get out of hand, you either need to let it go (if the intruder is willing to drop the issue, too) or find a manager/person of authority and ask them to handle the problem for you. But something as unimportant as a person jumping the queue should really never escalate to that level. The important thing to remember is that while it’s rude for people to queue jump, you can’t fight every battle and there are few circumstances where this situation isn’t a tiny blip of a battle. Most of the time, it’s simply not worth fighting. Stay strong, and just try to let things go whenever you can.

More Advice From You


I put the dilemma of queue jumping out to social networks the other day to see what you all had to say about the matter. Here’s a selection of the advice from the crowd.

Saul suggests a veiled threat:

If it’s a man, I say “don’t cut,” and if he argues I say “I have a gun.”

Matt McCormick suggests giving them a taste of their own medicine and pretending like they don’t exist either:

If they cut me, I will act like I didn’t see them and walk into them. Even better if I have loud big shopping bags.

Luis Sierra says just deal with it:

I usually don’t care, I’ve learned to be a bit more patient when I can. People can be in a rush, scumbags, or just stupid. Chill.

Mikayla Schneiter takes the simple approach:

A simple, polite, I’m-trying-to-be-helpful-here “Hey man, the line starts back there, just so you know” should cut it. There are a lot of situations that could make it look like someone’s trying to cut in line, when in reality s/he’s making an honest mistake or doing something pretty irrelevant.

This post was illustrated by Dana Zemack. Check out more of her stick figure comics and follow her on Twitter.

Got any of your own advice on dealing with the notorious queue jumper? Let’s hear it in the comments!


  • Meh. What’s wrong with plain in the face confrontation. You just need to be correct and sure that the person is cut the queue.

    It is much more healthy than if you keep quiet, then you build up that ‘veiled’ emotion by saying ‘stupid’, ‘scumbags’, to yourself like in Luis Sierra’s case.

  • I like to usually say. …( hey look I know you are more important than everyone else in line here so it’s really fine that you jump in front of the queue.. ). If they don’t get message I then ask for the autograph and then arc up from there. maybe add. what movies have you been doing lately …. Did you get the knighthood….. I’m sure it’s in the post. Keep going till them move on

  • I’m amused that you acknowledged the difference between confronting a male cue jumper, versus female.
    If it’s a female (I’m male), I will point out where the cue starts. If she replies rudely, I generally return “I’m sorry but you’re nowhere near hot enough to get away with that”, then proceed to step in front of her.

  • Also.. this is a very common occurence when you are travelling and the locals see you as an easy target to jump in front of. I strongly suggest you learn enough of the language to tell them to not jump in line. If someone other than a foreigner says it, they MIGHT listen to them.. but if a foreigner, who isn’t meant to be speaking the language, says it.. it has so much more power.. 🙂 I know.. I’ve tried it.. the look on their faces is always priceless.

  • First one gets an “Excuse me, we’re all waiting too” with a bit of pointing to the end of the queue, if that doesn’t work its a” Hey asshole, get to the back of the fucking line”

    This ends in one of two ways, either they move or they take a swing at me (I’m a shortass) either way they’re gone.

  • Oh, and the advice that queue jumping isn’t worth getting worked up about is complete bullshit, it’s a fundamental element of a functioning society, the start of a very slippery slope.

    • Glad someone finally pointed out that this is a basic tenet of civilzed society.

      Not sure if it’s me getting old or the world turning to poop but seem more and more peple can’t/won’t adhere to the simplest standards of decency.

      Even when there’s only a dozen people queueing to tag off at a train station (it takes a second or two each) you can guarantee at least one person will walk straight past the queue and try to ue the machine as if everyone else is invisible.
      This inevitably leads to a traffic jam at the machine and slows down the whole process.

      It sounds trivial but this seems to be the way that some people interact with the world and confrontation or silly mind games with them can only end in aggravation – remember, these are people for the whom rules and cooperation mean nothing.

  • I’ve developed the perfect system for not getting queue jumped it’s easy, just be male,over 6 foot tall, weigh 100+Kg,have shaved head and never like a charm.

  • I remember when I was in primary school – it was my first day back after being at another school for a term, I was near the front of the line, and someone pushed in front of me. Now because the kids behind me thought I pushed in front of them because the people originally in front of them are now in front of me, they thought I pushed in – so it was a chain reaction, and was at the end of the line.

  • Not pushing in is common decency and queue jumping angers me so much…but I’m too quiet to ever say anything. I always want to, I imagine myself doing it, but I never do.

    I want to know how to handle people pushing in when driving ie. driving along the shoulder past every other car in a traffic jam. It aggravates me even more than regular queue jumping because people are cowardly hiding in their cars and don’t even consider it queue jumping.

  • @Jo I saw a dude drive down the middle of the two lanes, once: the left lane was ending, and there were heaps of cars shooting down then indicating to merge over, slowing down the right hand, continuing lane for everyone else. if you suspect this behaviour DON’T let them in- that annoys me too when driving.

    taking up both lanes was the answer in this case, and I joyfully moved behind him in the same way.

  • jumped a taxi rank recently in the early hours (before taxi reached the rank). my mate was travelling the other direction and he waited in the rank – took him 1.5 hours for the line to progress for his taxi. sometimes line cutting is about survival of the fittest! bring on the hate…

    • I wouldn’t waste time hating you, but if you do that again I suggest that you think about the fact that in the early hours there may be vulnerable single people waiting in that rank who need to get home safely.

  • My approach is usually either to say “the queue starts here” (indicating behind me) or else saying very politely “If you are in a terrible hurry then of COURSE you can go before me” – That usually embarrasses them.

  • On a couple of occasions, I have had men blatantly cut in front of me when I was next in line. They knew I was there, they were just bullies who thought it was ok to jump in front of a woman who probably wouldn’t say anything.
    Well. Today that happened at a self serve checkout queue, this young guy jumped in front of me for the checkout and I said “excuse me, I was next”. He just looked at me and said “you weren’t moving, so…..” I didn’t even get a chance to move you moron because you rushed in front of me. I saw red, and I pushed all the items he was waiting to scan onto the floor. He couldn’t believe it and called me crazy, but then he had to go back and get his items again as his sushi had spilled on the floor. When the assistant came to clean it up I told her he had dropped his stuff. Sucked in. I took the register and scanned my stuff. Maybe he will think twice before he tries to do it to someone else. Helpless looking mum 1, bully 0.

      • Why is this insane? Why is this an overreaction? So bullies should just be allowed to go around doing whatever they like and never experience any consequences? I would do the same thing again any day of the week. I would have been more angry if I had let him get away with it. I would have seethed for days. He did the wrong thing, maybe he does it to little old ladies or children, maybe he goes home and beats up his girlfriend. I’ve seen enough f**wits in the world make innocent people upset and suffer that I won’t put up with it anymore. I made a bit of a scene, I don’t care, maybe he was embarrassed in front of people when they saw what he did. I’m standing up for all the people who have suffered at the hands of bullies and I’m proud of it. All those people out there who do the right thing, have a nice day :o) All the bullies – watch out!

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