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:
- Don't get angry. (See above for an explanation why.)
- 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.
- 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.
Got any of your own advice on dealing with the notorious queue jumper? Let's hear it in the comments!