I just had a very disappointing interaction with a customer at Target.
I was at the “10 items or less” check out line. You’ve all seen these. There are multiple cashiers, but it’s very unclear as to how many lines customers should form. I’ve noticed that polite people tend to wait in a single line, or, if there is one person waiting or multiple people already in a single line, polite people at least have some form of verbal or non-verbal negotiation with the already queued people to make sure they wouldn’t be cutting by forming a new line.
I was the one person in line. And a woman waltzed right in front of me and went up to the farther counter to wait. I called to her, “It’s one line, I think.” Just then, her targeted cashier freed up and another assured her that forming multiple lines was OK. So, she turned to me and snidely said, “See, you’re wrong!” (Whatevah, it’s not written on a sign anywhere and I’ve stood at that checkout in a single line before.) So, I said, “Well, then it’s the neighborly thing to do.” And she retorted, “YOU were in the wrong line.” (Like I was the stupid one for being so naive as to expect the simple courtesy of a “Would you mind if …” from another human being.)
Dear human race, is it really necessary for us to be so rude to each other? Hmmmm? What do you think? Is it too much to ask to look out for others in small ways?
Psychology studies have shown that altruistic people are happier people in general. (See studies by Philip Shaver. Note that this says nothing about whether or not these individuals were already happy or their altruism precipitated their mood.) Also, conditional altruism is actually an effective strategy for evolution and long-term survival. (See Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene and see the Prisoner’s Dilemma” of Game Theory.) Now, I’m pushing the limits of relevance to the aforementioned situation since this woman and I are complete strangers and likely (hopefully) to never run into each other again. Therefore, the potential opportunities for reward of any altruism on her part would be limited to those who witnessed her being a nice person and that probably would extend only as far as the parking lot or the next 20 minutes or so.
But if psychology and evolution aren’t motivators enough to be decent and kind, here’s another often overlooked but important point. Queueing theory states that, all things being equal, M/M/k queues are more efficient that M/M/1 queues. For those of you that didn’t go to engineering graduate school, this says that the bank model is more efficient than the grocery store model. In the bank model (one line, multiple servers) individuals, on average, wait less time than in the grocery store model (one server per line).
Additionally, studies have shown that wait time is negatively correlated with a customer’s evaluation of service. Said plainly, the longer you have to wait for something, the crappier you are likely to think of the service or goods you eventually receive. So, you are more likely to enjoy what you are purchasing if you wait in line with everyone else. And companies are more likely have better reviews if they make it clear that everyone is to wait in the same damn line.
In short, don’t be an ass.
There. Now, I’ve gotten that off my chest, I sure hope someone does something nice to that woman today and she mellows a bit in return because, personally, my world can’t handle people being mean to each other for no reason at all. Ignorant and absent-minded, yes. But actively rude and selfish, not so much.
Yet another reason that I wish to move to a smaller town. Less anonymity means higher rate of return on niceness and higher rate of retribution for rudeness.