Weekend Plans Post: Queue Theory



Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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101 Responses

  1. I’m not sure if my response is in the spirit of your queue theory (which, to be honest, I’m not sure I understand what it is), but when I was a teller, we had a special line for deposits that took an extra long time. It was for commercial deposits from merchants who had large amounts of cash that needed to be counted and verified at the teller window.

    In theory, a bank could have an “express line,” if it, say, had a “deposits only” (or better, “checks only deposits,” where money doesn’t have to be counted).

    Again, though, maybe I’m not understanding what “queue theory” is or what you mean by it. Is it the theory about what people think about while in line? why people choose to stand in line when they don’t have to?

    At any rate, I hope you have a good weekend!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to gabriel conroy says:

      Queue Theory: Let’s say that you have a bank with four teller windows.

      You have a line with X people in it (let’s say that X is at least twice the number of teller windows).

      What is the *FASTEST* way to make this line disappear? Is it to make one of the windows an “Express Only” window *OR* is it to say “yes, we will have clogged windows from time to time but having a special window won’t make the line go any faster”?Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

        When you are in the express grocery line for 12 items or less, what fraction of the people in front of you have more than 12 items?

        From my experience about one-third.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

          I don’t mind the guy with 15 items.

          I don’t *REALLY* mind the guy with 20.

          The guy with 70 ticks me off.Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

            I think the group that won’t or can’t estimate that their transaction will take more than two minutes is much larger than the group that can count the items in their cart.Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

            My generally thought is that if you need a cart, you have enough stuff to need the regular till. Express lane quantities of stuff should fit in a basket. Unless the cart is for two water cooler jugs.Report

            • I think that’s generally true, even if the basket technically has a little more than 12 (or whatever number of) items and the cart that technically has only the limit (with exceptions for, say, a cart with only a huge 50-bottle case of water).Report

          • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

            the woman with thirty-four cans of different cat foods (so they had to each be rung up individually) who told me “Honey, I can count, I’m just in a hurry” when she got ahead of me and my carton of milk and bag of spinach.


            this kind of thing makes me irrationally angry as I am that rule-follower who will get in a regular line if she has 13 items. I figure the rules apply to me; too many people around me figure they don’t apply to them.Report

            • Avatar Aaron David in reply to fillyjonk says:

              I am usually* in the same boat with rules and regs as you, but I have a feeling that most people go back and forth with which they feel are important vs. which they feel are not. My wife, for example, is a huge stickler about things she thinks are important, such as recycling, work rules and so on. But other things she has no patience for; parking, jury duty, etc.

              *Actual traffic laws are something I am very unencumbered with personally.Report

            • I’m probably more like you than not. On one recent occasion, I accidentally got into an express lane but had technically more than the limit. I didn’t change lanes–and no one called me on it–but I felt bad.

              That said, my own local grocery store might have, say, 4 express lanes open and only one regular lane. Not always or even often, but sometimes.

              I will say I have a lot of sympathy for the clerks who manage the express lane but get a customer with a lot more of the items. I’ve been there and know it’s hard to enforce the rules.Report

              • Yeah, ‘cos someone who doesn’t care they’re bringing 50 items through a “12 items or fewer” line isn’t going to take kindly to a cashier telling them they shouldn’t do it.

                the wal-mart here usually has about 2-3 regular lanes, one express lane, and a butt-ton of their glitchy self-check-outs. I use those some times but they almost always screw up on me and do the “unexpected item in bagging area” or some such and then I have to wait for a human. (Maybe I scan too fast, I don’t know).

                I figure the future of grocery shopping is going to be being handed a boxcutter and a miner’s lamp and told “It’s somewhere in the warehouse, find it, get it out of the pallet, scan it on your smartphone, and it’ll automatically deduct the money from your bank account.”Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

        Here, work it backwards.

        Serving X transactions requires a certain amount of teller time. If there’s a single queue, then all four tellers are busy until the queue is emptied. If there’s an express window that only handles express transactions, then there’s a non-zero probability that teller will be idle while there are still customers in the queue. That means the expected value of the total clock time to clear the queue must be greater than the case where there’s no express window.

        But that’s not the problem you’re posing in the original post. There, you’re interested in reducing the average waiting time for express customers. Doing that without increasing the waiting time for regular customers might be possible with complicated enough rules on how each teller selects their next customer from the queue(s) — formal queueing theory was a long time ago.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Hrm, yeah. That makes sense. The express window would be there for good vibes among the handful of short transaction people (and if there are no more of them in the line, why *NOT* have the guy who wants to pay his mortgage in pennies go up to it?).

          Thinking about this at the supermarket, how many people at the supermarket are there for 15 items or fewer? A good amount, I reckon. Enough that it makes sense to have only a couple of lines open but one of the two always being the express line.

          (And self-checkout totally changes this dynamic even more. The supermarket equivalent of the ATM.)Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

            The express window isn’t there because it makes transactions at the express window happen faster, it’s there because it’s a way for the bank to show that they really, truly care about Customer Experience, and therefore if you’re grumpy about waiting in line, well, that’s on you, because the bank is doing everything it possibly can to make your experience be the best one possible…Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

            (and if there are no more of them in the line, why *NOT* have the guy who wants to pay his mortgage in pennies go up to it?)

            Because the express customer who arrives 30 seconds after the guy starts counting out the pennies now has to wait through a long transaction even though they’re standing at the front of the express line. That’s not the experience that the “Express Line” sign is selling.Report

            • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Michael Cain says:

              this is similar to the argument I’ve heard about not using the “disabled accessible” stalls in a public washroom if all the other stalls are occupied…what if someone wheels in and needs it?

              I’m not sure about that one, though. (Especially for #1. Even for women, #1 does not take that long)Report

        • In my experience, both as a customer and a sometime clerk/teller, etc., the express person (or the large deposits only teller) usually takes people when there are no more express customers.Report

    • Thanks for clarifying, Jaybird.Report

  2. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    So I’m reading this thinking, “I remember queuing theory!” It came up when I imagined I could start a late career in networking; it’s relevant to traffic management in routers. I seem to remember that it was invented at Bell Labs, probably down the hall from Shannon doing Information Theory, and… that’s about all I remember about it. [Sigh…] Yeah, I got nuthin’.

    That and you sound like my wife, running around town paying bills in person. With checks. Checks I tell you! It’s positively barbaric.Report

    • Right industry, wrong place. Erlang, at some Scandinavian telephone company, around 1910. The people who do names for units of measures (eg, Hertz for cycles per second) named the fundamental measures of telephone traffic density after him. Erlangs are inconvenient to work in. When I went to work as a switching systems engineer at Bell Labs, we did everything in “hundred call-seconds”, or CCS.

      Lord, more useless technical knowledge, made obsolete by the use of packet switching.Report

  3. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    Grocery shopping, oh my goodness. It seems I ALWAYS pick the line where there is someone who wants to write a check/has a lot of coupons/argues a price with a cashier/has some kind of credit card (or SNAP card) problem.

    I don’t know but the autocratic part of me wants to require either (a) groceries have lines for check-writers/multiple-coupon people, and lines for people like me who don’t take that kind of time or (b) automatically open more cashiers if there are more than 2 people in a line – any line.

    And don’t mention Express Lines; I still remember the time I had 15 minutes before an evening meeting to buy my milk and bag of spinach and get them home and some woman slid in ahead of me with a full cart and said “Honey, I know how to count, I’m just in a hurry” when I gave her overfull cart the stinkeye. (I put the milk and the spinach back and just did without that evening.)

    Honestly my town cannot get grocery delivery fast enough to avoid the human element of purchasing food. Or “scan your own stuff on your smartphone and pay by credit card.” That’s what would trigger me to actually GET a smartphone

    And don’t get me started on the post office (where I have to go this morning to pick up my accumulated mail); they have three spaces for people but only ever have one open; I have seen lines of 20 people in there.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to fillyjonk says:

      I’m trying to remember the last time I saw someone write a check at the supermarket.

      How widespread is retail misanthropy, with customers who want nothing more than to avoid interaction with other people? I see it on the internet a lot, but I wonder if this is mostly an internet thing. I have been going to the same supermarket for fifteen years. A bit of chit chat with the cashier about my kids, whom she has watched growing up, does not seem unduly burdensome.Report

      • I live in a lower SES area, and an area with lots and lots of elderly people/people who are very low-tech. I see someone writing a check in the grocery a couple times a month, at least.

        I don’t mind the smaller grocery store here (the Pruett’s) because they tend to have enough cashiers and the people who shop there tend to be a bit more clueful, but I find the Wal-mart here brings out ALL my misanthropy. I walk out of there some days hating the entire human race.

        It’s not the cashiers that are the problem; it’s that guy ahead of everyone in line who chooses that moment to argue with the cashier “But eggs were $2.39 two weeks ago, you should let me buy them for that now.” I really hated it when Wal-mart briefly did the “bring in another store’s circular that lists a lower price for an item and we’ll match it” because people SERIOUSLY abused that, like trying to claim a different brand was comparable to what they were buying.

        Maybe I just live where there are a lot of people who wanna try to take advantage, I don’t know.Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Walmart is a vision of hell straight from Dante. I say this as a former employee, in the early 1990s. Walmart’s early rise was mostly gotten through early adoption of computerized inventory management. When I worked there they had a computer in each store, with a satellite data link to Bentonville. This was quite advanced for the day.

          Nowadays everyone has this stuff. This was beginning to happen when I worked there. So how to stay ahead of Target? It was a combination of squeezing suppliers and cutting labor costs. I saw the early stage of this. The guys who had been around for a while had this strangely sincere happy talk about the company that was at obvious odds with current reality. We were encouraged to read Sam Walton’s book, and strongly discouraged from comparing it with what was actually going on.

          We are now in the late stages. Stores are systemically understaffed. Store-level management is evaluated on how well they keep labor costs down. In this environment, there is little connection between “lots of customers in the store” and “let’s fully man the checkouts.” It has reached the point where getting inventory onto the shelves is an issue. Hence the pallets of boxed products parked in the aisle.

          Add on top of this that Walmart now has competition from below. “Dollar stores” covers a multitude of sins. At least one version, Dollar General, is a real general merchandise store, a cut below Walmart. If there were one of these next door to a Walmart, the lower income people could well favor the dollar store.

          Walmart is still sitting on a boatload of cash. If it ever figures out the internet, it has the resources to give Amazon a run. I suspect that institutional inertia will prevent this, with the added factor that no tech guy wants to work in Buttfuck, Arkansas, or even face the prospect of occasional business trips there.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to fillyjonk says:

          I’ve found time of day important. I usually only go to the grocery store for a few items, and if I can go on a Weekday morning (other than Monday which appears to be stocking day) before 9 AM, it is one of the harmonious experiences one can have. Cashiers are waiting in front of the lane to let you know they aren’t busy. Of course, that’s all because it’s not a convenient time for many people, including myself.

          If I go to the same store btw/ 3 and 5, its bedlam. The store aisles are too crowded to maneuver, people stop suddenly to take a call, ignoring everyone around them, or when I step back in order to examine the lower shelf, someone will come stand right in front of me without acknowledging I was there. Good Grief!

          The lines are long, extending into the aisles, and that’s when I end up behind the lady in the 12 and under line, who appears to be demonstrably counting the number of items in the cart, when I’ve already counted 25. She either has just decided to count now that she’s in line, or she is pretending and intends to act surprised so should can ask my pardon. I don’t make eye contact. She’s either another self-absorbed individual who wasn’t paying attention to others or her surroundings, or she is fraud. I don’t want to know.Report

          • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to PD Shaw says:

            I have different strategies. Nowadays, I use Pruett’s (small regional chain, nice but doesn’t carry some items/brands I use), especially for produce and meat (their produce and especially their beef are superior).

            Or, every few weeks I make the hour’s round-trip to the natural-foods store and the Kroger and just remember to bring a cooler with me for frozen stuff. (The Kroger is busy a lot of the time but it feels less dystopian than the wal-mart).

            If I HAVE to use the Wal-mart – like, it’s a busy couple weeks when I can’t make it out of town – I try to arrange to do it at 7 am on a weekend. The shelves may be poorly stocked but at least it’s less crowded. And there aren’t small children melting down in the store because they’re overtired and hungry.

            Now, the wal-mart here has rolled out “order online, pick up at the curb” service. I’ve not used it yet, and probably will give it a few more weeks to shake down, but that might be a better option for those rare days when I NEED some things (I think their minimum is $30 though) and I NEED them before 7 am on the next Saturday.

            Sartre famously said “Hell is other people” and I marvel that he said that long before wal-marts ever existed.Report

    • Shopping tends to bring out my inner misanthrope against other customers and sometimes against the workers, even though my memory as a former worker in the field puts a strong check against it.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Everyone has a Two Minute Issue, or at least they think they do when they go up to the window.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    IIRC — and formal queueing theory was a long time ago — the single-queue multiple-tellers model minimizes the expected value of total waiting time. Under certain conditions, it gives the effect that the line is always moving. Disneyland, who at least used to spend considerable effort on queue management, took advantage of this to keep people happier and to do some mood setting.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Yes, I’ve read this. I think there was an “American Scientist” (Sigma Xi’s publication) article about this some years back.

      And it’s certainly better than either having to gamble on a line and maybe get skunked where you’re behind someone with Issues and the line you could have chosen keeps moving. Also, to me, it feels more “fair” to have one line and the next person in line is genuinely the next person helped, rather than having the “Pick a teller/window to wait behind, then maybe experience regret, then maybe line hop, just to lose out again.”

      Though I still sometimes feel like when someone has a MAJOR MAJOR issue, they should be sent to customer service to stop the rest of the system from sludging up. I think I’d still feel that even if I were the person with the MAJOR MAJOR issue.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to fillyjonk says:

        Yes, in Germany I seem to recall most of the grocery stores did the queues like banks, where there’s one queue and each teller calls “next” when they’re ready, so you don’t think you’re in line behind someone who’s just getting milk and bread, but then they have several very specific lottery ticket purchases to make and they’re buying for the lottery club at work so they need each ticket on a different receipt.

        Here I barely ever see that arrangement.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to fillyjonk says:

        The problem with “your issue is too complicated, go to customer service” is the sunk-cost fallacy kicking in; you now have to convince the customer that going to customer service won’t “waste” all the time they spent getting to the window and explaining their problem.

        …which isn’t entirely a fallacy in this sort of situation.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to DensityDuck says:

          yeah, ‘cos people only care about wasting their own time, all those shlubs stacking up behind them, their time exists to be wasted. Like the woman who told me that she was “in a hurry” so she cheated on the express lane limits. When in reality, I had fifteen minutes to get my stuff, pay, scram, get it home, and make it to my meeting….Report

      • In the bank I was a teller at, the tellers, along with the 24-help line, were the customer service. I actually didn’t get that fact for the first several months I worked there, and I kept sending complicated customers to a coworker whose desk was unfortunately located close to the teller line. Because she was always cheerful about helping people, I just assumed she was “customer service.” But one day, I heard her complain about people just showing up at her desk.Report

    • Almost every airport I’ve flown into uses this scheme for customs. DFW doesn’t (or didn’t at the time), but employs people to tell you which line to get in initially and move people between lines as they get unbalanced. It’s kind of ridiculous.Report

  6. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    Bank Queue Theory: “So you want to stand in-line and pay your Mortgage do you?”
    JB: Yes.
    Bank Queue Theory: “Did you know we have online Payments?”
    Bank Queue Theory: “Next”Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Dude, they tried that. “Mail us the coupon book.” “But we have online payments!” “Are you telling me that you won’t mail us the coupon book?”

      A long sigh followed by “okay, we’ll mail you the coupon book” turned into “here is an automated phone number you can call and press 7 to leave a message complaining that we won’t mail you the coupon book… but if you press 1, you can make your payment over the phone.”Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        Right… this is phase 4 in their strategy. Phase 5 will be the teller who says, “huh, I don’t even know how to process this transaction… let me get a manager… can you sit over there?” Phase 6 is the Manager informing you that Branches can no longer process these types of transaction (and did you know they have online payments?) – you’ll have to go to HQ to handle this in person. Phase 7 is blockchain.Report

  7. Avatar pillsy says:

    Going down to DC for Father’s Day. I haven’t seen my folks in a little while, so it should be fun.

    Also, my dad has caught the home automation bug in a big way, so I’m bringing him a Raspberry Pi and a starter kit of various doodads so we can play with it. He’s a (retired) engineer and an even bigger nerd than I am, so it seems like a good way to celebrate.

    (A past Father’s Day gift was a slide rule, to replace the one I broke by using it as a lightsaber when I was four.)Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to pillsy says:

      Breaking your dad’s slide rule by using it as a lightsaber is such an awesome image.

      (I never learned to use one but I know my dad had one. Slide rule, not lightsaber)

      I think I DID break a little doohicky my dad had – it was like a tiny version of the surveyor’s wheel for measuring distance; he used it to measure non-linear distances (like, streams) on maps.Report

  8. Avatar J_A says:

    I’m not going to ask why you want to pay with a physical check, but will point out that my 91 year old mother adopted online payment and direct debit as soon at it appeared, in the mid 80s, and had little disguised contempt for her friends that, a decade later, still queued to pay utility bills in person.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J_A says:

      It’s a hipster thing. You know the guys at the coffee shop who talk about only listening to vinyl records and only drink coffee using equipment that someone in the 1920’s would have immediately recognized?

      It’s like that, but for paying my mortgage.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        Authentic Mortgage Payments.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

        I still pay by check for many things (local water bill for example) because some of the “online portals” for some of the services I use look seriously crackable. (Especially the local water department; it’s basically a generic made-by-the-version-of-Wix-for-cities “trust us and type in your bank account number” website).

        I had to pay my water bill “distantly” this month because (a) I was trapped in IL by flooding and (b) the local water authority is a real B about cutting off your water if you’re even one day late. I had to do it over the phone. It did not go well; I was able to pay the dollars part of the bill but not the cents because of some glitch in the system. Really hoping they don’t decide to cut me off over being a quarter short…Report

        • Sometimes, I find, I like the verification of a cancelled check more than I like the verification of having an item listed on my credit card statement. I’m not sure exactly how much of a difference it is, but that means that for some purchases, I prefer (perhaps irrationally?) checks.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m still leery of automated payments for amounts that vary, because if someone slips a decimal point and drains my bank account, that’s my responsibility to clean up after, not theirs.

        “automated transfers” are better, because that’s a specific amount that I set beforehand and it doesn’t change. That works well for loan payments, because that number is set from the get-go and doesn’t depend on the vagaries of tax rates and usage patterns.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Our mortgage payment changes every year due to the vagaries of property taxes and the credit union’s inability to judge what the escrow should be.

          It’s a fixed rate, but our mortgage jumps around between 40-50 bucks because, oh no, we didn’t take out enough in escrow last year! You need to send us a check! (Followed the following year by oh no! We took out too much in escrow! We’re sending you a check!)Report

        • I prefer to avoid automated payments for the same reason you do. I do like (usually) paying online, and I’ll usually do that instead, even when there’s a small “convenience fee” because I prefer the control over what comes out of my account and when.Report

        • Once (well, a long time ago) a check I’d written got debited at 100 times its value. I noticed something was wrong when the ATM wouldn’t give me any money because my balance was a large negative number. I called the bank, and they figured it out pretty quickly, but wouldn’t do anything about it until Monday (it was Saturday), because, they said, I had other accounts to get me through the weekend. When I insisted, they said “Calm down, this happens all the time.” Which was exactly what I wanted to hear.Report

      • Avatar Fish in reply to Jaybird says:

        “What’s that?”
        “Oh, this? This is a check. You’ve probably never heard of them.”Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        Do you sign the check with a quill? You’re not a real mortgage hipster unless you sign your checks with a quill.Report

  9. Avatar Aaron David says:

    I too am Gen-X. I pay my mortgage online. The other bills I am in charge of at Chez David also get paid online and are paperless. The Wife, on the other hand, gets paper bills but pays them online. My bank has maybe one teller at any given time, as most banking has moved online. But then again, when I am at the bank, it usually takes a good 10-20 minutes to deal with anything that made me actually come down there.

    No real plans this weekend except spreading mulch. The wife decided to go to war with Bermuda grass in one garden bed, buying extra-heavy duty garden fabric and that needs to be made presentable.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy says:

    What happens when someone steps up to the 2-minute window and the clock rolls over to 2:01 and they aren’t done?Report

  11. Avatar J_A says:

    On the matter of queue management, a couple of years after 9/11, and the spawning of NSA checkpoints, Newark airport had for a while -probably two years- a security checkpoint reserved “for experienced travelers”. Queuing time in the line was less than half the standard, but everyone had, by the time they reached the end of the line, empty pockets, shoes, belts, and coats in their hands, laptop out, the whole nine yards, making it a very smooth process.

    It worked mostly on the honor system that you knew what was expected of you, and it probably put the fear of God on inexperienced people that they would be starehated to death if they messed it, but TSA officers did politely wave away families with children, senior citizens, and everyone that did stare too long in awe. It worked quite well in those days where the machines were not as reliable as today, and the checking was slower.

    I never saw it in any other airport, not even Houston (the other Continental hub), but I loved it while it was there.Report

  12. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    We’re just back from the Camino (my first 2-week vacation since I was maybe 8) and ironically I’m playing online bill payment whack-a-mole… oh shit, due the 15th? [click] . Transfer funds. [click] . We spend how much on croquetta, tortilla (the good kind) and paella? Sell Stock [click] . Transfer funds. [click].Report

  13. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    Going to an Atlantic League baseball game tomorrow. This is the league that is experimenting with robo-umps. I’ve been wanting to check it out and finally hit that sweet combination of a free weekend, good weather, and a game just an hour and a half away.Report

    • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I’d be interested in hearing about that. There’s a lot of guff on Reddit about how home plate umps should be replaced by these things. On the other hand, I heard an interesting thing on Michael Lewis’ podcast Against the Rules, in which he related a story about how an established MLB pitcher got knocked out of the game, and went to the dugout and destroyed the computer than controlled the strike zone thingy. The pitcher complained that he couldn’t get the marginal calls he expected because the ump had been trained to try to make his zone conform to the computer’s.Report

  14. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Richard Brautigan has a lovely pen about just this experience, Complicated Banking Problems. At our house Complicated Banking Problems note refers to the general situation, not just at the bank but anywhere people queue.

    This weekend marks the beginning of the bit of summer when we’re always doing something.

    Birthday party for child the elder tomorrow. My parents and Fledermaus’s mom are here in honour thereof. Today the grandparents are all going to join her school field trip to the zoo.

    Also a friend’s bachelor party tomorrow and wedding the following and music festivals just around the corner and for some reason we agreed to put the kid in figure skating *four days a week*.Report

  15. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    My favorite moment in introductory queueing theory classes is when the instructor asks the question, “Where do grocery stores make their money?” Students typically answer meat, produce, canned goods, soda, and so on. With any luck, someone eventually figures out the correct answer: “At the cash registers.” Abandonment is a real thing with real expenses, like paying people to put stuff back on the shelf when possible, and taking the loss on things that can’t go back on the shelf.Report

  16. Avatar Fish says:

    I was an early adopter of paying on line (and I’m also Gen X, so neener neener). I’ve been doing it long enough that, when we switched banks, I had opinions about which bank’s bill pay service was better. Writing a check, stuffing it in an envelope, applying a stamp and a return address sticker, driving it to the nearest postal drop box and tossing it in seems so…Boomer…to me. The last regular check I had to write was to pay youngest boy’s guitar teacher. Then one day I asked him if he had PayPal, and if I could start paying him that way and he agreed.

    I haven’t written a check in probably going on two years now.

    As for queue theory, I don’t really have anything intelligent to add. I’m not really put out by long lines and wait times and such. I attribute this (perhaps mistakenly) to the time I spent in active duty and the constant refrain of “hurry up and wait” for anything official and the near-constant refrain of “on base everything is crowded so just suck it up” for everything else, especially places where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting at least a dozen military spouses and their accompanying offspring. The commissary and the BX (and their parking lots) top that list.

    And please understand that I mean this in the nicest way possible: Insisting on a coupon book to pay a bill and then, failing that, insisting on waiting in line to pay the same bill when a coupon book is no longer an option is the most Lawful Evil thing ever!Report

    • Avatar jason in reply to Fish says:

      Yeah, I pay all of my bills except for water online (because I can’t). So much easier. My checks last longer as I write one a month. It’s funny; I was in the military and I can handle some waiting, but the people that think the checkout line is story time or time to rearrange their purse, pocketbook, fanny pack, drive me nuts, even though it’s usually just a minor inconvenience.Report

  17. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Recently, I “Venmo-ed” a colleague. I then emailed her the following:

    “I sent you a Venmo. Please confirm receipt.”

    I hate 2019. Next time she gets a memo!Report

    • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Kazzy says:

      I use Venmo all the time. What I don’t like about it is how there can be so many similar user names. That drives me nuts, and I’m always leery about sending someone new some cash.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

        I recently discovered just how hard it is to use something like this across borders.

        Venmo isn’t available in Canada, and Interac email transfers (which is what everyone seems to use around here) aren’t available in the US. I might have been able to do a Visa transfer, but that would require the recipient to tell me their credit card number, which just seems like a terrible system.

        I’m ambivalent about Interac transfers. I just bought a friend’s extra ticket to a music festival off him. Here I am thinking, where can we meet so he can hand me the paper ticket and I can hand him cash, but of course nothing physically exists anymore, so I sent him an Interac email and he emailed me back a PDF with a QR code and thus did I get an early bird price well past the early bird deadline. But it feels like I should have actually met the guy and had a chat and exchanged physical objects.Report

  18. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    Jaybird, you guys are out of your minds! I haven’t had a checkbook for probably like 10 years, and I love it. Why buy checks when the bank will send them out for you? And, for the record, I’m a tail end Boomer.

    As for the weekend, tonight is a belated birthday dinner for my wife, with my sister and her husband. The rest of the weekend will be consumed with watching the U.S. Open, and receiving plaudits from my childrenReport

  19. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Wait, hold up? Mortgage and bond coupon books are a Gen X thing? I thought y’all were Claire Briggs characters until I read that part again.

    Granted I bought my first house comparatively late in life, well into the internet ACH age, but I think my parents didn’t even have one when they refi’d one time in the 90s.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

      Though something I saw on twitter the other day was interesting- there have been essentially no new banks formed in the US since the Great Recession.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Kolohe says:

      I wasn’t sure it was necessarily a Gen X thing. I like paper billing and statements of all kinds and I like checks, probably in part because I was used to that before web-based commerce was really a thing. And initially, when they started marketing the convenience of paying on-line, it seemed like they all charged a convenience fee for doing something convenient for them.

      I’ve always felt that they should make it worth my while because I don’t find the traditional payment methods inconvenient. My credit union will reduce the interest rate on a car loan by 0.25% if you pay by automatic withdrawal from one of their deposit accounts. Great, I’ll do that.Report