If you’re alive and well on planet earth right now, you have been, are, and will forever be, a victim of long lines. Like sunsets, roller coasters, birthday cake, family, spiritual growth, weddings, and funerals, long lines are simply a fixture of the human experience.
But the lyrics from the song are true, that “time is ticking away, tick-tick-ticking away,” and as humans, we will spend approximately five years of our lives waiting in lines and queues, according to a post at The Fact Site. That’s 60 months of just standing there, waiting: waiting at the DMV, waiting for our daughters to finish ballet practice, waiting for our strong-willed children to decide to be compliant, waiting for our nails to dry, for the water to boil, for the spin cycle to stop, for the traffic light to turn green.
Side note: when all is said and done, we humans will have spent six months of our lives waiting at the %$#!*&% traffic light.
No one is immune to waiting, though some have made considerable strides in lessening our wait times and ushering in a culture of instant gratification. Instacart, DoorDash, Target Delivery, call-ahead seating, anyone? “Skip the Line” is one of the most effective and widely-used marketing taglines of our time.
But some efforts to shorten or eliminate wait times have huge merit and can be life-saving in certain scenarios. Advances in medicine, specifically in clinical fields of study related to cancer and cancer treatments, have lent themselves to the development of faster, more effective options in treating patients, and can, in some cases, lengthen patients’ lives and even lead to the elimination of the disease for many.
Even Disney Parks has gotten in on the business of shortening wait times, although some fans will tell you Disney’s interests in such endeavors are purely bottom-line-focused. Ever heard of Genie+ or Lightning Lane and their ever-increasing prices? But it’s true that waiting is just a part of being human, it’s even more true that waiting in line at attractions and rides at our favorite Disney Parks is part of that experience.
During peak seasons in the parks, Guests are afforded an extra helping of that human experience.
Even before Disney was forced to halt operations at every single Disney Park around the globe in early 2020 in response to the ever-expanding coronavirus pandemic, Guests have been complaining and grumbling about the crowds and the long lines at the parks. That grumbling has seemingly been given a megaphone since the parks first reopened.
Only days ago, Guests in the queue for the Rise of the Resistance attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios were in for a 420-minute wait, and if you like to digest your time in hours, that translates to a wait of six hours. Earlier this year, Figment fans at EPCOT waited in line for between four and five hours for the chance to buy a popcorn bucket in the likeness of the imaginative little purple dragon.
Disney bid farewell to the free FastPass+ system to allow for the advent of a new pay-to-ride-sooner take on attractions. Genie+ and Lightning Lane debuted in October 2021, and though you might think most Guests would make a beeline toward anything that offered the promise of skipping the queue with tact and diplomacy, so far, that hasn’t been the case–not for the majority of Disney Parks fans, by Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek’s own admission.
Chapek said he is “very, very encouraged” that almost a third of Guests who visited the parks were paying for Genie+. And that “almost a third” number is enough to have propelled The Walt Disney Company’s earnings into record-breaking territory since the new legal line-cutting system debuted.
Guests aren’t opting out of waiting in line
With all the grumbling and complaining about “ridiculously long lines” and droves of Guests in the parks that make us have to walk “shoulder to shoulder” at Magic Kingdom (and the three other parks as well), why aren’t more Guests taking advantage of Genie+, especially as it gives them a perfectly good excuse to bypass the long queues–the “ridiculously long queues” that seem to make us all bibbidi-bobbidi-bat-sparkle crazy?
More than likely, a small percentage of the more than two-thirds of Guests who weren’t yet using Genie+ simply don’t want to pay for such add-ons. One expert in crowds and wait times at Disney World says that approximately 95% of the Guests he’s had dealings with don’t like the new service.
“The biggest complaint is [they] are stuck on [their] smartphones all day [while in the parks],” he offered.
But there’s another reason Guests don’t opt for the line-cutting option, and it has nothing to do with price points and everything to do with psychology. (I know; that sounds crazy–about as crazy as people waiting in line for 7 hours for a dragon bucket that, by the way, still cost them money once they got to the kiosk.)
The allure of the long line
So why do fans keep coming back for more? If we’re all so frustrated, why aren’t the majority of us making the sacrifice and purchasing Genie+? After all, cost is nearly a moot point when you consider that at Disney World, we’re already paying elitist prices for an elitist experience–and nearly $4.00 for bottled water (even though it’s not magical bottled water). And everyone’s excited about the reopening of a Disney World restaurant that charges nearly $200 per plate.
For many Guests, perhaps there’s a subconscious distinction between waiting in a long line and the long line itself.
David Gibson, a sociologist at the University of Notre Dame, studies long lines and says some of us are drawn to long lines because our desire to distinguish ourselves as part of a community–even one that exists temporarily and within the confines of a line of hundreds of people intent on experiencing the same thing.
“These are people whose identities and stories about themselves are very much tied to being foodies, on being on the cutting edge of fashion and style, or being Apple device lovers,” Gibson explains, adding that people often get recognition among their peers after being in lines for the latest tech like a new iPhone. So, couldn’t the same be true of Guests in line for the latest attraction at Disney World?
Richard Larson, a professor at MIT, who has studied queue science for more than 20 years, talks about “celebratory queues.”
“That, to them, is kind of like a party,” Larson explains.
He says that some people enjoy waiting in long lines, and this can be especially true if the ends justify the means, so to speak. Larson says that for some people, waiting in a long line has value–whether that’s bragging rights (“I was one of the first to ride the new TRON attraction at Magic Kingdom!”) or simply the opportunity to mingle with fellow long-line junkies (whether they know they’re junkies or not).
At least it sounds plausible. After all, we’ll do anything to avoid long lines at the grocery store when the cashier is waiting for a manager’s override, and if we could, we might even pay someone to act as a proxy at the DMV, rather than wait in those lines.
“At a DMV, you don’t see it as a value,” Larson says. “You see it as a government-mandated annoyance.”
Whatever the reason, the numbers don’t lie, and so far, the majority of Guests are not purchasing Genie+, and, therefore, they aren’t taking advantage of an offer from Disney to skip the insane lines for rides and attractions. It would seem that the allure of the long lines trumps the allure of skipping them.
Perhaps we’ll have more insight during The Walt Disney Company’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call next month. Bookmark this page and listen in by clicking here at the close of trading on November 8.