Thursday, February 18, 2010

Queuing theory

posted Sun, 14 Aug 2005

What is the proper line etiquette at the dry cleaner when there are still spots on the item you have picked up?

Do you get to cut back in line?

The woman behind the rude woman and I speculated that Rude Woman was really a New Yorker in southern clothing. If Scarlett O’Hara had been in a hurry, she would have figured out a way to charm everyone around her. “Oh, Ah do declayah,” she would have said. “Do y’all mahnd if Ah just rush in heah real quick? Ah do hate to impose, but Ah have a sick baby at home and the stables are on fire and well, y’all know it’s just been one of those days!”
Source: http://www.jbstudio.com/catalog/images/nonracingoriginals/francis%20marion%20gate_lady.jpg

I think so, but you don’t have to agree with me, although I think you should.

My position is this: My transaction as a customer is not complete until I am satisfied and have walked out of the store.

Let me ‘splain.

I bought a suit on eBay. The jacket had a stain on it that the dry cleaner has not only failed to remove but has made worse. I have tried to pick up said jacket four times now, only to have to hand it right back to the clerk. It’s become a little ritual. But when I pick it up, if there is someone in line behind me, I step aside to examine it so the next person can drop off her clothes. I don’t need to impede the flow of business. The idea is, though, that once that person is done, I step back into line. Simple, right?

So yesterday, I tried to take my blue silk jacket home. No luck. I picked it up, stepped aside, and, sure enough, they had removed some spots but created some new ones. (Yes, I am going to take it to a different cleaner next week.)

But when the lady behind me was through dropping off her clothes and I attempted to step back into line, the next woman in line wouldn’t let me in.

“Excuse me,” I said politely, “but I am not through with my transaction.”

“Yes you are,” she said. “You picked up your jacket. You’re done. You need to go to the back of the line. Besides,” she added, “I have to get to work.”

I was so surprised at her rudeness – in a southern accent, no less – that I said, “Well, be rude, then!” (Yes, I know I was being rude just by saying that. I lost a lot of moral high ground there.)

“No, you be rude,” Rude Woman snapped.

So I stood and watched her – she, in a rush to get to work, dressed in jeans with frayed hems and a baseball hat – while she dropped off and picked up her things. I stared at her hard while I laughed inside. She stared straight ahead.

Yeah, I was rude by telling her she was rude. But I was right on principle and she knew it. Why else would she have said she had to get to work? If the principle of my allegedly being through was enough, then the appeal to her time being more important than mine would have been unnecessary.

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