Thursday, December 1, 2011

Selling spots in line

Yesterday, I went to the DMV. At the one I went to, you go in, get a numbered ticket, and sit in a tiny, miserable room. They process around 6 people per hour, except when one of the three employees is on lunch (from 11-2).

I arrived when they were on ticket number 115 and got ticket 126. For the nearly two hours I sat there, I saw at least twenty people come in, despair, and leave.

As my time finally neared, I (being an irrepressible entrepreneur) thought to myself: how much is this ticket worth? How much would people be willing to pay to avoid 2 hours in the DMV?

A lot, I'd bet! Probably more than I could make at McDonald's, and for much easier work. So why doesn't anyone do it?

In some countries, something like this happens outside of embassies: there exists a small group of professional "queue-rs" who wake up at dawn to get a spot in line outside of the embassy, knowing that they can sell their spot to someone whose time is more valuable later that day.

I suspect that, were I to try to sell my ticket at the DMV, I would be met with harsh criticism from people claiming it was unfair. Is it unfair? Is it euvoluntary? Might it be one without the other?

And for the record, Americans do tolerate (or even celebrate) this behavior for consumer goods. Is there something special about government services?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?