Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Paid Queue Jumping in the Enchanted Kingdom

The story: wealthy Manhattanites pay disabled kids to pose as family members to get preferred positions in line.

Euvoluntary or not? The rich New Yorkers (and what better way to rile up anti-elite sentiments than to mutter "Upper East Side"?)  are better off (presumably their time is valuable even when on vacation?), the disabled faux children are better off (making over a grand a day slumming it at Disneyworld? Sign me up) and the park itself is no worse off, assuming that the marginal patron isn't so offended as to stay home. And what of that marginal patron? They have to wait a little bit longer, all those little bits add up, and this whole thing probably ends up a wash overall, just a transfer like in any other market.


Queue position is a scarce good, but it's one imposed by the organization of the park. Is it fair to say that it's natural in the same sense the relative scarcity of diamonds or baleen whales is natural or is it artificial the same way immigration visas are artificial? A person (more likely a planning committee) made the decision about how many passengers a particular ride would be able to accommodate over the life of the ride and designed accordingly. In this sense, the queue is artificial, but they also designed it with profit maximization in mind, which means they were doing their best to match customer satisfaction with the fixed costs of ride design and construction. I doubt that this queue-hopping was anywhere in the original plans.

So which is it? Natural or artificial? And however you answer the question, does this practice offend your sense of justice? Of fairness? Of euvoluntarity?


  1. If the added revenue of line-waiters attending the park that would not otherwise attend causes the park to be expanded to accommodate more people with shorter lines than it otherwise would, then perhaps everyone is better off now that the rich are buying multiple tickets to attend the same park instead of just one.

  2. I don't know why more parks just don't own the problem like Hershey Park and have VIP passes: http://www.hersheypark.com/rides/vip_experiences.php

    This seemed to end up the case for concert tickets. I remember camping out in High School for my place in line, which probably wasn't the best place to spend an evening, but it was fun. Now ticket sellers avoid the ration-by-cue because it is too easy to sell tickets in the secondary market (and real price has increased).

    I think this is great because it is transparent. The old model banked on access and insider information. The new model collapses this to price.

    I would feel great waiting in line if I knew the VIPs were paying several hundred dollars more than me. I would feel like I was earning money waiting in line.

    I do have some concern for the welfare of the token disabled kids, not necessarily those that come with well-to-do families, but I could imagine those families that replicate this idea, but on a budget. Could we borrow our nephew for a few days!?!


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