Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Defeating the Purpose

About two months ago I paid a visit to McDonald's in Cityplaza, where they’d adopted a single-queue system. I thought to myself “it’s about time” and stood in line behind a man while pondering the awesomeness of all the single queues I’ve ever come across: banks, airport check-in counters, Citysuper...

Standing at the head of the queue was a McDonald's staff, whose job was to direct customers in the queue to move up to the next available counter. The only problem was, she was asking people to move up to what she reckoned to be the next available counter before the counter even became available. So customers were sent from the single queue to stand in front of the individual counters in what were essentially separate mini queues. I couldn’t grasp the grounds on which this staff determined which counter would free up next, but she was dead wrong; because I ended up being served before the man who stood in front of me in the single queue, and after the couple that stood behind me.

It’s one thing to walk into a place with multiple queues and have to use my own best judgment to assess which line is likely to move the fastest ― the trick is to avoid lines with foreigners at fast-food restaurants, lines with people with bills in their hands at ATMs, lines with see-lai’s at automated customs channels, and lines with kids at manual customs counters. It’s quite another to be forced to comply with the best judgment of a high-school dropout who’s clearly pulling guesses out of her ass, witness a multinational chain completely defeating the purpose of such a simple system and wasting their underpaid manpower along the way.

Went back to the same McDonald's yesterday. To my surprise, not only is the traffic-directing staff still directing customers to move up before a counter is ready, but now there are two queues instead of one. Go figure.

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