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Waiting in Line in America

25 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 22 September 2012

Even though waiting in line is an essential part of the human experience there is no such thing as a universal queue.

Many people now believe that the American queue is shedding its British "first-come, first-served" character and is taking on a new form.

In this Your World documentary for BBC World Service, Benjamen Walker examines how in the United States, the system is changing to the priority queue.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's operational management guru "Dr Queue", most priority queues are invisible but Walker spots them in airports, amusement parks, highways and community colleges.

Benjamen questions if the idea of allowing people to buy their way to the front of the line is compatible with traditional American values like equal opportunity and fairness.

He also asks if the priority queue offers freedom of choice or if it creates a two-tiered society.

(Image: A steward holds a sign that says 'end of queue'. Credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages)


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