How to Deal With People Who Cut in Line / Queue

At intensity akin to road rage, having someone cut in front of us in a line we’ve been patiently waiting in gives birth to insurmountable fury. Staring at the back of the head of someone who’s cut in front is an exercise of imagination. What should we do? What should we say?

This article aims to walk you through a calm, collected, yet effective methodology to dealing with those who rudely cut in front of you in line. Rather than falling victim to the emotional response you’d naturally feel in the heat of the moment, you can save yourself the stress whilst also encouraging the wrongdoer to join the end of the line you’re in.


Establish and Communicate the Governing Structure of the Queue

Every line / queue is an organized attempt at managing a population. The process depends on a certain governing structure in order to operate effectively. Most individuals who see a line tend to know that they should join the end of it, not the front. Other rules can make their mark in shaping the line you’re in however.

Those who have a reservation for example, may need to cut the line in order to walk through to their appointment. Women with small children may be given priority in a certain line you’re in. Other queues, may abide by a spot reservation process; in which people can step away from the queue once they’ve established their spot in it.

In order to effectively deal with someone who breaks the rules of a certain line / queue, you first need to fully understand the governing structure of the line you’re in. Once you do, you’d be armed to first calmly remind those who cut the line of the rules which govern the queue you’re in.

Ensure that you always assume the individual in question to be operating from a place of naivety rather than malice. When you do approach them, mind your manners. Apologize for disturbing them, tell them that you saw them enter the line, and that they broke the rules by which this particular line is formed. Cite the particular rules the individual broke in their attempt to join the line you’re in. If it’s simply the first come first serve component of all queues in existence, then cite that as the obvious rule they broke.


Elicit Backup From Others in Line

As you lay out the structure of the queue you’re in to the perpetrator, make it a focus to gain the approval of others in the line or an authority figure which oversees the line.  While you interact with the individual in question, look around for people nodding along or simply observing the interaction. If you do see someone following the interaction you’re a part of, begin to involve them in the conversation.

The goal of this step would be to simply get the numbers on your side. Having another person to back you up is a drastic improvement from  just you being alone against the line cutter. When you do involve onlookers in an attempt to discipline the line cutter in question, make it seem like you’re not absolutely sure of your stance on the issue. Form your invitation to join the intervention as a question asking for confirmation of the rules.

Ask an onlooker: “Excuse me; this line is formed on a first come first serve basis, correct?”

Onlooker: “Yes, everybody here joined the back of the line when they walked into the building.”

The invitation of others in the form of a question gives them a better excuse to back you up than simply eliciting an emotional response from them. Hopefully as you elicit the backup of other individuals which may have found it difficult to speak up by themselves, the person who cut the line in front of you feels the pressure to join the back of the line. Remember; try your best to curb your emotional response to their inappropriate deed. Walk yourself through the steps of this intervention process in a methodical and calm manner.

Use the Vulnerable to Stress Your Point

If the person still hasn’t budged, a final tool you have in your pocket is the strategic guidance of public attention. The most effective thing to draw attention – in regards to painting the line cutter in a bad light – is the vulnerability of certain individuals in the line you’re in. Pregnant women, elderly people, and those with a disability, all do well to draw out an emotional reaction from other people.

Draw attention toward how the individual in question hurts those who are vulnerable in the line behind them. For instance, bring attention to how long the elderly man has been standing, and how immoral it is for the line cutter to disregard that fact. Use a calm attempt at embarrassing/ shaming as a tool of behavior change in both the line-cutter as well as the people who are in line with you.

The line-cutter will be pressured to join the back of the line while the people around you will be enticed to back you up in your attempts. You may even give birth to a reaction from others which allows you to no longer partake in the intervention as it plays out.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.