Friday, March 25, 2005

The funny queue system

Suppose you are at a shop (not a mall or department store) and the shopkeeper is handing over the articles you ask for. Even while you are buying things, in a very poor attempt at multitasking, the shopkeeper simultaneously attends to customers who have come after you. What irritates you the most is the fact that all those who came after you would have left, while you are still at the shop!

The raison d'etre is strange. The shopkeeper doesn't want anyone to be standing idle. Not surprising, since we in India don't have a system of queue. We don't know how to stand in a queue. Lack of patience or sheer lack of civic sense?

The shopkeeper thinks, if people are made to wait in a queue they may just go to another shop. So, at all times, there are some half-a-dozen people jostling for the shopkeeper's attention. Or in other words, the shopkeeper ensures that all the customers are 'engaged'.

You had it, if you have a lot of things to purchase. Suppose you have 10 things to buy from that shop, and while you are getting them, if, say, six people come after you, each of them buying just one article, then, all six would have left the shop, even while you are still stuck there having bought just four.

Probably, the shopkeeper's logic is that making six people wait in a queue and incurring their wrath is a far greater sin than making you extend your shopping time by a few minutes.

And, once I was made to look like someone from Mars, when I gently suggested to the shopkeeper to attend to me only after he was through with the person who was already there before me.

My worst experience was on Thursday. I was at a shop on CMH Road to buy geyser and fan. I reached the shop around 11.45 am. Only the owner of the shop was there, since two others had gone on some errand. And, to my horror I was stuck there till 1 pm, while so many people who came after me bought whatever they wanted and left. Every time I protested, the harassed shopkeeper, profusely apologising, said, "Just a minute, sir." When I asked, "Why you are attending to people who came after me, when you are not through with me," he said, "Sir, I have to show you the full range of fans fans and geysers, it will take time, is it not.."

I had already learnt that there is no point in protesting against deep-rooted customs and traditions, which have withstood the test of time. Learn not to take offence.


  1. Welcome to the club- feels good to know I am not the only one who fumes at this! Happens to me all the time while I am waiting with a basket ful of stuff these ones with an odd coconut or 2 limes slip a hand across with a 10 rupee note and walk away.And yes, the shopkeeper does not want to lose his custom by insisting on queue. Someone ones compared it to the barbers at Tirupathi who will cut a little bit of each ones hair like some kind of a token and then start shaving them one after another leisurely. One cannot go elsewhere and you are stuck there waiting your turn!!Same in many Bangalore shops!

  2. Hmm.. Those shop keepers must be reading your blog. See your own words - "I have loads of patience.."



  3. Wow. That's definitely different than what I'm used to. At least it won't come as a surprise when I visit India, though.

  4. i hope the system changes here.... thought the malls seem to have improved it in lot better way but then when it comes to stores like these u got to be patient. Way to go INDIA

  5. Came to your blog a week back, dont ask me how as i dont have any clue. Since then i am hooked, your day-to-day real life experiences make it so special. Your blog about "the funny queue system" is so true. Ten yrs back i had experienced it and reading about it now made me go down memory lane.

  6. At the railway reservation counter, there was this person in the staff who was patiently explaining the w/l system in the railways to an obvious foreigner. He even missed his breakfast time of 15 minutes, (even govt staff can give a queue some consideration) when, one of the customers shouted at him very unfairly to 'get going'.
    The Queue certainly teaches you patience: I always carry an 'unputdownable' book, then one will be helping oneself not to fume, and curse.