Stirring Up A Polite Spine

by admin on April 11, 2012

Background: I live on-campus at my university, and one of the perks of this is that I get a meal plan. Our cafeteria is pretty amazing; we have a salad bar, pizza bar, burger bar, taco bar, sandwich bar, the main meal line, and the all-new and highly coveted stir-fry bar. The stir-fry bar is especially amazing because you get to pick vegetables, meats, and sauces to make your own personalized stir-fry. The only catch is that you have to wait your turn, and the line can get pretty long.

Well this afternoon the cafe was relatively empty. I saw that the stir-fry line was only 2 people long, so I strolled my happy self over and got in line. Well, about 3 minutes later a young woman comes over and demands that the guy in front of me let her in front of him, even though the line wasn’t more than 5 people long at that point. Apparently, they knew each other, because he let her right in front of him. You could feel the ice radiating from my eyes and from those behind me. I wanted to say something very badly, but she was being so loud and vulgar I decided it would be better for me to hold my peace. She and her friend spent their entire wait loudly talking and cursing about this and that. I wanted to sew their mouths shut. Even when she *finally* got her food she stood there and complained about how long it was taking her friend to get his food, and every sentence was liberally sprinkled with expletives. The guy threw me an apologetic smile as he left the line, but I couldn’t acknowledge it. I was still angry that he let that girl in front of him and that they made the server uncomfortable by cursing so much. I still don’t know if I did the right thing or not. Could I have some advice please? 0410-12

A lot of people erroneously believe that etiquette is all about making others feel comfortable.  This is just one of those situations where you want the rude boor to feel quite uncomfortable with their rude choice.      Use the power of peer and social pressure to your advantage.  People have an inherent belief in the equality of waiting your turn in line and those who butt in are viewed as believing theselves above the common courtesy of waiting like everyone else.   Every person in that line knew exactly the moment when she butted in and were you to have said, “Excuse me, but the end of the line is back here,” everyone of them would have heard you.    At least three pairs of eyes would now be boring in on Miss Buttinski forcing her to face a dilemma of either continuing to stand there knowing she’s peeving off a lot of people who will be sending their “peeved” vibes at her or she must back down by either fleeing the scene or going to the back of the line.   Her companion, Mr. Facilitator, may be compelled to escort themselves to the end of the line so as to avoid any further peer pressure (and by offering to do so, he may gain the benefit of finding out if his female friend wanted to be with him or was merely using him as a means to get her food faster).

If she retaliates with nastiness, you remain calm and firm.  “My time is just as valuable as yours.  The end of the line is back here.”  I have no problem whatsoever saying this myself in real life and there is certainly power in politely and civilly making entitled people squirm.   I’ve told the story many times …y favorite example of this was when a woman butted to the front of the line of about 8 women waiting to have their fabric measured and cut at a sewing store.   I confronted her with, “Excuse me but the end of the line starts back there,” only to have her whine that she only needed a yard of ribbon cut and she was on lunch break.  “How do you know I am not on my lunch break? You can wait like the rest of us have.”   By now, at least 14 eyeballs were trained like lasers on the woman and I had a phalanx of mostly old ladies behind me intently watching this play out and nodding their heads in agreement.  She kept right on having her ribbon cut but every second of that she had to endure those stares and hear the whispered, “How rude!,” from several women.  She visibly squirmed and fled as   fast as she could.  Unfortunately for her the check out line was also long and unable to butt into that line, she then was forced to have those same eyes trained on her back.   The next time she is tempted to butt in, I’m sure she’ll remember and think twice.

 

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay April 11, 2012 at 8:04 am

That sewing story is not exactly one with a good ending. The woman still cut in line, and still got out before the rest of you. Maybe she had people glaring at her, but those were strangers, and she got exactly what she wanted.

Calling for a manager to complain about the *employee* would’ve made more sense to me. The employee is the one who allowed her to cut, and who caused a problem for all those other customers.

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Clair Seulement April 11, 2012 at 8:05 am

Grrr! I used to encounter this phenomenon multiple times a week and it it made me so angry that I will name names: The New York University students who frequent “Faye’s” Starbucks on West 4th Street in Manhattan do this ALL THE TIME. A student will be waiting, seemingly innocuously, in the 10-minutes-plus-long line (seriously, it is ridiculous), when all of sudden that student’s friend(s) will come into the store and join him or her in the line, pretending to be “just talking” of course! Then the members of the group will each proceed *separately* to the available registers to place *separate* orders once their “turns” arrive. It’s not very easy to to call them out on this because they act like they’re just catching up with a friend they happened to see, so one feels like the Socialization Police if he or she says anything. I mind slightly less if the friends order at once and pay together, but not much. The gall and self-absorption of these students never ceased to amaze me.

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Hemi April 11, 2012 at 8:24 am

As always, Admin’s advice is spot-on.
This particular situation seems to happen alot at movies. I used to just silently fume. My polite spine kicked in one night when the line was particularly long and a group of about 10 people butted in line to stand with someone they knew. I did as admin suggested here , “Excuse me, but the end of the line is back there”. About 30 or 40 people started giving them the laser eye treatment. They pretended not to hear. I said it again, louder. When they did not move to the end of the line, I went to get the usher. The manager of the theater was handling usher duties at the time (big movie premeire, all staff were on-hand) and he told them they had to move to the end of the line or leave the theater. They started making noise about how they had paid for their tickets and were entitled to watch the movie. The manager said “You are absolutely entitled to watch the movie. But you are going to move the end of the line. Many of these patrons have been waiting in line for more than an hour so move on back or come with me and I will refund your money”. We applauded. They moved the end of the line.

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Margaret April 11, 2012 at 8:49 am

YES!!! One of my greatest pet peeves!!! When you cut a line, you are cutting in front of everybody. Even if one person says it is okay, you need to ask EVERY PERSON in line if they mind. AND THEY MIND!!!

We went to disneyland, and there were line cutters in EVERY long line up. My kids were 1 to 8 years old, and they had to stand in the line. If one of us was delayed getting to the line and we wanted to be together, then the WHOLE PARTY went to the end of the line. If my one year old could do it, so could have every darn adult and teenager who cut in front of us. By the end, I was fed up and did NOT let someone cut. They ended up going around and climbing over the fence to join their party. Not impressed. Not a single peep from anyone else in the line ups.

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Susan April 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

Gee, what school has all those, “bars?” I want to go there. Especially for the stir fry bar.

I would have spoken up. If she did it once, she’ll do it again. Cut her off at the path.

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Stephanie April 11, 2012 at 9:54 am

Something like this happened to me recently. I won a pass to a sneak preview screen of “The Hunger Games”. For movie previews, the pass only guarantees you tickets if you get there in time: there are more passes than tickets. I got there almost two hours before it was scheduled to start and the line was already around the block. Most people respected the line, going to the back and not crowding or queue-jumping. Unfortunately, when we got closer to the front, there were several well-dressed families (who were on some sort of VIP list) who tried to sneak in at the front. They complained loudly that they were expected to wait in line. When one tried to sneak in front of me I politely, but loudly, informed them that this line was for pass holders only. He complained that they “Were on the list!” but the doorman wasn’t letting them in. I responded that he should deal with him then. The worst part is that he had several tweens with him. What a terrible example to set for those girls!

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Calliope April 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

Jay, many retail and food service employees are not allowed to tell a customer she’s wrong, even when she’s obviously wrong. This is what comes of “the customer is always right”. There’s a good chance the employee at the stir fry bar would have been written up for telling the line cutter to move to the back of the line. So no, I don’t agree that the employee is the one who “caused the problem” here. The people who caused the problem are the woman who cut in line and the man who allowed her to do so.

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MoniCAN April 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

Blarg. Why can’t businesses train staff to manage these kinds of things so patrons don’t have to? When I worked in retail, I was always sure to loudly announce “I can help the NEXT PERSON IN LINE,” while paying attention to who actually was next in line. I wasn’t afraid to say “I’m sorry, I believe this gentleman was here before you…” if someone jumped ahead. My managers backed me up. Businesses that regularly have lines really should take steps to manage them as well as possible to not cheat the rule-following customer. I miss the days when all groceries had the little number dispensers.

I’m not sure how to handle the cutting in line that happens far back where the employee can’t see it though. This gets into the whole realm of “savesies.” Saving a table, saving a parking spot, saving a spot in line, are they that different?

Jay is correct, the admin may feel good about what she said, but the Buttinski at the fabric store still got what she wanted and inconvenienced everyone. I feel like saying something to the person is no different than “correcting a stranger,” which this blog has advised against in the past. Especially if it’s obvious the person saw the line and is ignoring it or if you’ve already pointed out they’ve cut at least once. I think getting management involved is usually the best way to go about it, as in Hemi’s story. But to find a manager you may lose your space in line….

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Enna April 11, 2012 at 11:14 am

The employee who was doing the measuring and the cutting should have sent that lady to the back of the queue – unless she needed the ribbon as a toniquy to stop somone bleeeding to death – lunch break is not a good enough excuse. Why not leave her details and how much ribbon she needed so she could pick it up after work? Just ask the seamstress to do it when she has a momment?

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Ann April 11, 2012 at 11:14 am

I “complained to management” recently about just this kind of scenario. A new grocery checkout line opened up, and the cashier called out Next! And, started serving the guy who’d been LAST in line. What she didn’t know is that he’d already tried to walk right ahead of me, and been told by me that the end of the line was behind me. However, the staffer at my line did and said nothing.

My point is, either the stir-fry butter, nor the fabric store butter did this on their own. Front line, supposed “customer service” staff let them. Staff need to be trained to handle this, and need to not fear being fired over enforcing basic stand-in-line manners.

Retailers — please train your staff!

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tinytx April 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I have a possible line faux pas that I made recently. I was checking out of the grocery store with just a couple items. I got in line behind someone with a few dozen items and started looking to see if I could possibly move to another line. I wasn’t in a hurry, but I don’t like waiting and would have loved to wait a little less time. The lady in front of me noticed my appearance of urgency and said for me to cut ahead. Since I wasn’t in a hurry but rather was just impatient, I declined. She insisted and I was possibly overly firm in saying no, that I wasn’t cutting and wasn’t in a hurry. She seemed really put off and we stood there in silence afterwards. I felt really bad about being so awkward. Should I have just cut?

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Cat Whisperer April 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Some comments on the story, and on admin’s response:

First, I wholeheartedly agree with admin’s principle that it is okay, and even appropriate, to embarrass and shame people who are behaving in a way that is overtly rude and inconveniences other people. When there are no consequences for bad behavior, there is no reason for the person to stop behaving badly.

However….and I admit this is a highly personal decision: as I get older and, I hope, wiser, I have learned that you have to PICK YOUR BATTLES in life. Most of us only have so much time, and energy, and tolerance for conflict. To put it pithily, there is a whole lot of ca-ca that you’re going to encounter in life, and you are never going to be able to shovel it all away. So with every situation where conflict is possible, you have to make a judgement: is this a battle I want to fight? Is it worth it? Sometimes you have to count the cost and let it go. You choose to reserve your resources for another battle.

I don’t think that is necessarily a bad choice, because I think that inevitably, people like the transgressor in OP’s story formulate their own punishment. When I read this story, I was immediately reminded of one of the people who lived in my dorm. She was pugnaciously assertive, not above bullying people, she swore like a drunken sailor, smoked like a chimney, drank often and hard, and she had a reputation for using her sexuality as, shall we say, a coin of commerce to get favors from males ranging from college faculty to fellow students. She was openly rude to people she didn’t think mattered or counted and was willing to flaunt her rudeness.

She got away with it because she was young and very good-looking, and some of her self-agrandiosity made a positive impression on people.

Fast forward twenty years, and at a college reunion, she’s now the potty-mouthed haggard three-time divorcee who has had job after job but no career. Not a happy camper and not someone anyone wanted to spend time with.

Rudeness and the attitude of self-entitlement or obliviousness to the rights of others is its own punishment, eventually. And I think that as you pick your battles, sometimes that’s what you have to factor in: is the person being enough of a jackass in an obvious way that you really need to go after them? The girl in this story may get away with her etiquette misdemeanors until they mount up to felonies, and may get away with the felonies, but they’re going to catch up to her.

I would also like to raise the issue of safety when you’re confronting someone who is being blatantly rude in public: the possibility exists that you’re dealing with someone who has a mental illness. My dad was bipolar, and when he was in a manic mood swing, he behaved with horrific rudeness and lack of consideration for other people. He could also, when confronted about his behavior when was in a manic swing, become explosively enraged and react all out of proportion.

Yes, mostly rudeness is just rudeness and not a sign of mental illness. But I believe that safety trumps etiquette 100% of the time, and I think that if you have even the tiniest suspicion that the person you’re dealing with is not completely rational, you’re better off taking a pass on confronting them. Nobody ever wins an argument with a crazy person, you just survive it. If you’re lucky.

A final comment to the OP: it might be an idea to talk to the food services manager for the cafeteria about the issue of people cutting in the food line, and try to get the employees to take a firm “no cutting” stand. If the person working the stir-fry station had told the transgressor in this story to go to the end of the line and wait her turn, that would have been the perfect solution. (It might also be worthwhile to take up the idea of starting a second stir-fry station if that’s feasible, since the station is so popular.)

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Baku-chan April 11, 2012 at 12:13 pm

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she’s from Rutgers. Except we also have a sushi bar.

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JinxC April 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I’ve defended waiting customers as the cashier a few times. Maybe it’s not the best policy, as the cutting customer is not pleased, but the ones waiting usually are very grateful.

Once, working at a party store at the “balloon counter”. There were many customers in line who were waiting patiently for however many balloons they wanted blown up. One man came up and asked for a balloon, and I told him it would be however long, based on the orders I had for people waiting. He got a little aggressive, and claimed that since he only had a few, I should push him to the front. I said that I would be happy to start, but he should please ask the other people waiting if they didn’t mind. He sheepishly waited at the end of the line, and the other customers whispered a “thank you” to me when I handed over their order. My manager also seemed to think it was handled appropriately (luckily). It seems too often retail awards people for being aggressive.

Another time, I was working at a line of registers. There was a single queue of customers waiting for whichever register was available first. One woman cut in as soon as I was free, and I (very politely) said, “I’m so sorry, but this customer is next in line, and has been waiting. I would love to help you after that”. The cutter got very snappy and stormed off… but once again, the ones waiting in line whispered a thank you. The teen who was immediately next looked like she was tearing because she was so glad that I allowed her to keep her place in line.

I think that most employees don’t enjoy the headache of dealing with someone so rude to begin with… but I think it’s important to respect all customers. If there are 5 people in line, I’m showing them they aren’t important as the 1 who cuts them. As long as I am polite and kind, I am performing my job appropriately. At least, I hope I am.

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BreezyGirl April 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Single women used to approach my mom and ask if they could cut in front of us in line (I was a little girl at the time when this used to happen and I think the women probably thought a mom out with her daughter would be more compassionate). My mom’s reply was either “Sure, as long as it’s okay with everybody else” or “You’re more than welcome to cut in back of me”. She would either have to ask a whole bunch of people if it was okay or have to deal with their wrath for line cutting. In the end, the woman would always find her way back to the end of the line :)

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GroceryGirl April 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I was on a long, long line this past Halloween for a haunted house when some people hopped the bars to join someone near the front. Truth be told, I didn’t really care since we were let inside in groups so it didn’t matter to the overall line if there were 2 or 20 people together. But it bothered some people near them so much that the whole mess erupted in a fist fight that knocked over the barriers and got everyone thrown out which did, in fact, help the line move.

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Miss Raven April 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

We had one of those at my college. We had 2 dining halls, one that was open 14 hours a day with all the “stations,” and one that was only open certain hours for lunch and dinner that was a traditional cafeteria line, with salad, bread, and cereal bars. The latter was always the healthier option, and also the one that catered to people with dietary restrictions. It was also the one right next to my dorm, so I was there frequently.

The line at this dining hall was always lengthy since there was just one line for hot foods, but those who were just interested in the salad bar were allowed to bypass the line for obvious reasons. There was one girl who clearly had a serious entitlement complex. We saw her all the freaking time walking up to the woman who swiped our cards, telling her she was just going to the salad bar, and then going into the hot bar line the back way to skip the line completely. No one else we saw ever did this, and I don’t know if the employees even realized it was happening, what with the chaos of feeding hundreds of students in a relatively small space.

At the time we could have said something, but like the OP, I think the general consensus was that we really didn’t want to stir up drama. Our campus was tiny and remote… no avoiding anyone else.

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MoniCAN April 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Oh, I forgot I wanted to address the cursing issue. It’s too bad that girl didn’t hedge her words when it was obviously making the stir fry server uncomfortable. But then again, that may be why she was doing it in the first place. She probably thought it made her look grown up, edgy and tough – so rough and tough no one would dare call her out for cutting in line.

Here is a post from a while ago that has lots of good comments on cursing in general:
http://www.etiquettehell.com/?p=2405

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Jelly Rose April 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm

That woman was really rude, but I had a similar experience that actually the cashiers did something about line jumpers. I was at McDonald’s near where I went to college and it was a busy hour, the place had a massive line and when I was about the fifth in line I noticed two high school girls jumped into line with one cashier, cutting ahead of twenty people. The people in the line were mad and the cashier could see it but the cashier took their order and had them stand off to the side to wait for the food, usual standard procedure, but the kicker was even after I got up, got my food and sat down they were still waiting. Out of curiosity I checked back after I was done eating and they were -still- waiting, they didn’t get their food until everyone in the line was served. Go McDonalds.

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ferretrick April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

“Calling for a manager to complain about the *employee* would’ve made more sense to me. The employee is the one who allowed her to cut, and who caused a problem for all those other customers.”

Here we go again. Cashiers do not make the wages, tenure, benefits, or retirement package of kindergarten teachers. Therefore, it is not their job to teach rude people what they should have learned there, or enforce those rules. If you don’t have the guts to stand up for yourself, don’t blame the poor person who is trying to please everybody while making minimum wage. Certainly don’t complain to their manager because they aren’t allowed to do what you yourself are too chicken to do.

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Stacey Frith-Smith April 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Line cutters are so infuriating precisely because it’s a form of social “ambush”- they are counting on the fact that others would rather avoid possibly making a scene by not commenting. It is best to approach this through a manager or employee if possible. If not, then yes, say something. It’s not just your time that’s being wasted, it’s that of every other squirmy line holder who had to wait for a turn to be seated or served. As for large groups of late line joiners who are “just talking” and move forward to be served, that’s an issue management should deal with. Insist that they do so. (Politely, of course.)

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--Lia April 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm

At this stir-fry bar, it’s not do-it-yourself, is it? I take it there’s a person making the stir-frys? That’s the person who should be addressed. “Excuse me, I believe we were here first” should be said to the employee in charge. If he shrugs, you address the buttor-in. Same goes for the person cutting in line at the cutting table. Assuming the employee wants as little trouble as possible, you just have to stand in front of the person who just stood in front of you, and the employee serves the person she sees first.

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Steph April 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm

@Jay: In many stores the cashiers are told to allow line cutters if it will allow the line to keep moving faster than by confronting them and sending them to the back. Ask a manager about their policy on line cutters – do not immediately blame the employee.

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Cat Whisperer April 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Steph, you are absolutely correct that the manager is the person who has the power to act on issues like line cutters.

And this is where a person absolutely can make a difference. Talk to the manager, and if you aren’t satisfied with the response you get, take names and note the specifics of the incident, and then either call or write or eMail the person responsible for customer service. It usually isn’t hard to find out who this person is in the case of large corporations.

An effective letter of complaint (eMail or snail) will include:

A description of what happened.

Names of employees who were involved, and what they did.

The name of the manager you talked to and what his/her response to your complaint was.

Why you are not happy with that response.

What you would like to see done.

Reference other people you may be urging to contact the customer service person, or other actions you may be taking that they may want to be aware of, such as posting on a blog or website, initiating a Facebook petition, or complaining to another authority.

This does get you action, it really can work in your favor; and IMO it’s more effective than confronting offenders individually. FWIW, most people who brazenly break the social code of polite behavior simply do not care if you berate them, and you are probably not going to get them to change their ways; but if you get the business to make a change to the way they do things so that rogue customers find that the business isn’t going to let them get away with the behavior, the miscreants are either going to go somewhere else, or will conform to the behavioral expectations.

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Cat April 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Twenty years ago I’d have said to call out the line jumper. Today we have so many people with serious mental problems in schools that I’d be careful. Better to wait a few minutes than to have hand-to-hand combat with someone out of control.

Example: I was an adult education guidance counselor for over twenty years. I had a middle-aged man come in to register for a biology class. He said he was a cardiologist doing original research in cardiac surgery. He wanted to take the biology class, but he would use the biology textbook he had written. He also wanted to use the high school library to do his research on surgical procedures. He put down his mental hospital as his contact. I called them to tell them he was off his meds. and shouldn’t be an outpatient.

I also called the supervisor for guidance in adult ed. She said I had to treat him as I would any other student, enroll him for class, and counsel him the first time he got out of line. I was not going to put a delusional schizophrenic off his meds. in a classroom full of high school children, rules or no rules.

I explained that, since he had already earned a high school diploma (he hadn’t but claimed a medical degree) he would have to pay forty dollars to take the class. He didn’t have the money. That’s the only way I was able to keep him out.

I don’t believe in discrimination so long as the person is in touch with reality. If he thinks he’s Daniel and we’re the lions, it’s time he was somewhere else other than a high school or college classroom. We’ve seen two mass murders at colleges when no one could or would step up and intervene.

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Leigh-Ann April 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

At my store (a gas station), we say, as politely as possible, “I apologize, but this customer was next in line.” Usually (99% of the time) the line-cutter will apologize not only to me, but to the other guests in line and go to the end.

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kristine April 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm

OK, this has to be at MIT. It is the exact assortment at my daughter’s dorm cafeteria, with the same kind of line at the stir fry. It is amazing. I would only be half surprised if my daughter sent this one in! The advice is spot on. Let the icy gaze do its work. If not this time, then next time. I’d hate to think of my poor daughter, exhausted from studying, have endure such rudeness. But she would be the quiet one and not say anything. There is a time to say something, lest brutes run slipshod over all semblances of graciousness.

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David April 11, 2012 at 11:26 pm

@Steph;

Unfortunately three of the stores I used to frequent in my neighborhood had policies that the cashiers couldn’t ever stop people from cutting the line. Unfortunately I got to watch a manager browbeat a cashier who tried to stop a cutter in one store – he browbeat her very badly about it. I told him I was putting my stuff back and wouldn’t be buying from them anymore because of it.

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Jen April 12, 2012 at 3:28 am

I especially like what Cat Whisperer had to say, you have to pick your battles and be careful when you do decide to say something. I was with my adult daughter at a liquor outlet in a shopping centre, it was very busy with about 10 people lined up. A woman asked the people in front of us if she could cut in as she had only one item. The woman seemed intoxicated and the people she asked just ignored her. My daughter commmented that we all only have one item (which was true) and woman proceeded to verbally attack her, saying ‘I didn’t ask you, keep out of it’, she went on and on including how she was a respected grandmother and important person in her community, a teacher etc etc. I swear I am not making this up, it is not uncommon here but usually the security does something about it. Not this time. There were security guards in the store and they did absolutely nothing. As we left she was counting out her coins to pay for her one can of drink. To me it appeared she was intoxicated and they shouldn’t have served her. We just wanted to get out of there. So yes, pick your battles carefully. Personally, I hate it when people push in.

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Enna April 12, 2012 at 9:05 am

@ Ferretrick: I do think cashiers have every right to tell cutters to get to the end of the queue – becausce if no one queued there would just be bedlum. Now if the server was nervous because of the vulgar customer and was doing what Cat Whisperer siad about “choosing battles” then it sounds to me like the management need to be made aware that a customer is imtimidating staff and/or could be potential trouble. Management then need back their employees and thing of a way to deal with cutters. I don’t think many managers would have a policy that allows cutting as I don’t think it’s a policy that would stand up very well.

@ Cat Whisperer, when it comes to “vulgar customers” who could be trouble it is important to complain about the customer not nessicarily the serevr as you have mentioned yourself about picking battles. It could be a case of bringing it to the manager’s attention who could then put a sign up saying “no queue cutting”. I also think you suggestion of a second bar would be a good idea.

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Liziy April 12, 2012 at 9:20 am

Hello everybody. I’m the OP. I really appreciate the advice. I especially agree with choosing your battles carefully. The main reason why I didn’t want to confront the girl was because she was cursing so much. I didn’t know how big of a step it would be for her to go from loud public cursing to a public beating, and I thought I would be better off holding my peace. There are a lot of people like her here unfortunately. I go to a college in Arkansas by the way. If this happens again I’m going to try saying “The end of the line is back there” or something of that nature. I’m having a hard time developing a polite spine because i’m naturally meek with strangers, and I don’t like conflict. I’m going to try anyway. People shouldn’t feel so entitled as to line jump unless they’re physically handicapped and even then they should ask first. Thanks admin for posting my story, and thank you everybody for your comments. I hope they take :)

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Cat Whisperer April 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

Cat, the criterion for involuntary commitment of people with known or suspected mental illnesses is, in most states, “IMMEDIATE danger to others or self.” (Emphasis mine.)

In practice, this means that either a mentally ill person has to be so disorganized in their thinking that they are unable to protect themselves from ordinary hazards (are likely to walk into oncoming traffic, for example, because they are unaware of it); are threatening to harm other people, and have the means of immediately carrying out the threat (have a weapon in hand or or have immediate access to a weapon); or are threatening to kill themselves immediately and have the means at hand to kill themselves.

Your schizophrenic “cardiac surgeon” just doesn’t meet those criteria, and being off meds is not cause for commitment. In fact, a person who is under an order of involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility has the right to refuse medication while in the hospital and cannot be involuntarily medicated without a court order, which is very hard to obtain.

FWIW, it is unfortunate that when you can get a mentally ill person into a hospital for psychiatric evaluation, money becomes an issue. Most counties and states have only a limited number of beds available for indigent or uninsured mental patients. This means that psychiatric evaluators have to do a triage on which severely mentally ill patient gets the beds that are available, and that they can’t keep patients hospitalized long enough to really stabilize them. Most of the time the best they can do is a referal to outpatient care and handing the patient a prescription for meds that the patient will probably not take for long.

If you have private insurance, hospitalization is still not easy, because a lot of general-care hospitals are reducing the number of beds for psychiatric patients because this is not a profitable specialty. The law says if they have beds and an indigent or uninsured patient is in need and comes to the ER, they can’t legally turn the person away. So they don’t want to have a lot of beds, because if they can say they don’t have spaces available, they can refuse indigent or uninsured patients.

You did good to find a way to get this person away from the high school kids. While he probably wasn’t a threat to them, you did good to find a way to re-direct him. Smart thinking on your part.

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--Lia April 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

Whoa! Let’s take a deep breath and put this in perspective, shall we? Confronting rude people who, successfully or not, try to jump a line has little to do with confronting mentally ill people who may be violent and murder others. If you really think that something about someone’s behavior is so bizarre that they’re a safety risk, you notify the appropriate authorities, but nothing about cursing and butting in line goes in that category. These are different issues.

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Michelle M April 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Ooo!
OP, you wouldn’t happen to attend Michigan State? My son will be attending in the fall, and I swear, that phenomenal dining hall with all of the “bars” and meal lines was one of the reasons he made it his school of choice! :)

@Susan: In addition to the stir-fry bar, MSU also does the same thing with a pasta bar–Freshman Fifteen?: I would put on a Freshman FIFTY if I went there!

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Vicki April 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Tinytx–Since you were already right behind that woman in line, it would have been fine to accept her offer, because you wouldn’t have been delaying anyone else. If the line is Woman, You, Other Customer and changes to You, Woman, Other Customer, the Other Customer isn’t waiting any longer.

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Margaret April 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I cut a line once inadvertently. There were about half a dozen people in line, then a gap of a few feet, and then more people who were facing and looking through the glass enclosure into the area that I was going to enter. Since they were against the glass, the gap was about 3 feet long PLUS the people against the window were a couple of feet closer to the glass rather than in a straight line with the clearly lined up people. It is common for people who didn’t want to pay for an entry ticket to watch the show through the glass enclosure. Anyway, I assumed that the people in line, facing the gate, were the whole line up. I asked the last person if he was in line, he said no and stepped towards the window, so I lined up there. A few moments later, the people who had been looking through the window came right up behind me, and all the people after them followed. At the same time, the gate opened, so we proceeded through. I had four kids under 8 with me, so I wasn’t paying all that much attention to the people around me. It wasn’t until after we were seated that I realized that all the people who had been standing at the window had followed us in, so they must have been in line. No one said anything. Had someone spoken up, I would have apologized and found the true end.

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kingsrings April 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I’ve seen this happen too much at a charity service I frequent. People will wait in a line up to an hour before this place opens up in order to secure a good spot so they can get the services offered. What has happened before is that some of these people “save” places for their friends/family that come later. So, people who have waited patiently for a long time suddenly have others saunter up and cut in line in front of them, standing with their friend/family member who is already in line. Myself and others have indeed spoken up and protested to these line cutters and their enablers, explaining why it’s rude and to go to the end of the line. However, it doesn’t do any good. These people insist that there is nothing at all wrong with “saving” a place in line for their friends/family members, and they refuse to move. I wish we were able to ask a worker to resolve this, but all this happens before the place opens up : (

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Liziy April 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Michelle M, I go to a university in Arkansas. We’re not known for our meal bars, which are pretty good, but we do have one of the two Which Wichs in the state along with a Chik-fil-A, a Starbucks, and several other restaurants in the student center here. I just can’t afford to eat there lol

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Gilraen April 14, 2012 at 5:55 am

I had a lady jump a cue at a food counter once. She shouted her order as I had just started mine, and just my luck, she’s caught the eye of the server. I did something similar to the admins response. She was served, and told by others she was rather rude and never dared to look my way. The server was very embarrassed about it, apologised (in front of customer) and I got a discount :-). I still go there

People will always jump cues and as long as people let them get away with it they will continue to do that.

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starstruck April 14, 2012 at 9:01 am

this is actually a pet peeve of mine, especially when people try to hold lines at the grocery store. lines are first come first serve. i was at walmart once and there was a lady in front of me with just a few items . them her friend came with a basket FULL and got right in front of her , and me and everyone behind us. i just don’t understand this rude behavior . don’t people understand how a line works?

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Kirra April 16, 2012 at 12:59 am

I’ve worked in fast food and it’s very unfair to blame the cashier. It’s all well and good to say the cashier “should” say something or “should be trained” or that the manager “should” back up the cashier if they were to refuse a linecutter, but that’s simply not the case. In the majority of cases, cashiers and servers will get in trouble from the very managers you think should be backing them up. I hated serving rude people who pushed in line but I knew if I even very politely refused them in order to serve the people who were waiting first, my managers would really be on me about displeasing a customer – and if you displease customers, even when they are obviously in the wrong, you can be written up and eventually fired. It’s not fair, but it is generally the way it is. The lower rung employees simply do not get a say if they want to keep their jobs. It’s just one of the many examples to be found in food service and retail where the louder, ruder or more obnoxious customers are rewarded with what they want.

It’s also very true you have to pick your battles and it’s not always wise to have a polite spine. I was once in a very long line for the ladies bathroom when two girls walked in. One girl ushered her friend into a stall, cutting the line. There was a general murmur of displeasure amound people in line but noone spoke up. The girl walked up and down the line angrily accusing us of “having a problem with the black sister using the bathroom”. I simply stated that it was not a racial issue, that there was a line and she cut it. We have all been witing and that is why we have a problem. She got up in my face, cursing and asking “it’s not an f***ing racing issue huh?” to which I replied that no it is not and reiterated what I first said. In response, the girl punched me in the face. I was in no way aggressive and had done absolutely nothing whatsoever to warrant such an attack. Since then I tend to quietly fume when people cut in line infront of me.

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roselin April 16, 2012 at 9:20 am

when i worked in retail, we were trained to pay attention to the order of the line. we would tell anyone who cut that this customer here was first in line, and that we would help them when it was their turn. Of course those who tried to cut and were more or less reprimanded by “the checkout girl” would stand there arguing and whining about how their time was more important. So we would ignore them until finishing the current customer, place the line on hold, and tell them they may either wait in line (which always grew by at least one person in the time they spent trying to argue) or try to find a register without a line.

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Rob April 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I had a woman cut in front of me at the express line at the supermarket. I told her, “Excuse me but the line is behind me.”

She said, “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were waiting!” but she also didn’t move behind me, she just stayed where she was.

When the person at the register was done she went to put her items on the belt. I walked around her and without a word just put my things in front of hers on the belt. She didn’t say anything but her expression was priceless.

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Rob April 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm

One time at a Dunkin Donuts I came in and there was a single line about 15-20 people long leading to three registers. Shortly after I arrived some guy walked in and went right past the line standing behind the person ordering at register #2.

I was already at the end of the line and although he got dirty looks no one said anything so I walked up behind him. When he approached the register and started to order (I waited until I was sure he actually intended to cut the line and order before everyone) I talked over him to the cashier and told her that he wasn’t next and not to take his order. He yelled at me and the cashier went and got the manager. The manager told me there was no policy about forming a single line so I asked, “You mean all those people are lined up at register #1 and anyone can line up at register #2 or #3?” She replied, “Yes.”

Just then the person who was at register #3 got done so I stepped up and placed my order. The once orderly line of polite customers broke into an angry mob of shouting people all trying to crowd the registers at once. The manager looked horrified but I figured she had sewed the wind, she could reap the whirlwind.

On the plus side I got my coffee about twenty minutes quicker than I thought I would!

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Bernadette April 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Perfect revenge on a manager who didn’t do her job AT ALL. Nice going, Rob!

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Tom April 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Grocery store checkers shouting out “next” when they open a new register: any checker who’s worked more than a week knows that people behind in line won’t obey. At the best store I shopped, the checkers were trained to walk to the first person in line who hadn’t put their items on the belt. They tapped that person on the shoulder and walked them over to their newly-opened register. If only all stores did that.

The best etiquette is never having to use etiquette to fix a problem that is avoidable.

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NicoleK May 1, 2012 at 10:35 am

My question is, what do you do when you have a question, such as “Which line is the line for xyz?” Once I was at the post office, and I stood to the side as the employee was helping someone, and the employee took my question and said, “Oh just drop these off here”. Then the line was furious at me!

But I don’t want to wait in the wrong line just to be told I was in the wrong line!

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