Paid Queue Jumping, San Francisco Style

Keep Calm and Queue Here Sign

There’s a fair amount of controversy about two mobile applications in San Francisco right now; MonkeyParking and ReservationHop. Both offer a twist on selling a place in a queue to a limited resource:

  • In an environment where it can sometimes take 45 minutes to find a car parking place, MonkeyParking enables someone currently occupying a space to sell this to another driver in the same proximity.
  • Likewise, where Restaurants having waiting lists that may extend to over a month, ReservationHop prebooks tables and sells these to customers who want to make a late booking

Transport authorities are objecting to the scalping of public parking spaces, and likewise there is concern about unsold restaurant bookings causing inefficiences when virtual diners don’t turn into real ones.

Besides the market for ticket touts, i’m also reminded that some customers will pay a hobo (tramp) to reserve their place in queues for new iPhones. I also recall Sir John Harvey-Jones, ex CEO of ICI plc, who once vented his frustration at the management of Morgan Cars, who maintained a multi-year waiting list for cars rolling off their production line. Customers would routinely sell their positions at greater than the cost of a new car, a practice resulting in much shrugging of shoulders at a practice that they felt wasn’t really cricket – but which they allowed to carry on regardless.

I guess the answer is to charge a premium for a standard car, and to discount personal customisations ordered up front. Customising something normally increases the value to the originally intended recipient, while decreasing the value to everyone else. Anyone who doubts that hasn’t looked at the value an iPad sale achieves on eBay between stock machines and ones engraved with the owners name.

But, same old. It’s happened from the dawn of time, and rarity of any resource (and timely access to same) normally attracts some value that scalpers can attribute a price to. The only thing I find distasteful is the name coined for mobile apps that enhance this process on the West Coast of the USA right now – that of “Jerkware”. Hopefully we can come up with a more appropriate name going forward.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *