The Effect of a Queue-Type Delay on Recreationists' Mood and Satisfaction Levels With a Leisure Provider


  • Christina E. Colenutt
  • Ronald E. McCarville


Mood, Satisfaction, Queue-Type Delay, Experiment, Simulation


Queues seem almost inevitable as increasing numbers of recreationists attempt to register for and participate in a variety of leisure programs. Leisure providers need to understand how leisure participants experience such delays. They must understand how the characteristics of participants and service settings interact to effect the onsite leisure experience. This study examined the effect of a queue-type wait on recreationists' subsequent satisfaction levels with the delay and with the service provider. Specifically, in an experimental setting, we placed participants in a simulated movie theater. While in an unexpected queue, participants were systematically exposed to idle or active staff as well as active or inactive television monitors. In particular we were interested in satisfaction levels with both the experience and with the service provider. Reactions were also monitored across respondent 'types'. In this case, 'type' refers to self reported patience levels.Contrary to expectations the entertainment offered by television monitors (playing previews of upcoming movies) did not influence satisfaction levels. However, actions of staff were very influential. There was almost universal animosity expressed by those exposed to idle staff members. In all cases, those who witnessed neglectful staff reported a less positive impression of the service provider and of the service provider's staff. This may seem an intuitively obvious reaction to these scenarios. No one hoping to receive service is pleased by unresponsive staff. However, just as idle staff created negative assessments, the sight of diligent staff actually generated positive assessments of the experience. Participants seemed less likely to blame providers if staff members demonstrated a willingness to remedy the problem or delay. Clearly the behavior of staff provided a powerful context in which this delay is assessed. Finally, response patterns varied according to person type. Respondents reporting higher levels of patience with waiting experienced more positive moods in spite of the simulated delay.In very practical terms, these results suggest how managers might best locate front office workers. Staff who are able to help those waiting in queue should be positioned so that their efforts are obvious to anyone in queue. Conversely, staff not serving queued participants should not be visible to those in queue. Consequently, staff responsible for answering phones, maintaining accounts, or any number of office related tasks should not be visible to queue members if they are not available to serve those members.The paper concludes with a discussion of possible research questions raised by these results. For example, future research efforts might explore the challenge of creating more leisurely queues. In doing so we might look to "successful" queues for inspiration. For example, popular "tail-gate" parties held prior to sporting events represent a type of queue yet participants look forward to taking part. The parties avoid one type of queue (traffic delays) in favor of another which offers the opportunity to socialize with friends while anticipation builds for the event. In many ways, tail-gating may actually enhance the eventual leisure experience. Can this positive experience be repeated in other queue contexts?Future research might establish the extent to which expectations for queues vary across leisure services. Spectators may expect to queue for large events like professional football games (rendering tail-gating more acceptable) but not for smaller neighborhood events. They may be indifferent to queues involving only adults but reject those involving children.





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