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The Economics of Line-Sitting

Shiliang Cui (), Zhongbin Wang () and Luyi Yang ()
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Shiliang Cui: Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business, Washington, District of Columbia 20057;
Zhongbin Wang: Business School, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China;
Luyi Yang: Johns Hopkins University, Carey Business School, Baltimore, Maryland 21202

Management Science, 2020, vol. 66, issue 1, 227-242

Abstract: This paper studies an emerging business model of line-sitting in which customers seeking service can hire others (line-sitters) to wait in line on behalf of them. We develop a queueing-game-theoretic model that captures the interaction among customers, the line-sitting firm, and the service provider to examine the impact of line-sitting on the service provider’s revenue and customer welfare. We also contrast line-sitting with the well-known priority purchasing scheme, as both allow customers to pay extra to skip the wait. Our main results are as follows. First, we find that both accommodating line-sitting and selling priority can bring in extra revenue for the service provider, although by different means—selling priority increases revenue mainly by allowing the service provider to practice price discrimination that extracts more customer surplus, whereas line-sitting does so through demand expansion, attracting customers who would not otherwise join. Second, the priority purchasing scheme tends to make the customer population worse off, whereas line-sitting can be a win–win proposition for both the service provider and the customers. Nevertheless, having the additional option of hiring line-sitters does not always benefit customers as a whole because the demand expansion effect also induces negative congestion externalities. Finally, despite the fact that the service provider collects the priority payment as revenue but not the line-sitting payment, which accrues to the third-party line-sitting firm, we demonstrate that, somewhat surprisingly, accommodating line-sitting can raise more revenue for the service provider than directly selling priority.

Keywords: service operations; queueing games; line-sitting; priority; pricing; revenue; customer welfare (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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