The Declining Opportunity Cost of Waiting In Line | National Review

The Declining Opportunity Cost of Waiting In Line | National Review

Gas station in Portland, Ore., during early-morning hours when gas was limited on a first-come, first-served basis to five gallons per auto, December 1973. (David Falconer/Project DOCUMERICA/National Archives)

Cato’s Scott Lincicome has a piece out arguing that it isn’t worth your time to wait in line to save money on gas at Costco, which makes a broader case that consumers should consider the “opportunity cost” of waiting.

I thought my friend PJ Doland had an interesting response to this one:

Now, to be clear, I come from a long line of impatient males when it comes to waiting in line. There’s a family saying dating at least back to my grandfather that goes, “No Klein waits on no line.” Growing up, if we saw a line somewhere we were intending to go — say, a restaurant — my father would simply wave away his hand and say, “Forget it!” One time, he even cancelled a family trip on the fly because there was traffic congestion on the off ramp to the airport.

With all of that said, PJ’s response got me thinking that between the time of the 1970s gas lines and now, the opportunity cost of waiting in line has declined considerably.

Right now, with an iPhone at hand while waiting in line, I could: listen to or read a book; call or text with friends or family; respond to work emails; watch videos, movies, or TV shows; scan social media; deal with banking and other personal errands; or just get lost on the Internet.

Now, it’s perfectly possible that somebody could still conclude that they’d rather be somewhere else than waiting on a given line. But the opportunity costs of line waiting are simply not what they used to be.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.