It’s not just the rollout of a new Apple product or Black Friday crowds that can result in queue violence. This past spring, a 15-year-old boy from Brooklyn was shot in the foot when he jumped ahead in line outside of a Foot Locker where a long line of excited customers awaited their chance to buy a newly-released Kanye West-designed sneaker. Because of this act of violence, the store delayed its opening and everyone waited even longer. Queue violence impacts everyone, even those who manage to stay out of the fray. But what’s more important is finding ways to minimize the risks of violence and resulting injuries. So how can you make your queue safe during rare promotions, special events, new product releases, or celeb appearances? Be proactive. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Here are some ideas:
If the queue forming at your place of business has a celebrity name attached to it in any way, expect that there will be buzz, news vans, rubber-neckers. There will be crazed and rabid fans clamoring for a peek, a touch, a selfie with the celeb. In short, there will be a fuss.
Perhaps this is an opportunity to use virtual queuing with pre-scheduled arrival times. Require all fans to register online or via their mobile device ahead of an event or sale to reserve their spot in a regular queue, fast-track queue, VIP queue, or press queue. Everyone arrives knowing that there are tiers of waiting and that they can expect to receive the treatment they’ve paid for.
If you’re not planning to hire actual security guards, create your own enforcement team to police the lines to make sure people are behaving themselves. Design an enforcement plan ahead of time and make sure your employees are aware of all the rules, when they come into play, and that they have the power to enforce them when necessary.
The point of an enforcement team is to make the people in the queue aware that they can be taken out of line, asked to leave, or detained because of poor behavior by any member of the enforcement team, no questions asked. Keep the power in the hands of your employees and make no apologies. Think of the crowd like toddlers – they may not like the rules, but they’re there for their own good and should be followed.
Energetic and adrenaline-fueled queues are no time for rope barriers. Post mounts, rigid rail barricades, and other sturdy queue supplies are necessary to keep people in line and restrict (or at least discourage) line-jumping.
If floor space in your place of business is limited, you’re clearly not going to open the doors wide to the massive line gathering outside. Use digital signage to explain how the queue will proceed – perhaps people will be permitted in the store in groups of 15, each 15 minutes apart. Whatever the rules are, agree on them ahead of time with all employees and do not waver in enforcing them. If any customer even sniffs unexpected or unfair special treatment for another person, a ruckus is only moments away.
If you are selling a newly released product, be honest with the people in the queue about just how many products you have remaining. Nothing creates a queue mutiny faster than the realization that you’ve wasted your time for hours only to get to the front of the line and realize the product you want is sold out. Use digital signage to broadcast the availability of a product so people can decide if they want to keep on waiting. Queue safety comes in all shapes and sizes. Be prepared and plan ahead to create a queue management plan that keeps violence at bay.