To queue or not to queue

The Australian - The Deal - - First Up - Ver­ity Ed­wards

IN a time-poor world pay­ing some­one to do the chores is com­mon­place. Now there’s a re­fine­ment – pay­ing some­one to stand in line for you. Want the best pic­nic space for New Year’s Eve fire­works, or a child’s birth­day party in a public park? No prob­lem. Pay some­one to hold it for you. How about the lat­est Ap­ple prod­uct? Some will pay up to $1000 to have an­other per­son queue for days, just to be first in line. That’s about $125 an hour if you clock on at mid­night for a morn­ing launch.

Queu­ing is a growth in­dus­try in coun­tries where peo­ple have high in­comes and hate bore­dom. In China peo­ple have paid up to 200 yuan or $40 for oth­ers to queue to avoid wait­ing up to 26 hours to see doc­tors. In Europe the rate is about €10 or about $14 an hour.

The co-founder of Australia’s dom­i­nant queue bro­ker, Air­tasker’s Tim Fung, says about 350 peo­ple ad­ver­tised for the iPhone6 launch last year in Aus­tralian cities. Each ad at­tracted at least two ap­pli­cants. Fung says if you’re go­ing to buy some­thing such as an iPhone you want some­one you can trust. “We in­clude in­sur­ance and you can check peo­ple’s pro­files and rat­ings if they’ve done jobs be­fore.”

For ev­ery job ad­ver­tised on Air­tasker, whether for some­one to mow the lawn or pro­gram a tele­vi­sion, the com­pany takes a 15 per cent cut. Air­tasker grew 700 per cent in 2014, and now bro­kers more than $1 mil­lion worth of jobs each month.

Pro­fes­sional queuer Alice saw dozens of ads look­ing for peo­ple to queue for the iPhone6 last year and put her­self for­ward to earn $20 an hour stand­ing in line from 10pm un­til 7am. “I had noth­ing else to do, I thought it would be fun to be part of it all,” Alice says. The teacher, 26, took a camp chair, sleep­ing bag, chips and choco­late, and her mother kept her com­pany. “I would do it again, it was pretty fun,” she says.

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