IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Joining Longer Queues: Information Externalities in Queue Choice

  • Senthil Veeraraghavan


    (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Laurens Debo


    (Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637)

Registered author(s):

    A classic example that illustrates how observed customer behavior impacts other customers' decisions is the selection of a restaurant whose quality is uncertain. Customers often choose the busier restaurant, inferring that other customers in that restaurant know something that they do not. In an environment with random arrival and service times, customer behavior is reflected in the lengths of the queues that form at the individual servers. Therefore, queue lengths could signal two factors--potentially higher arrivals to the server or potentially slower service at the server. In this paper, we focus on both factors when customers' waiting costs are negligible. This allows us to understand how information externalities due to congestion impact customers' service choice behavior. In our model, based on private information about both the service-quality and queue-length information, customers decide which queue to join. When the service rates are the same and known, we confirm that it may be rational to ignore private information and purchase from the service provider with the longer queue when only one additional customer is present in the longer queue. We find that, due to the information externalities contained in queue lengths, there exist cycles during which one service firm is thriving whereas the other is not. Which service provider is thriving depends on luck; i.e., it is determined by the private signal of the customer arriving when both service providers are idle. These phenomena continue to hold when each service facility has multiple servers, or when a facility may go out of business when it cannot attract customers for a certain amount of time. Finally, we find that when the service rates are unknown but are negatively correlated with service values, our results are strengthened; long queues are now doubly informative. The market share of the high-quality firm is higher when there is service rate uncertainty, and it increases as the service rate decreases. When the service rates are positively correlated with unknown service values, long queues become less informative and customers might even join shorter queues.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Manufacturing & Service Operations Management.

    Volume (Year): 11 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 4 (April)
    Pages: 543-562

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormsom:v:11:y:2009:i:4:p:543-562
    Contact details of provider: Postal: 7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA
    Phone: +1-443-757-3500
    Fax: 443-757-3515
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormsom:v:11:y:2009:i:4:p:543-562. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.