Cutting in line

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Cutting in line, also known as line/queue jumping, butting, barging, budding, skipping, breaking, shorting, pushing in, or cutsies,[1] is the act of entering a queue or line at any position other than the end. The act, which may be taboo in some instances, stands in stark contrast to the normal policy of first come, first served that governs most queue areas.


A negative response from the rear of the line is expected when someone has cut in line up ahead. According to one study, a person cutting in line has a 54% chance that others in the line will object. With two people cutting in line, there is a 91.3% chance that someone will object. The proportion of people objecting from anywhere behind the cutter is 73.3%, with the person immediately behind the point of intrusion objecting most frequently.[2]

Nevertheless, physical altercation resulting from cutting is rare.[3] It was reported that an 18-year-old National Serviceman in Malaysia was bludgeoned to death after he attempted to jump the queue at a food counter.[4] Another notable incident occurred in New York City at The Halal Guys food cart, resulting in the death of the man who cut in line. The man who killed him was found not guilty by reason of self-defense.[5]

Other forms of cutting[edit]

Cutting is also present on roadways, especially restricted access highways, where traffic queues build up at merge locations. Drivers who bypass traffic by waiting until the last possible moment before merging are sometimes considered to be "cutters," and are frequent instigators of road rage. This behavior is not usually illegal in the US, unless the driver crosses a solid white line or uses dangerous merging techniques.[6] In Germany, Belgium and Austria, using the merging lane until the last moment is required by law as doing so is safer because of more uniform speeds of merging cars and reduces the length of backed up cars. (However, it does not affect the speed through the bottleneck.)

Sanctioned line cutting[edit]

In some instances cutting in line is sanctioned by the authority overseeing the queue. For example amusement park operators such as Cedar Fair (Fast Lane), Six Flags (Flash Pass), and Walt Disney (FastPass) have Virtual queue programs whereby a limited number of patrons can pay for the privilege of cutting the line for an attraction by arriving at a pre-designated time. Common penalties for cutting the line without this privilege range from being forced to the back of the line to ejection from the park without a refund.[7]

At airports, it is customary – for the sake of efficiency – to allow pregnant women, adults accompanying small children, the elderly and the physically disabled to board an airplane first, regardless of their seat, class or assignment. However, the priority afforded wheelchair-using passengers has reportedly given rise to a practice in the United States, whereby some passengers who do not normally use a wheelchair request one, to pass through security checks quickly and to be among the first to board an aircraft. At the conclusion of the flight, these passengers walk off the aircraft, instead of waiting for a wheelchair and thus being among the last to disembark. The neologism "miracle flight" has been coined to describe this behavior, as passengers apparently needing a wheelchair before boarding the aircraft are "miraculously" able to walk afterwards.[8]

National attitudes[edit]

In former Communist countries, where waiting in long queues was a near-daily occurrence for some, especially at times of rationing, the act of waiting in line and the code of conduct associated with it is much more institutionalized and regimented to this day (See Consumer supply in the Soviet Union in the 1980s). In Russia, for example, the art of queuing is finely-honed: it is acceptable for a person to leave the queue to use the bathroom (or similar brief diversion) and then return to their original place without having to ask permission. It is also common for a person to be allowed to jump to the front of the queue in special cases, like the need to purchase a ticket for an imminently departing train. This can also be seen in Cuba, including notably at the Coppelia ice cream stores, and in Spain where an arriving patron asks "¿Quién es el último?" (Who is last?) and is then behind that person in the queue, which is not always a physical line, but may be merely a jumble of people with the same objective.

Legislators in the US state of Washington passed a bill that makes cutting in line to catch a ferry illegal. Cutters can be fined $101 and forced to return to the end of the line.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leah Ingram (2005). The Everything Etiquette Book: A Modern-Day Guide to Good Manners. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781440523373. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  2. ^ "Cutting in Line". Tasty Research. 2006-09-21. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  3. ^ Clive McFarlane (2007-04-16). "Line jumping – next time maybe a bribe". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  4. ^ "Murder at National Service camp". The Malaysian Insider. 2013-09-24. Archived from the original on 2013-09-25. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-08-12. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
  6. ^ Mike Lindblom (2005-03-02). "Hey, no cutting in line!". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  7. ^ Six Flags guests get out of line Archived November 19, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.,
  8. ^ Sarah Maslin Nir (2012-10-03). "Rolling Past a Line, Often by Exploiting a Rule". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
  9. ^ William Yardley (2007-04-11). "No Cutting in Line for Puget Sound Ferries, Under Penalty of Law". The New York Times. p. A-13. Retrieved 2007-05-15.

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