The Value of Inconvenience

“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.”

Time is always in short supply. Time cannot be bought or traded. It can only be spent once. Time is precious to us. Most people do not want to waste it on doing something useless or boring or annoying: such as standing in line. Many people gladly pay to avoid having to stand in line: which most of us feel is useless and boring and annoying.

Understanding this fundamental principle Andrei Matishewitz turned the Ukraine’s sluggish bureaucracy into a business opportunity.

His company offers professional queuers who will stand in line for his customers, for about 4 euro per hour. In a country where getting a car registered requires up to 25 different stamps, from just as many different offices (all of which have long lines) his services are in high demand.

The lesson to be learned here: people want to avoid difficulties, hassle or wasting their time. People may be willing to stand in line if only for a product that is lot cheaper or a lot better than others.


Not always.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I visited Antwerp for a rainy weekend of shopping and sightseeing. During the morning we walked past a group of about twenty people patiently waiting in line in front of a traditional bakery shop. ‘Now THIS must be a good bakery!’ my wife noted. Both the smell and eager clientele seemed to concur

Still…waiting in line for over 20 minutes just to buy bread? It didn’t add up. Could the bread and pastry really be this good? Bakery Goossens sells excellent stuff and I’m sure people are willing to walk an extra block or two for it – but to stand in line for this long, getting wet and cold for just a piece of bread – makes no sense at all. Not even in Belgium.

Then I got it.

Spending half in hour in the rain adds the sweet satisfaction and sense of accomplishment to what otherwise would be just the best raisin-bread or brioche with chocolate nuggets in the whole of Belgium.

Unlike in Kiev, in Antwerp hassle, inconvenience and lost time add value. Now that’s priceless!

5 Replies to “The Value of Inconvenience”

  1. It’s a bit like the Apple story. Creating demand through limited supply.

    But the most important detail is missing: did you buy the bread or dit someone buy it for you?

  2. Hi Alexander,

    the wife wanted shoes – not bread. She’s pretty confident she’s got her priorities just right.

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