The Economics of Line-Sitting

Forthcoming, Management Science

58 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2018 Last revised: 26 Dec 2019

See all articles by Shiliang Cui

Shiliang Cui

Georgetown University - McDonough School of Business

Zhongbin Wang

Nankai University - Business School

Luyi Yang

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Date Written: February 1, 2018


This paper studies an emerging business model of line-sitting in which customers seeking service can hire others (line-sitters) to wait in line on behalf of them. We develop a queueing-game-theoretic model that captures the interaction among customers, the line-sitting firm, and the service provider to examine the impact of line-sitting on the service provider's revenue and customer welfare. We also contrast line-sitting with the well-known priority purchasing scheme as both allow customers to pay extra to skip the wait. Our main results are as follows. First, we find that both accommodating line-sitting and selling priority can bring in extra revenue for the service provider, although by different means---selling priority increases revenue mainly by allowing the service provider to practice price discrimination that extracts more customer surplus, whereas line-sitting does so through demand expansion, attracting customers who would not otherwise join. Second, the priority purchasing scheme tends to make the customer population worse off while line-sitting can be a win-win proposition for both the service provider and the customers. Nevertheless, having the additional option of hiring line-sitters does not always benefit customers as a whole because the demand expansion effect also induces negative congestion externalities. Finally, despite the fact that the service provider collects the priority payment as revenue but not the line-sitting payment, which accrues to the third-party line-sitting firm, we demonstrate that, somewhat surprisingly, accommodating line-sitting can raise more revenue for the service provider than directly selling priority.

Keywords: service operations, queueing games, line-sitting, priority, pricing, revenue, customer welfare

Suggested Citation

Cui, Shiliang and Wang, Zhongbin and Yang, Luyi, The Economics of Line-Sitting (February 1, 2018). Forthcoming, Management Science, Available at SSRN: or

Shiliang Cui (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - McDonough School of Business ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Zhongbin Wang

Nankai University - Business School ( email )

Baidi Road
Tianjin, 300071

Luyi Yang

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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