Banging down the doors

Finally, a sunny day. Did some errands, walked around the West Village and realized what a phenomenal cue queues provide. In other words, there must be a reason for that line.

Stew Leonard’s, a mere shell of its former glory as a groundbreaking supermarket, was so crowded that it was literally impossible to push the cart. After two aisles, I actually fled the store. Not such great prices, not such amazing selection, but thousands of people in the store. And the main reason, the best I could tell, was precisely because of how crowded it was. I know that I fell for it–I needed some fish for a party and told myself the story that it would be fresher there because of Stew’s volume. The person in front of me grabbing strawberries like they were scarce certainly agreed–even though they were precisely the same price as the market down the street.

Later, watching the party people lining up for a 2 pm brunch in New York… I don’t think it was an accident that people chose the source for their eggs benedict largely on how crowded the cafe was. A few places had huge lines. Some places had none. The menus seems awfully similar… and how different could the pancakes be? Those that wanted to feel the energy of community and scarcity knew just where to find it.

Remember when kids were willing to pay $200 for a Magic card or their parents $200 for an Elmo doll? Being popular can be its own marketing tactic. And no, I don’t think it’s a Catch-22. By carefully choosing pricing and scale, any organization can manipulate, at least for a while, how "crowded" it feels.