5 Times It’s OK to Cut in Line and 4 Times You Should Let Someone in Front of You

Waiting in line represents a big part of our daily lives, whether at the airport, the grocery store, or other errand locations. And sometimes, you really don’t have time to wait in line. But is there ever an acceptable time to jump the queue? Believe it or not, yes.

Check out these five reasons when you can cut the line, four times you should let someone cut you, and one time you must always stay in your place (page 10).

1. Cut in line: At repeating queues

Waiting in line for starbucks coffee
You’ll have better luck cutting in line for coffee than for a concert. | ablokhin/iStock/Getty Images

If you have to wait in line at a special event, like a concert or a show, don’t try to cut. The higher the stakes, the more unlikely you can get away with it, The Atlantic found. But in lines that people encounter all the time, like the coffee shop, airport security, and the like, could work. Consider what the line leads to, before you try and jump it.

Next: If you have kids, you already know the following.

2. Let them cut: If the person has small children

Customer In Queue To Pay For Shopping At Supermarket Checkout
Dealing with tantrums in public is every parent’s nightmare. | bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images

We all hate waiting in line. And we can all feel the shivers down our spine when children start having tantrums. Now combine those two feelings. Don’t you want out of there? If you see a woman or man with small children waiting, let them go ahead. Everyone will thank you later.

Next: You can probably also skip waiting in line using this trick.

3. Cut in line: If you have a polite excuse

Waiting in line for water in office
A polite excuse may be all you need. | LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images

A little niceness goes a long way. Researchers found that asking nicely to cut the line usually works, even with a poor excuse. Even if you can only come up with an implausible reason, a polite request to cut gets you in 60% of the time. The better your reason, the better your odds get, as well.

Next: Let this person get ahead of you, too.

4. Let them cut: If they have physical limitations

Silhouette of a pregnant woman waiting to fly in airport hall
Letting a pregnant woman cut is the right thing to do. | quintanilla/iStock/Getty Images

Some people have a hard time standing for prolonged periods of time or have other needs that prevent them from waiting in line comfortably. That includes pregnant women and some seniors. If you can see someone with a medical need and you can let them cut, do the right thing. Think of it this way: If you would give them your seat on a bus, you should also let them ahead in line.

Next: The following trick can also get you ahead in line.

5. Cut in line: If you can bribe those ahead of you

Bribery or Business corruption
No surprise that bribery will get you in. | vladans/iStock/Getty Images

Even offering a bribe to others waiting in line can get you in, researchers found. In one study, line-cutters offered a cash bribe to those waiting. A majority agreed, but most of them also refused the cash. They said they appreciated the offer and let the cutter into line not for the money, but because the bribe proved their desperation.

Next: If you see someone in this situation, you should also let them in.

6. Let them cut: If they have an emergency

Running Late for flight in airport
You’d hope someone would do this for you. | DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images

We all know how terrible it feels to run late for a flight and see a huge line ahead of us. Or sometimes, you really have to use the restroom when checking out at the store. Some professions, like doctors, also have urgent calls that need their attention. If you see someone in that situation, let them cut you in line. It’s the right thing to do.

Next: Traveling with a buddy? Don’t try the following.

7. Cut in line: When flying solo

TSA Precheck
One person cutting is less frustrating than multiple. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you have to jump the line, don’t bring a friend. Psychologist Stanley Milgram said that one person cutting in line causes less consternation than multiples. If you see someone else jump the line, don’t try to join in — you might get the brunt of others’ frustration. And if you ask to cut ahead, go it alone.

Next: When at the store checkout counter, do this considerate thing.

8. Let them cut: If they have fewer items than you

Male cashier with customers
Let people with an item or two skip ahead. | Noel Hendrickson/iStock/Getty Images

For every express checkout line, there always comes a person with just a few items over the limit. It stinks to run in for a few things and wait behind people with full carts. If you see someone with just an item or two, let them skip ahead. We guarantee, you’ll make that person’s day and it will hardly cost you any extra time.

Next: Some cultures also allow line-jumping more than others.

9. Cut in line: In Spain and Italy

Waiting for the best icecream in the world
Spain and Italy have looser rules. | Michal Stipek/iStock/Getty Images

One survey of people living in Spain revealed many cultural differences. An Irish respondent fumed about line practices in customer service fields. “They say, ‘I just want to ask a quick question’ and go right up to the counter … I’m ready to explode,” they said. A German responder also felt slighted when a woman jumped the queue at a supermarket counter, to join a friend at the front. Some European countries like Spain and Italy have a much more lenient line policy.

Next: However, do not try it in these places.

10. Do not cut: In Germany or the U.K.

Cashier and customers at supermarket checkout
The British tend to have more formal social norms. | iStock/Getty Images

If you find yourself lining up in Germany or the U.K., stay in your lane. These cultures, because of more formal attitudes toward social norms, do not look kindly on line cutting. It usually pays off to follow what others around you do, if you don’t know the local customs, period.

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