The New Stealth Wealth: Cutting the Line

By: Anneken Tappe · February 09, 2024 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Once it was rude to cut in line, but today it’s a common perk people can pay for. From airports, to tourist attractions, paying extra can get you where you want to be faster.

With the help of emerging technology, businesses are increasingly offering patrons the ability to skip ahead in line — provided they’re willing to pay a premium for it.

From theme parks to dating apps, customers can pay to go first. Look at these examples:

•   Airports: CLEAR (YOU), a private tech firm offering memberships for about $189 per year, allows passengers to speed through the security line.

•   Entertainment: Disney (DIS) parks have individual Lightning Lanes, with variable prices typically ranging from $10 to $25, enabling visitors to board rides faster.

These businesses and others are capitalizing on a simple fact: People hate waiting. And technology has been key to speed up customer experiences. Even patrons who aren’t paying to skip ahead in line can pay in advance, reserve spots, and scan tickets from their cell phones. This has become even more commonplace since the pandemic, when more consumers began utilizing mobile payments and pickup orders.

Why Wait?

But there has been backlash against these programs too.

For example, there’s a petition calling for Oregon’s Mount Bachelor ski resort to end its fast pass program, which charges extra for access to expedited ski lifts, that has collected more 13,500 signatures. The petition also has the support of Senator Ron Wyden, who warned the fast pass could create a “two-tiered system of access to public lands based on financial ability”.

As tiered access becomes more widespread, it runs the risk of applying a class lens to leisure activities that should bring joy, rather than incite a feeling of injustice.

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