I was queuing at a café when two older men cut the queue ahead of me. I believe it was a genuine mistake - the room was cramped with people, and a space appeared when a woman missed that the queue was moving ahead (she was reading a menu), where they jumped in.

Me and some other queuers noticed this - we went ahead and tapped their shoulders and told them they had to move back. They did not like this - they refused to believe the queue had extended that far, and accused us of trying to cut. They even implied that I had threatened violence (No one had done anything of the sort - I was slightly frightened by this). Eventually, we were six people asking them to move but they flat out refused.

I specifically brought up how the gap appeared and that the queue hadn't ended where they entered, but they insisted that we were in the wrong - they claimed the woman had been reading the menu without standing in line (as if it's impossible to do both).

In the end I went ahead and tried to get a member of staff to join us in sorting out the situation - but they were overworked summer workers who didn't know/care enough to handle the situation. I slinked back to my position in the queue, where the discussion had died down and the cutters were still ahead, eventually getting served before us.

Question: How could I/we have handled the situation differently, to get the cutters to move back in the queue?

I could've dropped the whole thing, not joining the confronters, but that wasn't likely to reach the results I wanted. I hear "it's not your job to enforce the rules" as a possible rebuttal to my question, but none of us enforced anything - if we had physically removed them from the queue, or refused to serve them until they took their correct position (which we obviously couldn't), that would've been enforcing. Right now, we just informed them, and then the staff (who could've enforced the rules), of their behavior.

Their justification for refusing (we were six strangers who had, on the spot, conspired to jump ahead two queue positions) was so bizarre that I feel there must've been a way around their absurd levels of denial. Of course, I might be wrong in the assumption that it was a genuine mistake - then their counter-accusations take a very different meaning.

For the record, this situation occurred in Sweden, which has a queuing culture similar to the UK.

  • 3
    Can you remember the language you used when you first spoke to them? Knowing this might help answerers get a better handle on whether your intuition that some other approach would have worked better is correct.
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 22:40

7 Answers 7


we went ahead and tapped their shoulders and told them they had to move back. They did not like this

I'm not surprised. Physical contact and an accusation? I wouldn't like it either and would be tempted not to move, even if I knew I was wrong. When you draw their attention to the fact they pushed in, it needs to be as blameless as possible and offer them a way out.

Something like:

Excuse me, I can see that you didn't realise it, but we have been waiting in the queue here. It was an easy mistake, but would you mind terribly moving to the back? Thank you so much.

No physical contact, make your tone friendly and make it clear that it was obviously not intentional on their part.

Most people will back off at this point. However, some people are jerks and won't acquiesce, no matter how politely you phrase it. You have only two options then:

  • Escalate. Insist that they move. When they don't, get other customers/staff involved. Demand management involvement if things don't go your way. This has a good chance of getting you all kicked out, regardless of right or wrong.

  • Let it go. Lose your place in the queue. Wait a couple minutes more, while feeling slightly annoyed and mildly smug that you are a better person. Then immediately forget all about it once you are served. This is the British way.

  • I did this unintentionally recently. It took some convincing on their part to make it clear that I actually stepped into the line. This is another downside to anti-social distancing.
    – Elliot
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 22:51

Physical contact is always going to cause problems, as is a confrontational "You need to move to the back" approach. I usually go for a friendly but firm:

Excuse me guys, the queue is back there

and point towards the back. This draws their attention to how many people are in line, making it more obvious that you haven't just joined the queue. If they become aggressive or make a big deal of it, just let it drop - it's a place in a queue and not worth ruining your day over.


Once you had informed them of the issue, gotten help from the staff, and still didn't get the desired result, I don't think there's anything else you could do. Filming it would only show a confrontation between two groups, with no indication of who was right or wrong. It's not something you want to get the police involved with. At that point I think all you can do is decide that it's just not that big a deal: some people were jerks and you had to wait another five minutes for your sandwich.

For the future, It's better to speak to line jumpers immediately. When I've seen line jumpers, having someone behind them say loudly as they cut in, "excuse me, the line starts back here" works.

The best example of this I have ever seen was in the Caracas airport. The concourse was an enormous open space that had 3 or 4 long lines laid out in such a way that they were crossing, and you had to stand in one line, get thru that, then get to the next line, etc. One guy tried to cut into the front of one of the lines. The woman behind him reamed him out in a stream of Spanish. I have no clue what she was saying but he slunk away and I'm pretty sure people behind were applauding.


In Sweden, the "correct" way to handle a situation like this is saying (non-threatening, just stating neutrally): "Hej, ursäkta mig, men nu går du före i kön" (Hi, sorry, but you are cutting in line) loud enough for them and others in line to hear. Avoid physical contact because it easily escalates the situation because they get more defensive.

If they act like they do not hear you, then you and everyone around them silently judges them. If they respond violently, de-escalate the situation and ask the cashier (when it is your turn to order and they are not within earshout) to speak to their manager, then let them know that they cut in line and responded very aggressively so they can handle it in a way they deem appropriate.


If someone gets in front of in the line, and they refuse to move, there is not so much you can do. I will not be the first one to use physical force during a disagreement, so I will not pull somebody out of the line. I will try to cut in front of them if I get half a chance. That way I can reverse the situation, now they are in the position where they would have to start pushing to get me out. Most people will not do this, and if someone does, at least I am not the one who started to get physical. If anybody else was in front of me before I moved forward, I will let them in front again if they ask.

  • Can you tell us more about why this is a good idea?
    – ElizB
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 23:43
  • @ElizB Mostly because there are no other options. Often the best thing to is to just let it go, but this will leave you with a very bad feeling about the situation. That is why someone would take the time to write a question about it, even after some time he feels bad when he thinks about the situation. The only other option I see is trying to get in front of the person who jumped queue. I'm not saying it is always the best thing to do, but if you really don't want to let it go, this is the only way. Starting a physical fight in this situation is just not acceptable.
    – Orbit
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 12:24
  • @Orbit, can you edit your reasoning in? Check out How do I write a good answer? - we prefer answers to include some explanation of why you’re suggesting this course of action, such as personal experience or references.
    – Em C
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 20:41

Not every battle is worth fighting, especially if you've just run across two sociopaths that are suddenly making false allegations against you.

That being said, the restaurant can easily fix the underlying issue in the future by investing in a cheap sign-up sheet, a clipboard, and a pen that is tied to the clipboard. And if a sign-up sheet isn't appropriate, I'm sure that such a problem can be helped with better signage somehow, or a reconfiguration of their default queue, or better staff training (if you feel the wait-staff could have done better in enforcing the queue).

And if I were you, I would leave an online review for the restaurant retelling your story and outlining your preferred tentative solution.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this advice is largely US-centric. In the US, online restaurant reviews can cause a significant financial impact on the restaurants being reviewed and many restaurant owners take them very seriously. I am assuming the same for Sweden, but I do not know for sure.


I'm not sure how socially acceptable this is in Sweden, but in other countries, sometime early in the confrontation someone would have been likely to pull out their phone to video the entire thing. This often (but not always) changes how far outside the norm people are willing to act when they know that their behavior might go viral.

Which is what I recommend the next time this happens. Take out your phone and tell them you are recording the conversation. Be excruciatingly polite at all times:

I'm really sorry, but there is a queue here and we've all been waiting for X minutes for a table. It's incredibly unfair for you to rudely jump ahead of all of use who have been waiting patiently. You are, of course, welcome to wait at the back like everyone else here has done.

This way, if they make accusations that you threatened violence, repeat that all of this has been recorded, which will show that you did no such thing.

For the most part, you can ignore anything they say in their own defense. Just keep repeating variations on, "We've been waiting for a while, and you're being rude," until they either move to the back of the queue, or you reach the front where you can simply insist (on video) that the person after them in line should be next.

This may or may not work. The men might not care that they're being recorded. Or they might get upset and try to physically stop you from recording -- which, technically, may be criminal assault, but that doesn't really help you once you're in a physical altercation that you have to explain to police.

Still, as I said, you might find that the threat of you posting their rude behavior to a public forum might stop them from pushing the issue as far as they did. True, the vast majority of these things get ignored, but (especially if either of them is any kind of public figure) you never really know.

To the question of whether this is legal: In countries with strong "free-speech / free-press" laws it is generally legal to photograph and video people in public spaces, as long as it is not for commercial use. Restaurants and similar establishments may have a policy against it (good luck enforcing this -- how many times have you seen people take photos and video of their party and/or food while eating) but all they can do is get you kicked out, not sue you.

I didn't dig deep enough to find the relevant law (it's probably in Swedish anyway) but here is the Wikipedia article


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