The Latest Game-Changing Chinese Innovation

Posted: July 12, 2012 in Chinese Culture
Tags: ,

Over the past week I’ve been in the process of collecting meaningless documents, paying extortionate prices for official translations of meaningless documents, and capping it all off with a wholly arbitrary and costly trip to Hong Kong. As I’ve been going through this process of changing my Chinese student visa to a working one LEGALLY, I’ve forced myself to stay away from this blog; lest I succumb  to posting a cliched or hateful rant. But this week I found a shimmering glimmer of hope a midst it all that’s allowed me to sit down and write this overdue post.

Whenever you go to a train station to buy tickets in China, you can almost always count on at least 1 or 2 people for every ten standing in line to just cut right to the front. This gets even worse in lower tier cities or when there’s abnormally long lines. This week though when I went to buy my ticket to Hong Kong I found this:

It’s a one-way turnstile with surrounding guardrails that allow people in line to get through, but prevent cutters from getting close enough to the teller to slap down their dirty dirty money. Sure enough, as I neared the front, one confident jerk approached the front out of nowhere, only to be thwarted by the device. He tried to reach his money over the turnstile and yell to the clerk, but alas, he was out of reach. He sighed in exasperation, looked around for a few seconds mulling his options, and then begrudgingly walked to the back of the line. I had to restrain myself from applauding as a slight tear formed in my eye.

I’d never been to this particular train station before so I can’t say whether or not this device is new, but I’d never seen one before. A few months ago I wrote about an equally impressive customer service rating machine that could revolutionize the country’s economy. I can only hope potentially game-changing innovations like these will continue to emerge in China and spread to every train station, hospital, post office and bureaucratic institution. A thousand pieces of flowery propaganda can’t come close to achieving the same sense of satisfaction and renewed appreciation for China’s development that these simple, yet tangible, measures bring about.

  1. Tom says:

    I encountered one of these a few years back and marveled at the queue enforcement technology, but I also had the chance to call out a cutter at a train station a few weeks back, and actually received several hardy pats on the back (literally) for enforcing the rules no one else was willing to. I’ve also marveled at McD’s and KFC strict no smoking enforcement, which is more effective than what we have in the hospital. While the tech brought a tear to my eye too, the other developments give me a bit more hope.

  2. Ian G says:

    As a self confesses queue enforcer I welcome these devices. I saw my first one a couple of months ago, in a train station China, cannot remember where but it was not in HK. Recently I bought some train tickets at a different station whlie in the company of a Chinese friend (I am Australian) and evicted a queue jumper while she was with me. After the whining and dirty looks were over and the would be jumper went back to the end of the line, I asked my friend if I had done the right thing, as I was a bit embarrassed about creating a scene while she was with me. She said she was glad I had done it, and pointed out the happy smiles of others in the line who obviously agreed with her. She said that “Chinese people do not like it but are too timid to do anything about it”. As an Australian I am not too timid to do anything about it.

  3. Lately, I see people actually standing in lines for the Metro. It’s scary.

  4. Joseph Lemien says:

    I’ve seen these devices as well, and I was equally thrilled by them! I’m glad to see that my enthusiasm for orderly lines is shared by others.

  5. Ian G says:

    One of the most amazing things I have seen in China is a queue, not just a motley group or a wobbly line but an almost dead STRAIGHT line, at some customer service window in Dongnan Metro in BJ. I have no idea what the service was for, but I could not see anyone directing them with electric prods or other devices… There was vast areas of empty floor surrounding the queue too. The queue was perpendicular to the wall, geometrically almost perfect, yet there were no rails, or lines on the floor. For a moment I thought I had died and had gone to train station heaven, then I turned and entered the security scrrning area and returned to reality. This is true what I saw, I kid you not!!!

  6. James says:

    I’ve been in may train stations in over a decade of living in China, and it’s my first time to see one of those turnstyle things. I hope they get put in everywhere.

    @ Ian G. – The longest queue I’ve seen in China was July 2007, the line to get into Mao’s mausoleum – the line was enforced by 30 or so old ladies with bullhorns – that line went all along one of the long edges of Tiananmen square, and they kept it in order.

  7. Bart says:

    Now if they can just invent a similar device to get ’em to not occupy the public toilets to enjoy a leisurely smoke on the crapper, we might be “in business”.

  8. Edna says:

    Brilliant. I hope they install these in every train station…imagine the effect a simple turnstile could have on the country?

  9. foarp says:

    Damn, these things are needed on ATMs as well, as well as a timer which tells people to hurry up and withdraw their 100 yuan already . . . .

  10. foarp says:

    On the flip side, it’s pretty silly that these things need to be introduced rather than just tell everyone to wait their damn turn. Somehow in places like Taiwan people have learned to wait in line and not cut, and they never needed to introduce these things.

  11. Ruud says:

    Completely agree foarp! The presence of these things shows exactly how bad behavior really is.

    Another example are the “people guiding fences that make it look like a slaughter house” in the subway.

    These fences are the typical answer in order to not having to deal with it; it is “de-facing” the issue?

    Changing behavior is possible, it just needs to be done.

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