At the beginning of May 2020, when the COVID-19 infection rate was still not declining, I was waiting in a queue once more and thought I wanted to let my friends know that they shouldn’t come here at the moment – 75 people in the queue for Sainsbury’s. Higher infection risk and a waste of time.
From there to registering the domain HowLongisTheQ.com it was only a few hours. How useful would it be if everyone could put the queue lengths on a central place so that everyone else can see it. It would just take a few seconds to roughly count the people and share this information. Everyone would have that kind of time when they are in a queue!
I talked to a couple of friends who were straight away behind the idea and helped me developing this in evenings and weekends in the coming weeks.
The benefits are obvious – now everyone can plan their shopping trip according to how much time they have available. Especially the elderly and vulnerable people don’t have to take an unnecessary risk but would be able to see the queue length from home.
“Sainsbury’s has 70 people in the queue! Do I go now to ALDI (only 5 people in the queue) or do I check later for Sainsbury’s and go when the queue is shorter?”
Once this was done and we had every single shop in London on the map we noticed that people wouldn’t use it if they just saw the map with lots of question marks. So we decided to launch it locally so that we can provide most of the data ourselves – and that is what we did: We removed all the shops except two of them – Homebase and Sainsbury’s in Streatham.
Over the weekend I pushed the website out to my local friends via WhatsApp and similar channels. Then a few neighbours, the local vicar’s kids and I made sure to cycle past the shops every hour or so to make sure there is at least some data in it so that when others look at it they find useful information and start joining in.
The response was amazing. They all loved it and many participated. They requested to add a lot more stores so I added Aldi and Tesco to start with. But we needed much more people in order to make this self sufficient!
While whizzing around in Streatham on my friend’s bicycle (mine got a puncture as soon as I set off) I was always very happy to see when someone else put in a time so that I could get a little break. That was when I created the tongue-in-cheek-video “Help me – I’m exhausted”.
After that a friend of mine suggested to get local media involved.
Now we are planning to launch this for several stores in Streatham on the 1st of June 2020.
I’m a local Streatham dad with my wife and two kids 6 and 4 years old.