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A Game-Theoretic Queueing Exercise From Seinfeld

A Game-Theoretic Queueing Exercise From Seinfeld

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Published by Bismark Singh

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Published by: Bismark Singh on May 16, 2013
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A Game-theoretic Queueing Exercise from
Bismark SinghAbstract
“No abstract for you.
In Season 7, episode 6 of the sitcom Seinfeld, people line up to be served by the “SoupNazi” an
d must adhere to his strict disciplinary demands. Failure to comply withthese makes a customer abandon the line.
Due to the soup’s
delicious taste, which
“makes your knees buckle”,
customers nonetheless brave the hardships and seek to beserved. A customer standing outside the store, facing a decision of whether to enteror not, wants to know how likely he is to be served and in what time. We quantify someof these parameters for three standard queueing disciplines. We also analyze twopsychological queueing strategies, from a hawk and dove game perspective, which acustomer may adopt while waiting to attempt to decrease his queue time. Finally weattempt to see if an evolutionary stable strategy amongst these two is possible ornot.
We observed from the episode that customers are served in a First-In-First-Out fashion,and we follow that throughout to highly simplify things. Further, we define the
following rewards and costs associated with the queue from the customer’s
to purchase the soup, if served
at achieving the soup (“Jambalaya!”) if served
arising from standing in a regimented line: $d/min.
“No soup for you!” Dissatisfaction and insult
of being kicked out of therestaurant and from the line: $c if not served, $0 if served.The first two costs can be combined together to a
, $r if served, and $0 else. Weassume customers arrive to the store with an exponential (
) process and are servedby the Soup Nazi with an exponential (µ) process. We take that the Soup Nazi becomesangry at customers with an inter-anger time following an exponential (
)distribution. We attempt to obtain analytical results throughout, but for comparisonpurposes whenever we would provide some numerical result, we take the queueing inputparameters,
1 1 1, ,3 2 5
with all values in minutes
. The motivation for taking
The inspiration for the abstract comes from (Dixit, 2011)
for the numerical computation is important and would be clear later. We take costs as
$0.1min , $8, $5
d r c
, i.e. waiting for 50minutes is monetarily equivalent to beingkicked out. With these as input we can numerically calculate the standard queueoutput parameters.Within FIFO we again make three distinctions:
Suffering for the Soup
First we model the system as a simple M/M/1 queue with parameters mentioned above.This is thus a birth death process- and the model dynamics are just like standardqueuing abandonment problems.
Figure 1 Transition rate diagram for i
From the balance equations we can find the steady state probabilities
0 01
( )...( ( 1) )( 1)
i iii j
q q qi j
     
(1.1)We also define
, 1( ( 1) )
iii j
     
and using the normalizing constraint
0 0
io i o i j j
q q q
       
(1.2)The queue is always stable.We know that the Soup Nazi is an expert at soup making and customers are willing tobear the costs associated with standing in line upto a certain amount of time withthe anticipation of being served. Next we assume that Newman and Kramer arepreparing a chart to help them decide on whether to join the queue or not. They wouldneed the
probability of “not being kick
ed out while at position i
” which w
e call asSuccess Probability. Thus success occurs, for customer i, when one of (i-2) customersahead of him waiting in line is kicked out, or when the customer currently in servicefinishes service -before this i
customer is himself kicked out. Or, the kick-out timefor customer i must be larger than the minimum of the kick-out time for each of (i-2)customers ahead of him in line and the service time for customer 1. We note that thissuccess probability is not the probability that he is served, but only theprobabilities of not being kicked out while at position i. It is also implicitly
assumed that a customer can count the number already in line
thus with thisprobability known can decide whether to enter the queue or not. Let the sequence
1 2
{ , ... }
 p p p
denote this success probability. Further let
be the kick-out time for thei
customer, and
be the waiting times
the i
position alone. The latter definitionshould be seen as associated with the
sequence as the amount of time a customer hasto wait at position i is the minimum of three quantities- i) service time of thecurrent customer, ii) the kick-out times of the (i-2) customers ahead of him, and iii) hisown kick-out time.Thus:
(1.3)since the first customer enters service directly.In general we need the probability
1 2 3 1
( min( , , ... ))
i i
 P K S K K
.Since S
and K
areexponentials µ and
, the RHS
is a min of (i-1) exponentials which is again anexponential with parameter
( 2)
. The final expression is thus obtained as:
( 2), 2( 1)
i p ii
  
1 2 3
min( , , ... ) ~ exp(( 1) )
i i
T S K K K i
(1.5)As a sanity check, we can easily verify the case when
i.e. the kick out time isinstantaneous.Since we have the
{ }
sequence, now we can also derive the probability that customer iis not kicked out until reaching the soup service. We define this as his OverallSuccess probability. The Overall Success is the real probability of interest whereasthe success probability is only the perceived momentary success probability.
( )( 1)
ii j
 P OverallSuccess pi
  
(1.6)Similarly, we have a set of recursive equations for the expected waiting time for thea customer, depending on the position he enters in line,
. For that we would make useof the identity,
[ ] [ | ]. [ | ].(1 )
i i i i i
 E W E W notkickedoutati p E W kickedoutati p
(1.7)We note on the RHS of (1.7),the first term can be broken recursively as the time spentin state i given that the customer is not kicked out and then the process repeatingitself but from state (i-1). The second term is the time spent at state i alone, if thecustomer is kicked out. Now, we also have

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