Being British, we should all be pretty familiar with the concept of queuing - after all, we seem to spend most of our lives in one these days!
However, adding a queue to an online entry system seems to completely throw some people into a panic when the reality is pretty straightforward.
What events will have a queue?
If you are entering an event that is likely to have a big initial rush for places then it's highly likely that a queue will be set up for it. The queue system acts as a 'shock absorber' to prevent everybody trying to get their entry in at the same time. So, if you know that the event normally sells out quickly you can pretty much bet that it will be running a queue.
Why does the event open early?
It doesn't! The event will only ever start taking entries at the time stated on the page.
When an event doesn't have a queue the website simply won't let anyone press the 'Register now' button until the allotted time and then anyone can press it and start entering. If a lot of people all do this at the same time the website can start to run a little slowly.
Where the event is running a queue, the 'Register now' button will become active some time before the allotted time but pressing it does not start the entry process. What it does do is move you off into a waiting area and gives you a position in the queue (see note below!). And, just as with any queue system, if you get there early you'll get a better place in the queue.
NOTE: for most events a randomised queue is used to ensure a fairer distribution of entries. The 'normal' queue works like the one at the deli counter - you get given your number in sequence and then when it's called out you can order. The randomised queue doesn't issue any numbers until the last second before the entry opens. This means that there's no benefit to getting into the queue early ('early queuing' seems to annoy some people - odd, given how that's the whole point...) as your position no longer relates to when you joined the queue.
The normal entry page for the event is hidden by the queue page and you'll get a status message roughly every 20-30 seconds. These messages can, and often are, updated live by the staff allocated to manage the process. We will let you know how things are going and when it looks like the event will sell out.
[Note, we say 'Register now' in the text above but the button can have all sorts of names depending on how the event is set up. It'll be pretty obvious which button it is as it's the one that's sat there inviting you to enter!]
How does the event open for entry then?
At the allotted time the event will start moving people from the queue into the normal entry process. Your position counter will start to go down as people move off into the entry process and when it gets to zero (which you may never actually see) the entry process starts.The rate at which people move through registration depends on how long it take them to fill out the form and complete the payment so the system never loads up more than a controlled number and then maintains this by only adding more as and when people complete the process.
If you have used our system before it's always a good idea to check and update any information in both your profile (this is effectively your account for placing orders) and in your athlete records (which holds information about you: date of birth, club membership, etc). Every profile will have an athlete record, even if it's just you, and this information is used to post out race packs, send emails, etc. If you create/check/update this information in advance it will make the registration process much easier - for example, an incorrect or missing date of birth might actually stop you entering an event if there are age limits being enforced.
If you have not used our system before then it's always a good idea to set up your profile and athletes well before you actually join the queue for entry - like even days before! Most of the queries we get after entry are related to adding or correcting information that people have not added/updated during the entry process. You can manage all of this yourself, you'll find full details on our FAQ page HERE.
How do I know what's going on while I'm in the queue?
While the queue system is running as well as the 'people ahead of you' number that is updated every 20 seconds or so there is often a message displayed on the page that tells you the current queue status, how many actual places are left, if there are any issues, etc. These messages are generated by a real human being, not the system and if you need to message us about anything that you don't understand you can communicate via the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. Please note that this is normally only manned during office hours (or for major event entry openings) and we may take a while to respond if things are really hectic.
We do NOT respond to queries submitted via social media channels.
Why does the queue slow down at the end?
The queue system isn't like water draining out of a bath - it doesn't go faster and faster as the level drops. In fact, and for very good reasons, the queue will generally run slower at the end. This is to allow us to get closer and closer to the cut-off with less and less people in the system, so reducing the problem of someone still filling in their form when the last place sells out.
My browser has crashed/frozen/the counter isn't going down
The entry system webserver checks your connection every 20 seconds by sending it a page update - you can see that happening from the countdown to update message getting reset and counting down again. It's entirely possible (more likely if you are using a mobile device) that you may experience a local connection issue at some point during the queueing process. This could be that your WiFi has dropped out, that the local 3G/4G coverage has dropped out if you are on a mobile, that your PC/laptop has decided you watching the screen isn't 'activity' and has spun down to power-save mode, etc, etc. These are things that we have no control over and are certainly not the 'website crashing'!
If the system detects that your connection has not been updated for more than 10 minutes it assumes, quite reasonably, that you have gone away and it will re-allocate the queue position. So, if the page isn't getting that 20 second countdown it's probably worth just giving the browser a 'prod' to wake it up - try switching to a different window and back again to make the browser the active window.
I'm on a mobile, is that OK?
We strongly recommend that you use a normal desktop class browser (Chrome/Firefox/Edge) on a desktop system simply because entry can be stressful enough without trying to do it on a screen that's too small to read clearly and has buttons and keys too small to accurately type on. You also risk the issue of your mobile device switching connection from one provider to another (or from mobile to WiFi or vice versa) and this can act as a browser reset so losing your place in the queue.
I'm smart so I'm running multiple sessions!
Cool! But unless you are actually running these sessions on multiple devices or at the least on multiple browsers (eg one copy of Chrome and another copy of Firefox) the first broswer session to get an entry will reset ALL the concurrent browser sessions when you complete that entry. Running multiple tabs or windows on the same browser isn't smart...
What happens when it sells out?
The entry system processes a set number of people at a time and, as most events have a fixed limit for the number of people they allow to enter, it's inevitable that the event will sell out while someone is entering their details but before they have paid. The message on the queue page will warn when this is likely to happen but, just like being in a restaurant and finding that the day's 'Special' has sold out after you've ordered it, it's often not possible to stop taking information before the last place goes.
If you are in the process of registering and the tickets run out there will be a message at the top of the final summary page telling you this has happened.
Queue? What queue!
Like a queue for anything there will come a point at which there's nobody left waiting to be served! Your bank (the bricks and mortar one!) or local Post Office will typically have a queuing system set up, but there might be nobody in it. If that's the case online then you'll simply never see the queue, you'll go straight to the entry page. If a load of people suddenly turn up then the queue may kick back in again if the numbers continue to increase past the quantity that can be processed at any one time.
What if I placed the order but didn't pay?
If your order had been processed to the point where you have the card payment page on the screen your entry is recorded on the system. What hasn't happened at that point is payment. If you have a problem finding your card, are using the wrong card or need to get some more details the system will hold your place for a while. Any unpaid orders will have an email sent to them about 15 minutes after the payment page times out. This contains instructions on how to go back and pay for the order - you do not need to go through the entry process again!
Unpaid orders are held for a time and then cleared from the system. The length of time they are held is normally four days but for sell-out events they will often be cleared the same day. This is deliberate - it stops people holding onto places they then intend to pass on to others.
Can I leave the queue?
Sure, of course you can! But you'll be at the back of the queue when you start the process again...