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Mid-day Update

Mid-day Extra: Fighting for a seat on the morning commute

Marketplace Staff Oct 12, 2011
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Jeremy Hobson: Well, if you’re taking a train today, or anytime soon — I’ve got some new tips for you. A British web designer has put together an online guide, Steve, to help commuters get a seat using ancient military tactics.

Steve Chiotakis: Is this the art of war?

Hobson: Yeah. The guide actually maps out different commuting scenarios with military precision.

And it’s become an overnight sensation among London’s commuters, as the BBC’s Kate McGough reports now in today’s Mid-day Extra.


Kate McGough: Even in war, there are rules. In this popular online guide, the humble train carriage is converted into a “theater of conflict.” And the tactics of the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu can be applied to the daily fight to find a seat.

First, you have to know your enemy. The guide’s color-coded graphics distinguish the two sides. There are the “civilians” – that’s passengers who are happy to stand; and then the “aspirants” — your rivals in the struggle to find a seat.

Brendan Nelson is the guide’s author. He says the key is positioning yourself and remembering that — as Sun Tzu said — “all war is deception”.

Brendan Nelson: The top rule really is to not look as though you’re desperate for a seat. Because that way other people won’t realize that you’re playing the game.

He also says to look out for subconscious signals — like when a commuter puts a book away. The trick is to appear helpful while exploiting the situation for your own gain, stepping out of the way, while blocking your rivals.

In London, I’m the BBC’s Kate McGough, for Marketplace.

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