"Nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded." - Yogi Berra
It takes a while for people to understand that time is money. But once they do, they don't often think about how certain times being busier than others should change their behavior. This activity is driven by work hours, business hours and social norms. A busy place can sometimes be a positive. Restaurants, bars and clubs can be a lot more fun with other people around. However, in other cases trying to do something at a busy time means full restaurants, traffic and long lines. People with flexible schedules should be on the lookout for opportunities to take advantage of peak times by either avoiding them or finding ways around them or anticipating them.
Businesses charge for times in various ways. At restaurants, dinners cost more than lunch. Open Table will award "points" for diners making reservations off of peak hours. In New York, eating between 7:30 and 8:30pm
will cost some diners at more money at certain restaurants. On big days like Valentine's Day, many restaurants will only offer a more expensive prix fixe menu. At clubs, people can generally get in more easily when the club is just starting to open than they would if they tried to get in two hours later. Uber has been implementing surcharge pricing on busy nights.
Even with all of these measures most of the value of optimal times are not charged. It's done on a first come, first serve basis in the case of reservations at most restaurants. When consumers going to places at popular times they will just face extra traffic (potentially some dynamic bridge tolls), longer wait times and longer lines.
Some social norms are fun to follow. Not many people would skip out on a NYE party just because Uber charges 5x for rides, although it might be a good idea to find an alternative means of transportation at that point. But it's interesting to think about the various ways implement time arbitrage and the concept of valuing time more generally.
1. If a work schedule is flexible then working slightly non-traditional hours is an obvious choice for avoiding commute times. Working a little earlier or a little later will save a lot of time in the end. Visits to the gym and supermarket at unconventional hours can be much more efficient.
2. Think harder about making reservations for dinner ahead of time on weekend nights than on less popular weeknights. (As an aside - when walking down popular streets in San Francisco, OpenTable's mobile app will often be able to get last minute reservations at places that would otherwise be full.)
3. Avoid peak travel times whenever possible. During certain times of the year some places are particularly busy. If your own schedule is flexible enough to shift activities by a weekend then a lot of traffic can be avoided. Waking up early for some trips can also be quite important.
4. Realize that free promotions will often cost the gift receiver more in time than they are saving in money. It doesn't make sense to wait in line an hour for a free Chipotle burrito if their time is worth more than $10 an hour. Cyber Monday >> Black Friday.
Perhaps an interest in time arbitrage is also a way of saying "I don't like being around lots of other people," but it's more fun to pretend that it's an intellectual challenge to exploit inefficiencies.