Should Companies Pay Us for Waiting?

My Dutch friend walked into his bank for a short transaction and was kept waiting for 45 minutes. Infuriated, he told the manager that his time was too valuable for this.  Ten days later a credit of €25 appeared on his account!  

Why can’t service organizations that keep you waiting an overly long time all do this?  Admittedly the proper price is not easy — Bill Gates’s time is more valuable than mine. But companies that offer a credit on your account if you have to wait more than some posted time would have a competitive advantage in attracting clients; and the threat of payment would provide lower-level managers an incentive to improve efficiency.  The only example I know of this practice is our plumber, who advertises that if he is more than 30 minutes late, the cost of labor is waived. (HT to GAP)

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  1. Daniel says:

    I can’t even get Verizon or Comcast to pay for outage time, let alone the time it takes me to wait on hold for them to tell me that they believe it’s my fault for 45 minutes before they push a button and fix it. Makes me think of the SNL sketches of Lily Tomlin as the phone company rep. Not much has changed.

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    • Felix says:

      Laugh In, not SNL. Criminy, I’m too old for a 20 year mistake like that :-)

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      • Daniel says:

        SNL S2E1 was the skit I’m referring to but that was a spin off of the Laugh In regular skit right? I’m too young to know if that’s a mistake.

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  2. Dave says:

    Didn’t Pizza Hut used to offer your pizza free if it wasn’t delivered in some fixed time (I believe it was 30 minutes)?

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    • It was says:

      It was Domino’s Pizza that did that, and they had to stop due to the amount of accidents their drivers were causing.

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  3. Carolyn says:

    Comcast will credit your account $20 if they arrive late for an appointment. They generally give you a 2-3 hour window, though.

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    • uppreleftcorner says:

      It’s a 4 hour window, commercial or residential account. They inevitably show up in the last hour, if at all. So your $20 works out to about $5/hour for your time (subtract that, I guess, from time lost from work if appropriate).

      Wasn’t there an attorney in Maryland a few years ago who successfully sued Comcast for his lost time waiting around for them to show up?

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  4. Daniel says:

    While not directly paying for time, I have seen a lot of promotions where if a task is not completed within a set time limit, it’s free. Pizza chains and dry-cleaning places are the things that come to mind for me, though I imagine that differs between countries.

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  5. Dave Nelson says:

    On a recent shopping trip to my local Target store, there were only a few registers open and each of them had relatively long lines. I didn’t see the lines as exceptionally long, though, and I waited patiently in the line that I’d chosen.

    When it was my turn, the cashier handed me a coupon for $3 off, “because [I] had to wait so long.” She said I could use it now or on a future visit. I admit the wait was longer than I would have liked, but I’ve waited in MUCH longer lines at grocery stores before, and have never been compensated for it.

    The compensation put a smile on my face, if nothing else, and showed me that the store is making an effort to make wait times reasonable.

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  6. Donnie says:

    How to avoid the Cobra effect? Suppose people start purposely standing in line to collect the payment.

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    • Mike says:

      Thus making wait times even longer.

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      • Donnie says:

        It seems the obvious solution if you wanted to reduce wait times would be to charge the customer based on the amount of time spent waiting. This would discourage overuse of teller’s scarce time.

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    • Michael says:

      By keeping the payment low enough… Would YOU wait in line for $5 an hour? Especially in a situation where if you did it often enough the store could bar you?

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    • David says:

      Then you’d see what some busy grocery stores do and have everyone queue up in one line and have a staff member direct customers to the next available register.

      It actually works quite well since there isn’t jockeying for a register with a short line, and everyone has the expectation of a bit of a wait.

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  7. Seminymous Coward says:

    Domino’s used to have a 30-minute delivery guarantee until some automobile accident lawsuits targeted them via it. It’s likely other pizza places have or had them.

    I have also previously received a credit from my cable internet provider for a completely missed arrival window.

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  8. Jaime says:

    If that is the only example you know of you have too healthy a diet and/or are depriving your kids of a glorious treat :), seeing how most PIZZA deliveries have similar schemes, and have had, for over a decade now in some places.
    As far as I know they were the first market to apply this kind of scheme.

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