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. Nylund says:

    “The only example I know of this practice is our plumber”

    What about pizza delivery services that promise 30 minutes or less or your pizza is free?

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  2. Marcia says:

    No thanks. Rushed service would most likely be worse than it is now. If I have to wait I just want the service I receive to be as thorough as the person before me got.

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  3. Joe says:

    I could see a result of this idea paralleling the result of the Isreali day care tale in the Freakonomics book. Companies realize it’s cheaper for them to pay you to wait than figuring out how to decrease wait time.

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  4. Joe Konstan says:

    An excellent idea (and one that lots of service businesses are embracing, including credits for late Cable TV installers). But I don’t think this is a one-size fits all problem. For some situations, the best alternative is to let the market moderate between higher cost/low wait and the alternative (consider a doctor’s office where your co-pay is lower if you’re willing to be bumped when the doctor is running behind), or even a direct compensation to clear waiting lists (much as airline passengers choose to volunteer to be bumped for compensation.

    For other situations, a better alternative may be more information and productive ways of using the waiting time. I’ve never had a serious wait at the bank, but I’ve appreciated when other service providers called me to let me know that the doctor/barber/etc., was running behind. Then I could keep working. Or the bank/office/whatever could provide a set of computers for waiting customers to use, helping them make the time productive. One of the better examples is mall restaurants — often there is a wait, but the restaurant can provide pagers so the customer can wander the mall and handle other errands while waiting.

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  5. Joe says:

    I could see a result of this idea paralleling the result of the day care story in the Freakonomics book. Companies realize it’s cheaper for them to pay you to wait than figuring out how to decrease wait time.

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  6. Emily says:

    Chick-fil-A (I know, I know), at least at some franchises, will give customers what is called a “Be Our Guest” coupon for a free meal if their wait is over 5 minutes.

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  7. Doug says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Daniel says:

      I don’t think you’ve read up on competition or effective monopolies. Many service providers hold effective monopolies and the wait times are well studied by the providers who don’t care if we are upset as long as we don’t leave. For proper competition to happen you need between 7 and 10 options, not 2. If these 2 real options just decide to both have long wait times, there is no recourse. If you are a Verizon cell phone customer and you get angry and move to AT&T and they make you angry, you can move to . . . not another company with similar service and options. People are already paid for their wait times, but not in $, but in the opportunity to have better services. We are not really free to shop in a market of 2 or 3 options.

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  8. Enter your name... says:

    I don’t usually mind waiting when I know that’s what I’ll be doing. But when the doctor’s office staff lies about the wait, that’s especially irritating. I once showed up 15 minutes early as requested, and was told (I asked) he was on time. Then it would “only be ten minutes”… for 40 more minutes.

    It only seems to be the one office. Since then, when I’m in that office, I don’t accept any answer to questions about his schedule unless the receptionist gets out of her chair, finds the doctor’s assistant, and asks her just for me. About half the time, the receptionist sheepishly comes back with a noticeably different answer.

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