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. Student says:

    I am currently a team leader at a quick service restaurant, and our operator has a way to compensate someone for their time on waiting for their food. Our ultimate goal is to get you your food in 2 and a half minutes, but as long as it is under five, we feel that you aren’t waiting too long. Once it is over 5 minuetes, we like to give a customer a coupon card for a free iteam. If anything is over 9 minutes, we refund you your food and give coupons on all the items you were waiting for. The idea of this is if a customer has a bad expirence and we turn it around and astonish them with what we do for them, that they will be more loyal customers. If more companys had policies such as these, it makes the employees strive not to mess up and take too much time but also if there is a mess up and the policy is enforced, the customer is more likley to come back.

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  2. Stephen Swanson says:

    There are a great many everyday externalities society may soon be able to internalize by virtue of the waves of smart devices, the Internet of Things, smart sensors, RFID, social networking, and data mining. Given the means, perhaps the economics of resource exhaustion and climate change — and politics of public-risk-private-profit — will force absorption of externalities throughout economies. What externalities? Wasting someone else’s time is a clear and direct one. The profitability of industries from fossil fuel to fast food which drive the overuse and abuse of pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics in large scale commercial agriculture (to name a few) are more subtle and disconnected, but may one day be priced into that bacon cheeseburger and ten-thousand-mile salad.

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  3. Travis says:

    US bank used to do this. They had a policy that if you waited more than 5 minutes they will put $5 into your account. I only saw benefit from it once, but it was kind of nice.

    On the other hand, this seems to scream cobra effect, and at the time I couldn’t figure out how they would deal with people who just formed impromptu “rushes” at banks, netting $5 per person, essentially.

    Seems like a bad policy.

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  4. Andy says:

    Why on earth is Bill Gates’ time more valuable than yours? Because he makes more money? Because he’s run a multi-billion dollar company? Hogwash. For example, if your time in line prevents you from spending time with your kids, which I can guarantee you I do a lot more of than Bill Gates, then I might argue your time is more valuable than his. I swear this isn’t flame-bait. It’s definitely a rant, though. :)

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    • Daniel says:

      Bill Gates quit to spend time with his kids and to save millions of lives. Yeah, he’s pretty far up there along the time importance scale. Not for his $Bs but for his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation time which really does save lives, lots of lives.

      Doesn’t all this talk about pizza delivery make you think of Snow Crash? It’s the only think we really do well. That and bureaucracy.

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      • Eric M. Jones. says:

        I read (and it would be easy to prove) that if Bill Gates saw a $100 bill on the ground, he couldn’t afford to pick it up. He’d lose money.

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  5. Jeff says:

    At least in my location, Sears has a hassle-free policy for online pickup orders. If they don’t bring it out within 5 minutes, their computer automatically prints out a $5 coupon. They even have a timer that counts down and I didn’t even know about the policy until they handed me the coupon.

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  6. Imad Qureshi says:

    I think its more of a good customer service gesture than compensating monetary damages caused by making someone wait, because as you said for some people the value of time will be much higher than company would be able to compensate. for example Chipotle once gave me a free Burrito and a bottle of water that I ordered because it took them more than 10 minutes to make it. I was on a busines trip so I didn’t care if it was free or not but it was a good gesture. I think company’s should let the front line employees decide what’s best for customer as is the case in Starbucks and Zappos.

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  7. Gordon says:

    As a bank employee, this is a bad precedent. Customers do not come into the bank in distributed waves. They often come in, in groups. At opening, lunch and closing.
    A conservative estimate would be 50% of business comes in during those times, which is only about 15% of the day. We’re going to be busier then. The only solution to it would be:

    1) Over hire, then pay people all day to only work for 15% of the day.
    2) Only pay employees when they’re working that 15%.

    Tellers are already grossly under paid for what is asked of them.

    I don’t like waiting as much as the next guy. However, every stand up comedian is right – the DMV is an awful place to go on the weekend. Because everyone’s going on the weekend.

    Per hour scheduling is not a realistic request of businesses or employees.

    If you hate waiting so much, you need to make it a personal priority to go in the down time.

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    • Donnie says:

      What banks really should do is shift their hours to times when it is feasible for their customers to go to the bank. If a bank is open 9-5, few customers are going to be able to come in during any time other than lunch.

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    • Nick says:

      It would be so much easier to operate if there weren’t those pesky customers, no?

      Here’s a revolutionary idea that seems to work for grocery stores, restaurants, retail stores, and many other venues that have to serve people: be open for business on nights, weekends, and maybe a few more holidays.

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  8. Dan says:

    I get this for plumbers and the like, but in the case of the bank, what’s stopping me from getting a bunch of friends together to mob the place and cause a demand spike? This smells of cobra. 😉

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