Service of Respecting Other People’s Time

June 11th, 2018

Categories: Bills, Time, Waste


From my first job in PR I got the impression that in addition to the responsibilities I had—to write press releases, speeches, slide show copy, brochures, proposals, activity reports, to plan press conferences, place stories etc.–one of my main responsibilities was to save my clients’ time.

“Obviously,” you say. But it so often doesn’t happen.

Hold Please…A Half Hour ++

Take the other morning when I called GM Financial first thing about a $400+ bill we shouldn’t have received and didn’t owe. I put the phone on speaker and while listening to dreadful music, interrupted by the computer voice telling me to hold on, I finished my breakfast, got dressed, put on my makeup, brushed my teeth and began to read Facebook postings.

How many people with jobs they hope to keep can hang on the phone that long?

License to Steal Your Time


A friend needed to renew her driver’s license and wanted an enhanced version with a chip so she headed down to the Department of Motor Vehicles {DMV} in Manhattan. According to Google, “An enhanced license is a New York State DMV issued document that you can use instead of a passport to return to the US by land or sea from Canada, Mexico and some countries in the Caribbean.”

As with many women who marry or remarry, the last name on her social security document and license–in her maiden name–didn’t match the one on her passport with her married name. The folks at DMV told her that all must be the same. [I have a standard license and in 2011 was notified I had to rectify the discrepancy between the name on my social security and license and was told it was a Homeland Security issue.]

She went to the social security office, changed the name on the document—they didn’t ask for her marriage license, but remember: Her passport was in her married name. On another day she again headed back downtown to tackle with Motor Vehicles. After waiting in line for 45 minutes with revised social security card and passport in hand–all matching–she was told she needed to show her marriage license! She left the office in tears of frustration–nobody told her on her first visit that she needed to bring the marriage license.

The same question: Who has time to go through such rigmarole?

Do you have similar examples? Are there some better times than others to call customer service centers? Must people take vacation days to get glitches resolved? Is it only people in service industries who are aware of other people’s time? Does this happen because of understaffing; sluggish or angry workers or poor strategy by management?



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7 Responses to “Service of Respecting Other People’s Time”

  1. ASK Said:

    You really do need to make sure that all IDs carry the same name today. I use my first name, maiden name, and married name on my passport, but for some reason, the travel agent ran my maiden name and married name together on the reservation…no space in between. This made a Lufthansa agent in Munich quite unhappy; I gave her my driver’s license and now expired employee card to supplement my passport to show her. There was still some head-scratching and a second supervisor was called in. In exasperation, I asked all three airline employees, “How many people in the world carry a name like mine.” (a mix of French, German Jewish, and Italian names) End of discussion: I got on the flight, with a warning, of course.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Another well-travelled reader, who let me share her story in a previous post,, insisted on including her middle name on her airline ticket to Japan so it matched her passport. She had to fight a nonchalant travel agent who said it didn’t matter! On reading that post, another reader took a good look at her travel documents for an upcoming trip and realized that there was a discrepancy.

    Few would have the mix of name derivations you list. I don’t use all my former last names and my current one but including my first name, if I did, represented would be French, Austrian, Polish and English derivations, a lovely jumble and also a potential quagmire of typo possibilities!

  3. ASK Said:

    I got a similar answer from the travel agent who made my reservation: the spacing did not matter. I will NOT be using him again…

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    That speakerphone is a godsend, and saves countless hours of annoyance. Over and above that, Verizon has a handy program which permits the caller, facing a long queue, to name best time for a callback. And yes, it works. Perhaps other businesses will follow suit if they haven’t already.

    I get the picture that there is an increasing trend towards good manners. Perhaps businesses are coming to realize shabby treatment of the public equals costly loss of sales.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are correct–hooray for the speakerphone!

    Once I reached a person she was extremely nice. I wonder, however, how many people, frustrated by the waiting, would be nice back. I have long learned to keep my frustrations to myself as the goal is to get to the bottom of a problem. Anger does not get me the answer faster, in fact, it flummoxes the recipient so that if anything, it slows things up!

  6. Protius Said:

    A common anxiety of our time is the suspicion that we are losing our jobs either to immigrant workers or to machines. Actually, we have been losing our jobs to technology for several generations now.

    The other day getting off a crowded train, my wife asked me whether I remembered the days when porters greeted every train and took your bag and found a taxi for you. I do indeed. I also remember when live, often helpful, operators answered telephones. In the struggle to keep prices competitive for goods and services sold, suppliers had to grab at every opportunity to lower costs by keeping overhead low. Replacing human beings with answering machines saved companies a ton of money.

    A combination of liberal idealism and abusive employment practices led to work in service to others taking on a pejorative gloss, which in turn led to the creation of the now huge self-help/do it yourself industry. These forces combined to impact adversely the quality of the services rendered and their cost.

    As we now can, under our new tax laws, assume that the wealth of the very rich will continue to grow rapidly, while that of our middle classes, who are and will be paying most of the taxes, will further diminish, it is safe to say that the ability of the elite to pay for good service should conversely increase.

    The air travel industry, after 9/11 saw the quality of airline service deteriorate, while, at the same time, security concerns increased. Service may have gone downhill, but private passenger plane business boomed. If this is any guide, and I think it is, — Good waiters at top restaurants and good doormen at quality buildings in New York already earn six figure incomes –, the unemployed should swallow their pride and find jobs providing for the needs of the elite.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As I read your comment I thought of the tests I took before joining a few large companies. Were I in HR today, filling customer service jobs that involved solving client/consumer problems, I’d ask the test-design gurus to make me one that looked for personalities that reflected patience and an interest in problem-solving as well as people who could read complicated instructions and, without training, figure out how to do their jobs.

    I agree with your assessment, that the wealthy receive good service and everyone else should be prepared to waste time. For one thing, if they must deal with something like the Motor Vehicles bureau, they send someone else to handle that. For another, because of the eye on profits over service, perfectly well-meaning employees have no idea what they are doing and they are given zero training [hence the test I suggest above] and have nobody checking their work. This lands most of us in the soup because we follow their instructions, do everything wrong and after a very large amount of time, get nothing done or fixed. I’m living through this right now. Grump.

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