Service of Selective Impatience

March 8th, 2012

Categories: Dependability, Impatience, Lines


Americans suffer from selective impatience. We fall for impulse purchases at checkout counters and demand to own high-priced items the second they are launched and put them on credit cards when we can’t afford them. We want to own a house this minute–we can’t wait until we’ve saved enough or generated sufficient income to cover the down payment and upkeep–and we’re the leaders of fast-food. As you read this paragraph you can envision our collective finger tapping.

lines-at-a-bridgeOn the other hand we wait in long lines to attend movies and sports events and for coffee at overpriced specialty shops, accept to be parked at bars for hours after table reservation time before being seated in tony, overbooked restaurants, stand still for 20 to 40 minutes waiting to cross a bridge at rush hour so we can commute by car, line up overnight to be one of the first to own the latest Apple tech toy and wait for hours for service and deliveries.

Those who can pay to shorten the wait. In “The Wait-Time Misery Index,” in The Wall Street Journal, Ray A. Smith reports that UPS customers pay $40 a year and a $5 per package premium for deliveries within a two-hour period. Crate & Barrel charges $89 to ensure a two or three hour delivery window.

Smith asks if you’d wait four hours for a friend who is late for dinner. “No,” he wrote, “but your cable company thinks this is a reasonable window of time to wait for service.”

I wonder who makes the rules that impact a client or customer’s time. These timekeepers act as though everyone can sashay to their desk whenever or select when they feel like teaching, nursing/treating patients or meeting deadlines.

ironing-clothesWhile waiting for a delivery in Atlanta, one woman in Smith’s story ironed 50 napkins and four tablecloths. I suppose you can line up such projects when waiting for service, repair or delivery, but should you have to?

Smith wrote “‘I see companies using the two-hour window as a significant marketing thing,’ says Bruce Champeau, Room & Board chief operating officer. The furniture retailer has had a two-hour window in effect since the mid-1990s. ‘It’s a matter of respecting the customer’s time,’ says Mr. Champeau.”

Why do we sell ourselves short? Shouldn’t this be standard and therefore nothing to market?

Smith continued “To make deliveries within a two-hour time slot, more companies are investing in software that helps determine the most efficient route. The technology can shave time off trips by taking into account speed limits, for example, and estimating how long a stop will take based on service type.” This is so elementary, it boggles. Invest in software? So many sophisticated GPS systems are free or incredibly inexpensive and have been around for years. And software isn’t going to calculate what an employee familiar with how the product works and how long it takes to fix, can do best.

Smith points out that lack of information is part of the frustration when waiting and notes how New York’s subway system lets passengers at some stations know how long they have to wait for the next local or express. I love this service, which I first saw in Paris years ago. But if you’re expected to attend an 11 o’clock meeting and you’ve been waiting for a delivery or repair since 8 am, what good is it to know that someone will be at the house by 2 pm?

Do you have a routine you follow when you have to wait for delivery or service? Do you pay a premium to shorten the wait window? Are you a selectively impatient person?


8 Responses to “Service of Selective Impatience”

  1. ASK Said:

    I always make it clear to the company who’s making the delivery that I work and need to have whatever I ordered delivered in an equally timely fashion. I never wait in line to buy or see anything: Is it really worth the wait and the credit-card interest just to be first? With a techie product, it will easily be outdated in six months anyway. As for restaurant reservations: Is any menu so exponentially ethereal that it’s worth waiting over an hour for? I’m too old to care about trendiness.

    I also continue to use the subway…bless it.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’d love your list of vendors. Most of mine don’t seem to care a whit about my schedule. The only thing that is sure to arrive in a timely manner is the bill.

    I have been to three star restaurants in Europe and have never had to wait a second. The trendy places in NYC make me nervous. I am enamored of neither the frenetic atmosphere nor the fellow diners. [What a fussbudget.] I love a treasure that is beloved by its patrons, one with great food and good service and an environment that someone cares about but that didn’t cost a fortune to achieve.

  3. KF Said:

    We’re going to take a reposition cruise from Amsterdam to NYC at the end of August and decided to spend a few days first in Amsterdam.

    Evidently, there are horrendous lines to get tickets into the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. So, one can either buy them on-line ahead of time or buy a package with a canal cruise company, both letting you bypass the long lines and go right to the head of the class.

    Obviously, many are impatient having to wait one hour +, probably not knowing about the lines before they arrive in Amsterdam. I would think I’d even be angrier seeing folks go right to the head of the line.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Sounds like a fabulous cruise. I loved Amsterdam.

    I bet you’d get a better price going directly to the museum website for tickets. I am suspicious of surcharges placed on anything a cruise company provides, based on listening to many hours of Arthur Frommer’s Travel Show.

    You are right about lines at popular museums and August is top tourist season for Europeans. For some reason while not a lover of waiting in lines, it bothers me less at a museum. So I too suffer from selective impatience!

    In fact, when we went to Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam, now a museum, the line-waiting was part of the experience. Hearing Italian, French, Japanese along with English and countless other tongues was impressive.

    I wonder if people will question your breaking in line at the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Museum members generally bypass the lines and there are city museum passes in Europe –essential if you plan to go to popular museums in Paris, unless you have hours to waste–so frequent museum-goers, at least, won’t question your passing them. There should be no swearing at you in Dutch!

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Impatience, selective or not, is shared by humanity at large, and not confined to this continent, let alone to the US. It is also a big waste of time and solves nothing. I like to think of paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt when attempting to ease the pain: Tip well and carry a big book! Problems of this nature usually vanish swiftly when adopting one or both such ruses.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Beautifully crafted response that’s impossible to parry. Amen!

  7. Slowly Moley Said:

    A few decades ago, like in the late 1970’s, my then boss sent me to have an all-expenses paid, super-thorough medical exam at a super-luxurious East Side midtown New York clinic, because for some reason, he felt it would be a good idea to keep me alive. For several years, I had been travelling almost constantly in Africa and the Middle East and as patient as Job in dealing with all sorts of impossible people. The wear and tear on me apparently was palpable.

    I arrived for my appointment promptly at 9:00AM and for the next two hours was not kept really waiting at all while I was punctured and poked, x-rayed in two, three and maybe more dimensions, internally and externally, and pinched and pounded by various specialists. Finally, nervous as a tick, I ended up in the office of the doctor who ran the place, a cardiologist by the name of Rossi. (That I still remember his name is a testament to what an utterly charming man he was!)

    Dr. Rossi sat me down and asked me whether I knew why I was at his clinic. I supposed it was because of high blood pressure. He laughed and asked me what I thought of Passetto’s – then the best restaurant in Rome. We talked for 15 minutes, and although I kept asking him, “Don’t you have other patients to see?” he went on talking. Eventually, I felt so at home that I forgot I was in a doctor’s office. Precisely at this point, Dr. Rossi said that he had better start earning his keep, got up and took my blood pressure. It was 120 over 80 – normal.

    The good doctor then told me, “When you came in here, the nurse who took your blood pressure recorded it at 190 over 140 which was about what your employer’s doctor had found it to be. There is nothing wrong with your heart, but there is a lot wrong with your head. You’d better stop taking life so seriously or you are going to have a heart attack.”

    It took a while, but I listened to Dr. Rossi. Now, 35 years later, my blood pressure is 100 over 75, but I increasingly lose my temper and am regularly rude to obnoxious people. When I am bored, I look very bored indeed. Now I let my impatience show, which may not be good for making friends and influencing people, but thanks to that great doctor, I’ll probably live to 100, which is the last thing I want to do!

    By the way, under Obama care, the Dr. Rossi’s of the world will be out of business. They take too long to do their job!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    An Arts & Crafts type of movement in all sorts of industries, starting with medicine, is crying to come back. You and Dr. Rossi might be two of its spokespersons.

    Doctors are so pressed that they must leave work at the end of the day wondering what they missed. They are in a terrible position. Nobody wants to do their job this way.

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