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Worth the Wait?

C. Rosenberg

Americans spend approximately 37 billion hours a year waiting in line. Why do some handle waiting better than others? How can service providers make waiting more pleasant? And what can we do to maximize our time in limbo?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The scene at the supermarket checkout is a familiar one. Some shoppers fidget from foot to foot, their eyes darting to the cashier — monitoring her progress — then back to their own carts. Mothers with children in tow warily eye their young ones, wondering how long they can be kept away from the candies and toys put deliberately on display near the cashier.

Then there are those who don’t seem to mind the line ahead of them. They allow shoppers with just a few items to go ahead of them, strike up conversations with fellow shoppers, and smile at whoever meets their eye.

Waiting is no fun for anyone. Why is it that some people seem to handle the stress a lot better than others? Why do consumers in a post office line exhibit more signs of impatience than those in a retail shop? From personality to expectations to service value, many factors will determine how we react when we’re forced to wait for something we want.


Who Has the Patience Gene?

Personality is one of the most obvious determinants for how people respond to waiting. Some people are natural “waiters,” others are not.

“Instead of relaxing like most of my customers, some women are itching to get off the chair just a few minutes after I start working on them.” says Bashi Brody, hairstylist and makeup artist. “They’ll tell me, ‘It looks wonderful,’ and urge me to finish up.

“They may need to run to a simchah, or they have children waiting at home, but sometimes, it’s just who they are. They can’t bear to sit in the chair for an extra moment.”

Why is this “patience gene” found in some people but not in others?

“Patience is a quality fostered from the home of origin,” explains Dr. Yael Respler, a Brooklyn-based family therapist. “The ability to wait patiently may vary due to the patterns observed in the childhood home. Someone who comes from a home where children were treated with patience, and feelings were attended to, will most likely develop the quality of patience. This helps a waiting person remain calm when forced to wait.”


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