Thanks For Your Patience

By Lloyd Graff

Courtesy of

“Your wait will be four minutes. Thank you for your patience.”

All I wanted was to buy a pair of pants from the Territory Ahead catalog, which I had recently received at my home. I am “old school.” I prefer to talk to a person when I order goods.

I do not give a credit card number in an online transaction, less out of fear of it being compromised than dealing with my vision, which is always compromised.

It was 9:45 last Friday night. I expected the call to take 10 minutes, 15 tops. After four minutes, the automatic response came back and promised I would be waited on in four minutes. No progress, but I put the phone on speaker and looked at the Wall Street Journal that I had not read. Five minutes later the phone voice announced the wait would be four minutes! Ok, I was invested in the process so I continued to wait. The next announcement was hopeful, 2 minutes until liftoff, when a real person would take my order. I had considered buying some t-shirts, which were on sale, but by now I had rejected that whimsical purchase.

The voice interrupted my reverie, “15 seconds” it said. Nirvana was imminent. Except it wasn’t. Three minutes later the voice repeated that a person would appear in 15 seconds. And so it continued for another 20 minutes.

My anger was growing by the second. I decided there was no way I was buying a thing from this disgusting, frustrating incompetent firm, but I was going to hold on until a real person answered so I could deliver my welling fury.

Finally, an answer from a person. But the person failed to even acknowledge the ridiculous wait. He was from some call center in India or the Philippines reading from a script.

I exploded into my rant and hung up. Then I called up a competing apparel catalog and ordered some khakis from a lady who talked to me with a pleasant southern drawl.

It was a lesson from customer service 101. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. If you drop the ball, immediately own up to your shortcomings. A client will accept a deficiency if corrected. Everybody hates to be lied to, especially by a machine.

In customer service every detail is important, but above all the customer must have faith in the honesty and commitment of the seller of goods and services.

We all mess up in our work. This blog may have a typo or a grammatical error, but we work very conscientiously to catch every mistake. You have inspection machines and quality control departments. But your client will occasionally catch a mistake. How you handle the error may determine the future of your business, because it is your ultimate signature.

To live is to screw up. To own up and quickly correct is the mark of integrity and allows for the possibility of success.

Question: What are your best and worst experiences with retailers?

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5 thoughts on “Thanks For Your Patience

  1. Rod Hatcher

    Been there, done that. If I have really good control of my temper (which is rare) I simply tell them they have lost the sale.

    Of course there is my personal favorite. You catch them in an outright lie. After explaining how I know they are lying they agree with me and go on to tell me how they never lie. (grrrr….)

  2. Jack

    For worst, first one comes to mind is our ISP (internet, phone, TV). They lie and you can hardly understand them. But I love my DVR.
    Best, probably Cabela’s, not too long of wait and person you can understand. I usually ask where they’re from, they will say somewhere in the Midwest.

    Lloyd – I didn’t find any mistakes.

  3. Bob Bolhouse

    My un-favorite is a recent call to my WOW internet provider. On the same day I got the monthly bill, I got a mailer soliciting people to sign up for $20 a month less than I was paying. Great! I can get a reduction in my bill – NOT.

    At WOW you get to talk to a real person. The first thing they say is “Thank you for being a long time loyal customer”. However, when I ask for the new lower rate, they say – “Sorry, that is for new customers only.”

    At least the message was politely delivered by a real person.

  4. Kim

    Most recently, an incredibly long phone call with Auto Club roadside assistance who literally took half an hour to find Cedar Grove ranger station/campground in Kings Canyon National park on the map. (He could only find one location in the park: Grant Grove.) Although the local towing company is well familiar with the area, the Auto Club rep had to have a specific GPS location before calling a local tow truck. He had to get help from a supervisor to find it. There is really only one road into the park so it’s not that hard to figure out.

    It wasn’t a foreign call center; I’m pretty certain the operators were somewhere in the US. I also spent some time back and forth between him and supervisors deciding if that was in northern or southern California. Finally got transferred to the northern California person, who talked so slow, and was so clueless I was actually sorry to not still be dealing with the apologetic, but map incompetent first person. He said the tow truck would be there in half an hour – a ridiculous promise since the road into the park is more than 30 miles of windy mountain road. More than 1 1/2 hours later the tow truck arrived. Fortunately the driver was far more competent than the Auto Club roadside assistance operators.

  5. Victor

    Lloyd, thanks for the post.

    Personally, I try to avoid calling companies outside of regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 9AM-6PM) for exactly that reason. Even though they may advertise “24/7 always open”, the nights and weekends may be just a skeleton crew – fewer workers and those that are there have less training and experience.

    If I had that experience in the middle of a work day I would judge it more harshly than on a Friday night.


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