Your Estimated Wait Time Is

Today I was on the phone going through Apple Computer’s automated phone directory when, at the end of automation, the voice said, “Your estimated wait time is…Six-hundred fifty seconds.”

Dumbfounded and startled by the delivery of wait-time in seconds, I clicked on the calculator button on my computer to calculate how many minutes that would be. Luckily, “650” is almost 60 seconds more than 600, and 600 seconds is 10 minutes, so I was able to do the calculation in my head. But what if I called at noon? Would the wait time be given in seconds or minutes? What is going on here?

In conclusion, this is totally weird but completely awesome, but only because it’s completely boggling.

DanObservations07/28/05 5 comments


Patrick • 07/29/05 5:23 PM:

Why would noon make a difference? Do you think they’re expecting people not to make the calculation, and that 650 seconds sounds like less than 11 minutes? “Oh, it’s only 650 seconds, that’s not too bad.” Do you think the reps have to click on something to let the computer wait-time system know approximately how long they’re going to be? They have a menu of choices like “a) Windbag, b) Verbose, c) Numbskull who doesn’t understand simple instructions, so I’m going to have to go over the same thing repeatedly, d) Fairly intelligent listener who should be done very soon, e) etc…”?

Dad • 07/29/05 6:04 PM:

Yeah, why would noon make any difference? I’m assuming Apple gives wait time in seconds because they want to be different. As to how they do it, they obviously talk to those restaurant hostesses who tell you how long before they’ll take you for dinner. Which raises the same question: do they decide to be accurate or give you a time that optimizes the number of customers? If they tell you 2-hours, you’re gone, man. But if they tell you 5 min. you’re going to wait, right? As for Apple, do they want you to hang on or do they want to get rid of you? My guess is they want you to hang up, so they give time in seconds to make it sound longer. I could go on speculataing, but I don’t want to be verbose.

Dan • 07/29/05 6:13 PM:

Well, I’ve called before and have gotten an estimated wait time in minutes. So the real question is, do they want you to hang up?

With hosting in restaurants, I have my own theory. If you’re really really busy, you overestimate the wait time. So, a 40 minute wait goes up to 50 minutes. You’re going to lose some people, but you won’t lose any business (and being too busy as a restaurant is usually a good thing). If you’re slow, you underestimate the wait time. So, a 10 minute wait becomes becomes “about 5 minutes”. Nobody leaves because of a 10-minute wait, and if they do then they’re probably crappy customers and will want their food recooked 6 or 7 times and won’t tip well.

Dad • 07/29/05 6:29 PM:

If it’s slow, why is there a wait time at all? Just bring me right in! And if you’re really busy, you should still underestimate the wait time so the real die-hard, solid customers will wait around. If they notice the wait time is off, just tell them, “It’s really hard to estime the time when everyone is having so much fun.”

You still haven’t explained what noon has to do with anything.

David • 07/29/05 9:53 PM:

Speaking of being on hold - here’s an NPR segment titled, Hold, Please — And Enjoy the Music. It’s about a company who pays composers to write music for telephone waiting times. Although the music itself is not so hot, it is rather interesting. Have a listen.

By the way, NPR on the internet is awesome. I can just zip on there everyday and hear all the cool stories without having to listen to all the Iraq news and the fundraisering.

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