Brits will only wait five minutes for a drink and 17 for a date

Business people standing in queue at airport

We may have an international reputation for queuing and failing to complain, but British patience appears to be wearing a bit thin. According to a new study, we will snap if we're forced to wait at a bar for more than five minutes, or wait for a train for more than 13 minutes. But is this a sad decline in moral fibre, or a breakthrough for British customers?

The study, by parcel broker Interparcel, asked people how long they were prepared to wait for a number of things before losing patience. The final list was unsurprisingly topped by waiting for a web page to load - for which we're not prepared to wait more than ten seconds. Likewise, we get impatient if we're forced to wait more than 16 seconds for a video to buffer.

However, it also revealed just how snappy we expect service to be - with drinks service within five minutes, and food within 24 minutes. We'll be unhappy if we have to wait more than four and a half days for something we ordered to be delivered, regardless of where in the world it was posted. And if we're making a call, we expect companies to make us wait no longer than eight minutes on hold, and doctors' surgeries just nine minutes.

The study also found that half of all people felt they were less patient than they used to be, while a third said they had "no patience".
Should we be worried?

On one hand, the decline of patience makes for a more angry and stressful world. The study showed that we are irritable after queuing for more than eight minutes for a train ticket, waiting for a delayed train for 13 minutes, waiting for a bus for 13 minutes, or sitting in traffic for 13 minutes. Given that these are unavoidable aspects of every-day life, you have to ask what we are gaining by adding high expectations and irritation to the daily commute.

It also showed that we're unhappy after waiting at the post office for ten minutes. And given that so many complex transactions are done at the post office - by some of the most vulnerable people in society - surely there's an argument that someone who only leaves the house twice a week should be allowed to pay their bills without angry tuts from letter posters in a hurry.

The study also showed that we have a ten-minute limit on putting up with a screaming child in a restaurant. Anyone who has been lucky enough to be looking after a screaming child in a restaurant knows that it's stressful enough trying to placate their offspring; without knowing they have exactly ten minutes before their fellow diners start complaining.

And we could be missing out as a result of our lack of patience. Apparently we get cross after waiting 17 minutes for a date running late: and if we can't hold our temper at the start of a date, it's not going to look particularly attractive to our prospective partner.

The benefits

On the other hand, being happy to wait is not always a positive. The survey found that we're prepared to wait one-and-three-quarter years for a pay rise. Imagine if we were more tolerant: we'd be waiting for years for a modicum of financial recognition for our efforts - during which time our pay would be stretched more and more each year.

There's also a strong argument that it's important for us to draw the line when customer service is unacceptable. If anyone from your local restaurant to your energy supplier or your bank fails to help in a reasonable amount of time, then we should be irritated - and then we should vote with our feet.

Ditching poor service not only improves your life immeasurably, but also sends a message to the company that it has to improve or it will lose all its customers.

There is a fine line between being too demanding - and making life miserable because of your constant irritation - and being just demanding enough - to eliminate these irritations from your daily life, and encourage those around you to make improvements.

Which side of that line do you fall?

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