The Punctuality Reciprocity Observation

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The Punctuality Reciprocity Observation: The obligation for honoring one’s appointments is reciprocal between customer and business. An individual’s time is worth as much as that of a business or business owner.

It’s a struggle to see posts about “no-shows” in a profession. It’s a common theme in social media, especially with family and friends as they deal with smaller businesses.

I tend to want to write on the posts and gently say, “Move on to another business,” as everyone involved is participating voluntarily and the world is full of other opportunities. This is doubly true when I see friends and family squabbling over ongoing discourtesy with appointments and obligations.

Although our opinions vary regarding the importance of punctuality, we all can agree that where business is concerned, it is discourteous to have a track record of being late, forgetful, or inattentive.

It’s true that a person’s livelihood depends on reliability from the customer.

The obligation is reciprocal, however.

Any customer is likely to have a busy schedule, too, perhaps with a business of their own. It’s incredibly short-sighted for business owners to complain that they shouldn’t be held accountable for punctuality. Their customers are in the same boat, rowing through life with a multitude of obligations and responsibilities. In your role as a business owner, it is entirely on you to design your life, business, and tools in a such a way as to eliminate the chance that a customer will be relegated to the ‘lesser’ priority.

As a customer, it is your responsibility to honor your commitments to the business – and willingly pay the penalty for not holding up your end of the agreement.

I practice what I preach.

Small business owners are people, too, of course. This means that while they tend to judge themselves through the lens of good intentions, they also tend to assume worse motivations for other people, especially customers, as they arrive late, forget appointments, don’t tip as expected, etc.

We forgive ourselves and blame others to a varying degree.

If you are doing business with a friend, it’s more important than ever to proceed cautiously. You have to decide whether the friendship is worth the risk of becoming frustrated with someone who seemingly doesn’t appreciate one’s time or loyalty.

To be clear, I’m not referring to one-off instances of letting someone down. Most of us understand that there is a difference between sustained discourteousness and a one-time problem. We can overlook any excuse, reason or craziness once, twice, and sometimes three times – and probably laugh about it later. Each situation is different, however, and even this general exception can be ignored in some circumstances.

I once gave up and sold a house after countless upgrades and renovations: windows, siding, doors, electrical, plumbing, and trees. I simply couldn’t get a contractor to return, even if we agreed to exorbitant pricing. We had already been the victims of contractor fraud – for several thousand dollars and had multiple instances of people simply not showing up, calling, or following up.

For my part, I work hard to have a “default” position. If I agree to an appointment, I have no problem paying a penalty if I no-show. This is especially true if the business is unable to replace my absence with another customer. In my case, I see the necessity of it. My wife laughs at me about this sometimes. That’s okay. When I do have a problem I like to think it gives me a slight advantage. If I’m willing to pay for being late for forgetting a business appointment, I can more easily expect the same from a business. I often overtip for the same reason, even if the service was atrocious. As with lateness, I can almost always laugh it off. Sometimes, though, it is beyond vexing and in those instances, I want the ability to freely criticize.
There are too many modern conveniences to help us manage our calendars and obligations. A business owner has no valid reason to excuse away a customer’s needs. Things happen to all of us. A business owner has an extra level of required diligence, however, as she or she is the one advertising to others that outside responsibilities and negligence won’t affect the product or service they provide.

In my experience, I’ve learned that a business which forgets or ignores an appointment even once is a red flag. It’s easy to forgive and forget most nuisances regarding a business or person failing to show up or waste your time. As these instances accumulate, however, you learn that it’s better to move on to someone with an untried record. It’s true that the next choice might be no better, but at least hard feelings won’t pile up beyond those involved.

I think most of us will agree that people who are late or no-shows tend to continue to exhibit the same behavior; the only thing which changes is our accumulated frustration with it.

For small business owners: release customers if they aren’t reliable with appointments or payment, even if they are friends or family.

For customers, reward attentiveness with your presence and money. In lieu of resentment, though, move on to another business, one which needs and values your time and dollars.

If you do business with a friend, try to separate your connection from the necessity of moving along before your connection becomes strained by resentment.

The truth is that most people avoid confrontation at any cost. They simply walk away without explanation. It’s awkward for everyone involved.

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