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Stats on Waiting—Where, Who, How Long?

One urban legend holds that we spend three years of our life waiting. It's a great stat, but likely untrue. But here are some real stats about waiting. New Yorkers lead the nation in wait time. According to a 25-city survey, New Yorkers spend an average of 6 minutes and 51 seconds waiting in individual store lines. Miami comes in second at 6 minutes and 44 seconds. Who spends the least time? Clevelanders—they spend just 4 minutes and 33 seconds in line.

Which lines do people hate the most? Grocery store checkout lines. The same survey also found that half of consumers have refused to return to stores that had long wait times. The average wait times for doctors is 24 minutes. But in urban areas and among certain specialties, the waits can be much longer. Neurosurgeons have the longest wait times—30 minutes, on average. Why? "All patients have questions for their doctor, but not surprisingly surgical patients have more questions about the procedure, process, and expected outcomes." The average wait time for an ER visit was a staggering 4 hours and 7 minutes in 2009.

Do you hate waiting? Don't move to Russia. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association sent its spies to wait in lines in stores, banks, post offices, and drugstores in 24 European countries and found that Russian customers spent the most time waiting in queues, followed by the Italians and Bulgarians. The Swedes got off easy, just 2.2 minutes per line.

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