Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pet Peeve: Business Hours

By Susan Esther Barnes

Disclaimer: My husband says sometimes I get too hung up on a single word or phrase. I suspect this is one of those times.

Today I needed to talk with my email provider about my account via live chat. It was some nonsense about how when we moved two years ago they closed my old internet account and opened a new one, but my email account wasn’t moved so my email would be disabled unless I gave them permission to transfer my email account to my active internet account.

That was mildly irritating in itself, but then they told me the issue would be corrected in “24 to 72 business hours.” What the heck does that mean?

I spent 15 years managing customer service call centers, and any time I noticed a phone representative referring to “business hours,” I reminded them that all of our timeframes were given in “business days,” not “hours.”

Why? Because everyone knows what a business day is. If I say, “This will be done in one to three business days,” you know it will be done one to three days from now, unless a weekend or holiday intervenes, in which case you don’t count the weekend or holiday days. Simple.

If you say, “24 to 72 business hours,” I’m left wondering, “Do you mean one to three business days? If so, just say so.”

Because you didn’t just say so, the logical part of my brain says, “Well, if he/she didn’t use the common ‘business days’ term, he/she must have meant something else. If their business is open 12 hours a day, then 24 to 72 business hours must be two to six days, not counting weekends or holidays.”

But of course, I may not know what hours your business is open unless I ask, so I don’t know how to translate your “business hours” into “actual” days or hours. And why should you make me have to translate anyway?

In this case, just last night I saw a TV ad that says the company that provides my email has live customer service representatives available to me 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So for them, “24 to 72 business hours” not only means “one to three business days,” it actually means “one to three days” period, because they work all day and night, every day of the year.

Why can’t they just say so?


  1. I completely agree with this. Maybe they think it sounds more professional and business-like this way? It makes no sense.

  2. ohmygoodness i am *laughing* because i so think like this!! wish we could grab that coffee and kvetch about this and more! xo