Time is money: What is worth your time?

April 26, 2017|

Time is the one thing we can’t get back or make more of. That makes time one of the most precious commodities we have. Every day, people exchange their time, on the job, for money that they use to buy things. Things like lunch, shoes, cars and homes.

Have you ever considered how much “time” you give up to buy something? Consider:

Andy makes $20,000 a year. After taxes, one hour of work time nets Andy $6.34.

Charlie makes $40,000 a year. After taxes, one hour of work time nets Charlie $12.68.

Dorian makes $80,000 a year. After taxes, one hour of time nets Dorian $25.36.

A meal deal at Sonic costs Andy an hour of time. If Andy eats lunch out every day it costs him 20 hours of his work life a month to earn the money for the meals. That’s half a week of time!  Charlie spends half an hour of time to buy the meal. Dorian gives up 15 minutes to make the cost of the meal. It doesn’t matter how much one makes. Each one trades some amount of their precious time for the meal.

Look at the same scenario at a higher level. This time it is a new, $30,000 Chevrolet. Andy will trade 591 days of life to buy the car based on an eight-hour workday. Charlie will give up almost a year of life to buy the car. If Charlie works 40 years and buys four cars during that time, he has given up one-tenth of his life in exchange. Dorian will spend 30 weeks to buy the car.

When you think of spending time instead of money to buy things, time takes on a different perspective. But, since we use money as the medium of exchange it is easier to trade in dollars than hours, so we don’t think of the time. Even more sinister, we now use debit cards, so we never even touch the unit of exchange. We don’t count the dollar bills anymore; we simply swipe a card. I remember when the slot machines in Las Vegas paid out in silver dollars. Then they found it more lucrative to pay out in special casino cash (coins). Today, it’s credits you can neither see nor hold that you spend and collect. It further separates the player from the concept of the time it took to earn the cash being wagered.

To put time and money into proper perspective, you have to realize that some people would give up their fortunes for a few more days of life. Money gets cheaper when you are running out of time.

What does this have to do with marketing? I stopped at a fast food restaurant last week and bought a grilled chicken sandwich. I hit the interstate and removed the sandwich from the bag. Three small pieces of chicken fell out onto the seat and floor. I’ve had this sandwich before, so I knew it was not prepared correctly. Since I gave up some of my time to buy it I took it back to the manager the next morning. She was grateful and appalled, and she apologized. I simply wanted her to know make sure that someone else wasn’t afforded the same poor experience for his or her time.

You, the customer, have a responsibility to hold the seller responsible and be sure the time you spend and hard work you endure to make a purchase are rewarded to their fullest. This means if you spend a few hours of time to buy a really nice dinner for two, you should expect quality food and an experience that is worth the time. When you give up an hour of time in the form of a tip, it should be for exemplary service, if you value your time. Requiring the business you are giving your time up for to give you value for your money is paramount, whether it’s fast food or a white linen restaurant.

For the seller, it means recognizing that the people who come through the door to spend their money with your establishment have given up some of their life to do so. Some have given more life than others, and sometimes the ones who give up the most are the least appreciated. Take the time to make their contribution worthwhile. Instruct your employees as to the value of money and what it represents. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big-ticket item or something small. Time only comes in one measure.

And if you are a fast food restaurant, for goodness’ sake, put a napkin in the bag so I don’t have to spend the time to stop, get out and come inside.

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