If you haven't read or heard about it already, you should look at this study about wait times in coffee shops. The study was conducted in Boston, by a professor and undergrads from Middlebury College, which is cool. Basically what they found was that, even allowing for the fact that women are more likely than men to order "fancy drinks," women's wait time was significantly longer than that of men.
As a former barista, and a woman who frequents coffee shops, I found the study quite fascinating. First, I acknowledge that I was pretty bad at customer service. I don't like people, and bitchy women ordering "skinny vanilla lattes" are just about the worst thing ever. But I could make coffee and do it fast. One interesting part of the study found that when the staff was all female, wait times for women were still longer, but not statistically significant.
So the upshot is that women are nicer to women, but men make women wait longer. Why? It's an interesting study, and I wonder what kinds of conclusions we can make. It will be interesting to see what economists and sociologists make of this. Hmmm.
It also reminded me of a time I was at a party and a friend of a friend told me that I should smile more. At the time I was working as a cashier at a food co-op. She said it was part of customer service. I made the argument that I was paid to scan and total groceries. I understand, of course, that being nice is part of it. But every once in awhile a person has a bad day, right? And I have the right to be in a bad mood, right? But she seemed to think that smiling and being fake was part of the deal. Maybe. This friend of a friend said she didn't like to come through my line because I was intimidating. I don't understand this. How can you be intimidated by a person who is ringing up your groceries? In practice, I liked this aspect. It meant when I was working with the young, flirty girls, my line would be empty, while hippy men lined up to be helped by them. Great for me, I thought. I can stand here and drink coffee while she works. I should also add to this that I had the best record for till correctness of any cashier. They wanted me to become a manager. Ha! I quit to go to graduate school. Thank god. That job would have killed me.
But it begs the question, do we discriminate against customers based on gender? Did I? I don't think so. Though I have to say, in my memory of terrible customers both at the coffee bar and at the co-op, all of them were women. Men, in general, seemed to care less about my general mood. As long as I made their coffee and it was fast, they didn't care. I really did hate those non-fat vanilla latte women. Hated them!
I also had some high maintenance shoppers at the co-op. Once a woman returned more than a hundred dollars worth of cleaning supplies. I sighed heavily and did the return. Then I went back to the customer service desk and told the supervisor that the woman who I had just helped was going to come complain about me. And when she did, the supervisor said, "Yeah, I know." It was actually kind of funny. I just can't stand the shoppers who feel they deserve special attention just for doing what everyone else is doing: shopping.
Which is why my customer service career came to an end. But not quickly enough for me. Never.
So my opinion is, yeah, women probably wait longer. Maybe men are just less likely to put up with perceived bitchiness. Or maybe they are just sexist pigs. A little from column A, a little from column B?