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ALLAS -- Baltimore is the slowest city in America--at least as measured by the average amount of time people spend waiting in line to check out at the grocery store, see a bank teller, purchase clothes, or get a quick meal, according to a recent survey from the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) here.
The 2006 Wait Time Survey, commissioned by the MSPA, solicited more than 10,000 responses from mystery shoppers throughout North America. The depth and detail obtained in the survey is objective information that required sending mystery shoppers into consumer locations, rather than depending on information collected through phone or Web-based surveys.
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The survey concentrated on wait times throughout the continent, with an emphasis on the Top 25 U.S. cities based on population. Survey participants were asked to measure the time they spent waiting in line at banks, clothing retailers, department stores, fast-food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, grocery stores, gas station convenience stores, retail outlets, and retail specialty stores.
Phoenix, which scored an average wait time of 3.05 (3 minutes, 5 seconds) was the fastest city in America, besting Portland, Ore. (3.30) and Minneapolis (3.41). New York City and Los Angeles both fared poorly, tying for 21st out of 25 cities in terms of overall wait time at 4.31. Rounding out the bottom were Detroit (4.52), Washington, D.C. (4.58) and Baltimore (5.13).
Shoppers were also asked if the amount of time they waited in line would affect their desire to return to the same retail location, and this information was used to create a "Return Ratio" that helped to measure the tolerance of shoppers to wait times in each city.
Again, Baltimore wound up as the worst, with a return ratio of 77.3 percent, meaning that just 77.3 percent of shoppers would go back to the same location in Baltimore based on the wait time.
Other poor return ratios were earned by Washington, D.C., with 77.6 percent; Cleveland, with 77.7 percent; Orlando, with 78.1 percent; and Detroit, with 79.6 percent.
More complete results of the survey can be found the MSPA Web site, www.mysteryshop.org, including a comparison of each city by the major categories: banking, clothing stores, department stores, fast food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, and grocery stores.