How Do You Get People To Actually Show Up On Time?

How Do You Get People To Actually Show Up On Time?

No one can be exactly on time, and we all make mistakes now and again. Still, there are large numbers of people who cannot manage to show up when they say they will. How do you solve this problem?

I’ve never put a lot of effort into friends who are consistently late. I don’t mean 5, 10, or even 15 minutes late, but over an hour (at least). I think it’s easy enough to just ignore that problem because you can’t change people, but there will always be situations where you have to interact with people who just suck at being on time.

For the past few days I’ve been trying to sell some old portable hard drives on Craigslist and gotten a reasonable amount of interest. While some people call, say they want to meet at a certain time, and then show up at that time, more people pick a time and then do not show up at all. Most people, so far, have expected me to wait for them. One person got very angry with me when I wouldn’t sell him a drive because he showed up six hours late and I’d already gone to bed. Obviously this guy was a little nuts, but most people just don’t show up and think it’s fine.

How do you handle people like this? And what’s a good way to know if they’re perpetually late to avoid them altogether?


  • My brother in law use to be late. Always late for everything. Like, a large group of us would go out for dinner and there would be ten of us sitting around for an hour waiting for him to show up.
    It use to shit me to tears that we would all sit and wait for him to show, all getting frustrated and hungry, but no one would do or say anything to him about it.
    I kept saying “Stuff him. Why should we wait? He shouldnt be late. We all shouldnt be waiting on him.”
    So, one night, I did just that and went ahead and ordered. So everyone else ordered too.
    When he later showed up and we were all eating he lost the plot at us saying how rude and inconsiderate we all are. So I, the one whos not directly related to him, was the only one to start getting stuck into him.

    Anyway, the next couple of outings we went ahead and ordered without him. He still got shitty. But soon enough he started arriving on time. . . for everything.

    If people dont act against late comers then the late comers will never learn.
    Its our stupid good will that lets late comers walk all over us.
    Fuck ’em! Theyre late. They can miss out.

  • A guy in our group of friends, Adam, was consistently ~1hr late. We start telling him the time when things were on an hour in advance. Without telling him, we referred to this as ‘Adam time’. The party starts at 8pm, or 7pm ‘Adam Time’. It worked brilliantly for months, until one time he turned up exactly on time, and no one else arrived for an hour. Then the cat was out of the bag.

  • My way is to send e-mails to them asking for this or that (i.e., confirm meet times/etc) and if takes them a very long time to reply (i.e., more than 24hrs for me) I just assume that they aren’t going to be on time once we meet so I make sure I have something to do for one hour+ (like a magazine, or something like that).

    Sure you could argue they ‘have a life’/etc, but perhaps that also means they won’t even show up because they ‘have a life’. EVERYONE I know checks their e-mail AT LEAST once a day, if not constantly having it open (most are gmail so it automatically updates when a new mail hits).

    I also check how they type.
    If it is short-hand, ‘lyk dis n lol’ then generally I assume that if they are so lazy that they can’t be bothered to type words properly then perhaps they’ll be just as lazy in not getting to meeting points in time.

    Still, for Uni group assignment meetings I e-mail them 48hrs beforehand, then reminder 24hrs; then I send them an SMS 2hrs beforehand.

  • We tried the “major announcement” at the beginning of the evening and that didn’t work either. Some people are just habitually late so now we say on our invitations that if you are later than 15 minutes and you don’t call or message someone in the group, we will order or begin without you. Sometimes we won’t invite the consistent late comers at all.

  • My brother is consistently late. Much like the above poster, I’ve developed “James Standard Time” or “JST”. We simply take the average of how late he was in the previous month, and adjust the times we tell him for future events. Works pretty well.

  • I interacted with a company at one stage, who always started their meetings on time, chaired by the most senior member present. If anyone was late, it was their problem, not everyone else’s. It didn’t matter if it was the managing Director who was late, it was still his responsibility to catch up later.

  • Tell the people that you will be leaving for another appointment soon after or have a fixed window of time that you can see them. And when they are late, just SMS them and tell them that you are not available and for them to reschedule another time.

    If they are related or are friends, have a “Late Fee Coin Jar”. For example, they have to put in $1 for every 10mins they are late. That coin jar can then be used to buy beers a few weeks later. Make the negative into a positive. The more someone is late, the more they contribute to the beer money 🙂

  • I just give people a good buffer zone, these days it’s easy to kill time on your phone or something like that. If someone shows up early you can also hang out with them until everyone else arrives.

  • A friend of mine is consistently late, so if we’re going out of an evening and meeting at a friend’s house to leave in a taxi together or for drinks around 7pm, we’ll ask here to be there by 5pm. She usually turns up about 7:30pm if that’s the case, which works out well for us; she has the disadvantage of missing out on a home made cocktail as punishment for being late, and we get to go on time.

  • For people that I know are consistently late, I schedule the meeting away from my office, maybe at a coffee shop. If they are more than 15 minutes late, I leave. I don’t call them, I just go. They are usually annoyed, but I explain that because they were the late party, and didn’t call me, I just assumed they had forgotten.
    They learn to respect that my time is as valuable as theirs, and I get a nice warm feeling that they have travelled some distance to a meeting that didn’t happen. If they are going to waste my time, I am going to waste a lot more of theirs!
    Success rate? 100% guaranteed! First time, every time!

  • With work meetings, you can set the action item bidding right up at the start time – anyone that’s late doesn’t get the assignment they want. Fixes it pretty well after a few sessions.

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