Etiquette of Making and Keeping Appointments

Person writing on a wall calendar.
Use a calendar to keep track of appointments. Alan Shortall/Photolibrary/Getty Images

One of the rudest things you can do is make an appointment and not honor it. Whether you are late or simply don't show up, you are showing the other person that you don't care about his or her time.

The value of time becomes more precious as we get busier in life, so when you schedule an appointment with anyone, you need to see it as a valuable commodity. Never intentionally waste that time or treat it without the respect it deserves.

If you schedule an appointment, proper etiquette dictates that you keep it.

Scheduling

Before planning your appointments, look at your calendar and check for conflicts. You are better off letting the receptionist know that you're busy than booking it and having to change it later.

It doesn't matter what king of appointment you are booking – medical, dental, hairdresser, nails, or any type of consultation. The person you are meeting with probably depends on kept appointments to earn a living.

Conflicts

Most professionals know that conflicts may arise at the last minute, and they'll do their best to reschedule you for a more convenient time. Call, apologize for the inconvenience, and choose another time that works for both of you. If you are unsure of a specific time, don't book an appointment then because you don't want to be known as a chronic schedule changer.

Rescheduling

When you must reschedule, give the other person the opportunity to let you know when he or she is available.

Don't go on and on about how busy you are. That doesn't fly since the other person is probably just as busy.

You also need to be the one who calls and changes the appointment. Relying on an assistant may put you right back in the same position of having to reschedule again because there might be something on your calendar he or she isn't aware of.

Always call to reschedule rather than rely on texting or email. The back and forth conversation can save time and hard feelings. State your name, ask if this is a good time to discuss rescheduling, and simply say that you can't make the appointment. This isn't a time for lame excuses.

Confirmation

Many doctors, dentists, and other professionals call, email, or text to confirm appointments. Reply as soon as you see it. If you can't make the appointment, use that opportunity to change the time. Don't think that ignoring it cancels you out.

Be on Time

Make it a point to show up for your appointment at the designated time. Don't make excuses for being late. Allow for traffic congestion if you'll be driving during rush hour. Give yourself an extra five or ten minutes to allow for any unexpected delays.

If you know that you can't make the appointment on time, call as soon as possible. Don't wait until you're supposed to be there or later. Make sure you have the number available to call on your cell phone if you get stuck in a traffic jam.

Even if the doctor has a history of overbooking, you should keep your end of the agreement. You may discuss your dissatisfaction if you're unhappy about being kept waiting, but don't be intentionally late.

Here are some basic rule-of-thumb best times to arrive:

  • Job interviews – 5 minutes early unless you are asked to get there sooner to fill out more paperwork.
  • Business meeting – 5 minutes early to get seated before the meeting begins.
  • Medical or dental appointment – 5 to 10 minutes early unless you are a first-time patient and need to fill out medical forms.
  • Hair salon, barbershop, or nail salon – 5 minutes early. If you show up late, you may discover your appointment has been given to a walk-in or someone on the waiting list.
  • Dinner party – Specified time to 5 minutes late. You don't want to get there while the host is still getting ready.
  • Get-together with friends – 5 minutes early to right on time. Call if you're running late.
  • Wedding or funeral – at least 15 minutes early. You don't want to arrive when it's time for the bride to walk down the aisle. You'll need to express your sympathy to the family of the deceased and find your place before the funeral begins.