How often does Amazon fail to deliver Prime shipments in two days? I have no idea -- I know it has happened to me sometimes, but they don't publish the metric. What is the average wait time on the phone with the IRS? We don't know. What is the average wait time at a TSA checkpoint? We don't know.
One thing we most certainly do know, and can know any time on any day, is the current wait time for any Disney ride. I bring this up because some goofball in the Obama Administration made this absurd statement trying to justify the lack of transparency for VA wait times:
When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” McDonald said Monday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”
Bruce McQuain rightly points out the downside of a longer wait for Space Mountain is just a tiny bit lower than the downside of waiting for heart surgery.
But I want to add that this statement is not even close to being factually correct on its face. Here is an example of a site that has Disney ride wait times in real time, but there are dozens of apps and sites with this info because Disney makes the data public in an API most anyone can access. (My favorite is Touring Plans, which has built a whole Disney trip planning business on top of Disney published wait time data -- as an aside, if you are a Disney fan or future visitor, you should join).
But I would go further. I know for a fact that Disney spends a ton of time internally planning and improving ride throughput and capacity entirely with an eye to reducing wait times (and also, by the way, to making design changes that make ride waits more enjoyable with in-line activities). They have a sophisticated operational research staff working on this all the time, and they are constantly tweaking their Fastpass system which would not even begin to work correctly if they did not understand ride wait times down to the second decimal place. And by the way, if their management found out that some folks in their organization were fudging line wait time data, I am pretty sure the offenders would not be working there any more (as they are at the VA).
Postscript: I am still amazed by the fail here. Anyone who has been to Disney even once will know that all wait times are displayed all over the park on boards, and that at each ride, every few minutes a customer will get an electronic card at the beginning of the ride that precisely times their wait. Seriously, where do they get folks like this who can blithely utter nonsense as if they know what they are talking about. The whole premise is screwed up. Yes, good service companies measure overall satisfaction. This is marginally useful data, but what does one do with it? To really fix and improve the experience, one also has to measure many important bits of the experience. Saying that one should pay attention to only one output metric and nothing else would get you laughed out of any quality course I have ever been to.
Update: Also, I would add that there is a lot of market pressure on the wait time issue pushing Disney to improvement on lines, market pressure that does not exist on the VA (which is one reason they totally lack any accountability). Disney has its FastPass system for helping guests manage ride waits, but both Universal and Six Flags have their own different systems (Universal has a higher level ticket you can buy that gets you preferred access to all rides, Six Flags Magic Mountain has a pager system where you tell it which ride you want to do next and they page you when your place is ready).