Both empirical evidence and logic suggest that there is a strong negative correlation between waiting time and a customer's evaluation of the quality of a service. The evaluation of service, in turn, is related strongly to customers' loyalty and other important outcomes. A conceptual model, based on field theory, is developed. The model integrates key variables derived from recent studies of consumer waiting behavior. Also incorporated are relevant constructs from the extant services literature, including the roles of the disconfirmation of consumers' wait time expectations, prior service encounters, and the quality of the customer's encounter with the contact employee. Finally, data from actual consumers in a natural queueing context are used to test the theoretical framework. Analysis of the data, with the use of multiple regression, demonstrates a strong pattern of support for the field-theory-based hypotheses, confirming the important role of queue wait management in customer evaluations of service quality. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.