Business phrase of the month: “within x business hours”

When a company says they’ll do something “within 24 business hours,” what exactly do they mean?

I think they probably usually mean “within 1 business day,” and that someone thought it would be cute or sound faster or something if they converted days into hours. But hard to know for sure; maybe they mean “within 3 business days.” Or something else entirely.

But whatever they mean by it, it's an ambiguous and confusing phrase, and I wish companies would stop using it.

I think my first encounter with the phrase was in 2004, when I saw it on an Apple customer-service page. But it’s still in occasional use here in 2020.

I even once got a note saying that an organization would reply to my email within 72 business hours. I assumed they meant three business days, but it seemed possible that they meant nine business days. Or maybe they did business 18 hours a day and they meant four business days?

(Wrote most of this post in 2013, but neglected to publish it.)

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