ARG-071

The following is a recommendation from the business manager of Monarch Books.

"Since its opening in Collegeville twenty years ago, Monarch Books has developed a large customer base due to its reader-friendly atmosphere and wide selection of books on all subjects. Last month, Book and Bean, a combination bookstore and coffee shop, announced its intention to open a Collegeville store. Monarch Books should open its own in-store café in the space currently devoted to children's books. Given recent national census data indicating a significant decline in the percentage of the population under age ten, sales of children's books are likely to decline. By replacing its children's books section with a café, Monarch Books can increase profits and ward off competition from Book and Bean."


Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.


In this recommendation, the author holds that by replacing the children’s books section of Monarch Books (M) with a café, M could increase its profits and avoid competition from Book and Bean (BB). Astonishingly stimulating as this recommendation may sound, a couple of assumptions should be looked at in more depth.


To begin with, the fundamental assumption underlining the author’s conclusion is that BB will surely open its Collegeville (C) store. However, this assumption is ungrounded since the only information at hand is BB’s claim that they intend to open a new store at C, and they may not turn their claim into real action. Therefore, if it turns out that BB finally won’t open its new store, there would be no need to further discuss the author’s recommendation.


In addition, granted that BB will realize what they claim, the author’s recommendation could still be unnecessary due to another doubtful assumption that BB’s new store will pose a threat on M. The author may be too pessimistic to assume so. Simply speaking. BB may not have the competition as imagined. Also, even if BB will attract some customers at C, we should not ignore the reputation M has built in the past twenty years. Perhaps local customers are more likely to buy in M’s reader-friendly atmosphere and the wide range of books, which BB may not offer. In this case, the author does not need to consider how to ward off competition from BB.


Moreover, the author predicts that the sales of children’s books will decline simply from a national census. The assumption underlining his prediction is the validity of the census. However, this assumption is problematic. First, the result of the nations does not necessarily reflect the reality of C. It is likely that C has a different demographic structure with a higher birth rate than the rest of the country, which leads to an increasing proportion of children under ten years old. Second, even if the proportion of children under ten is also declining in C, the total population of C may be increasing. If so, the number of children will increase, and children’s books will not be harmed. Third, granted that the population of children would decline in the future, this does not mean a decline in children’s books’ sales because the number of books purchased per capita will rise. Finally, a higher price of books could offset the declining sales of children’s books. Therefore, if any of the aforementioned scenarios are true, the author’s assumption will be invalid, and his recommendation should not be implemented.


Finally, even if the sales of children’s books will decline in the future, we should further consider the feasibility of the author’s proposal of opening the in-store café. Here, the author assumes that the café could bring more benefits than before. However, by carefully scrutinizing the cost of his proposal, this assumption can be easily challenged. As we know, M has a reputation for a readers-friendly atmosphere and a wide selection of books. Thus, from the perspective of opportunity cost, once the café is open, the noise of making coffee will ruin the reading environment, and the cancellation of the children’s books section could make people think they will no longer meet their reading demand in M. Also, regarding the operation cost, M may not have experience in operating a café. The high cost of construction, procurement, and maintenance could further drain up the profit of M. All in all, if any of the cases mentioned above are true, the author’s assumption will be undermined. M will not benefit from his recommendation. Instead, M will lose money.


To sum up, while the author’s conclusion appears appealing, the questionable assumptions discussed above may deprive it of its feasibility.

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