ARG-101

The following appeared in a letter from the owner of the Sunnyside Towers apartment complex to its manager.

"One month ago, all the showerheads in the first three buildings of the Sunnyside Towers complex were modified to restrict maximum water flow to one-third of what it used to be. Although actual readings of water usage before and after the adjustment are not yet available, the change will obviously result in a considerable savings for Sunnyside Corporation, since the corporation must pay for water each month. Except for a few complaints about low water pressure, no problems with showers have been reported since the adjustment. I predict that modifying showerheads to restrict water flow throughout all twelve buildings in the Sunnyside Towers complex will increase our profits even more dramatically."


Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.


In the letter, the owner of the Sunnyside Towers apartment complex predicts a dramatic profit increase for Sunnyside Corporation. His/her prediction relies heavily on the seemingly pleasing results from showerhead modifications in the first three buildings of the Sunnyside Towers complex. In those buildings, the maximum water flow has been restricted to one-third of what it used to be. While reducing the amount of shower water might be desirable both environmentally and financially, whether the author’s prediction is reasonable hinges on the answers to the following questions.

The first series of questions I am going to put forward revolve around the actual consequences brought about by modifying the maximum water flow. More specifically, I need to ask what the exact water usage readings are before and after the adjustment. Will people take longer showers now that the water flower is restricted? If the answer to this question is positive, then a decrease in water usage is not safely guaranteed and therefore the writer’s final prediction is open to doubt. On the contrary, if it turns out to be the other way around, then the prediction is strengthened instead. In addition, while the arguer claims that few problems with showers have been reported since the adjustment, it is still a question whether one-month period of time is too short for all problems to have emerged; have any problems or complaints been concealed or even suppressed? If the answer to either of these two questions is yes, then the argument’s prediction is undermined; otherwise it is shored up.

Witnessing the seemingly positive result of the showerhead adaptation, the author further recommends a wider application of the adaptation to all the twelve buildings in the Sunnyside Towers complex. However, before reaching that conclusion, we need to know whether such a generalization is hasty. The current few complaints might derive from the possibility that people who were not satisfied with the adaptation in the first three buildings went elsewhere for shower. Therefore, we need to ask whether it is possible that once we implement the author’s proposal and modify all the showerheads throughout all twelve buildings in the Sunnyside Towers complex, is the corporation going to lose the customers? If it will unfortunately suffer from a great loss of customers, then the prediction in the argument is unreasonable; in other circumstances it is not.

Even if people accept the showerhead modifications, whether such modification surely leads to a growth in profits remains an unanswered question. While we are informed that the corporation pays for water each month and therefore the water fee may decline due to the showerhead adjustments, we have no information concerning the modification expenses. Simply speaking, how do the savings resulting from the adjustments compare to the expense of adjusting them? If the savings are slight, then we cannot expect profits to rise and the author’s recommendation should therefore be rejected; but if the savings are significant, then the proposal should be encouraged.

While I sympathize with the author’s intention to reduce costs, whether we should resort to showerhead modification in all the buildings is subject to more consideration. We especially need to know how people react to the modifications, the adjustment expenses, and the potential savings as a result of the modifications.

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