ARG-175

The following memorandum is from the business manager of Happy Pancake House restaurants.

"Recently, butter has been replaced by margarine in Happy Pancake House restaurants throughout the southwestern United States. This change, however, has had little impact on our customers. In fact, only about 2 percent of customers have complained, indicating that an average of 98 people out of 100 are happy with the change. Furthermore, many servers have reported that a number of customers who ask for butter do not complain when they are given margarine instead. Clearly, either these customers do not distinguish butter from margarine or they use the term 'butter' to refer to either butter or margarine."


Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.


In this memorandum, the business manager of the Happy Pancake Restaurant ( HPR ) mentions that after they changed their butter to margarine, only 2% of customers have complained, and servers also claimed to have received very few complaints. Thus the manager concludes that the evidence shows that the change has not had significant impact on their clientele. However, without ruling out several alternative explanations, her conclusion could remain, at best, problematic.


To begin, despite only 2% of customers having complained, that does not really mean that others are satisfied with the change. The manager assumes that this figure accurately indicates customers' response to the replacement. However, perhaps only a few people ordered food that needed butter. As a result, even though the proportion of complaining customers to all customers is small, the proportion of complaining customers to customers that ordered butter-related dishes could still be high. This scenario, if true, would mean that many of the customers affected by the change did indeed complain.


Granted that every dish involves butter, the 2% complaint rate is still not tantamount to a 98% satisfaction rate. The rationale behind the managers reasoning is that all unsatisfied customers would necessarily file a complaint. However, maybe out of courtesy, most customers did not complain, but simply chose not to patronize the restaurant again. As a result, the manager may still observe very few complaints while the restaurants’ business has already suffered a heavy blow. Thus, more information regarding the number of returning customers is needed so as to rule out this alternative possibility.


As for the servers' report, it does not lend adequate support to the manager’s explanation. This line of reasoning once again is vulnerable to the counterexample that dissatisfied customers may choose to hold back their temper. However, more importantly, servers may not always honestly inform the manager of every negative comment they receive. When a server receives a complaint that she believes is minor she may address it herself by, say, apologizing to the customer and offering a coupon or a free dessert, instead of reporting it to her superior. Especially if servers' wages or tips are connected with customer feedback, they have all the e more reasons not to report every complaint they receive. Obviously, the author’s idea that customers either don't distinguish between butter and margarine or that they don’t care which one they are given is far from being the only reasonable explanation for her observation.


All in all, the manager’s argument is weak, with plenty of loopholes She needs to take into consideration all aforementioned alternatives before reaching a solid conclusion about the impact of the change.



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