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AWA GRE Argument Essay: Happy Pancake House - With A Free Essay Review
GRE Argument Essay: Happy Pancake House
Prompt: '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 "Recently, butter has been replaced by margarine in Happy Pancake House restaurants throughout the southwestern United States.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.'
The explanation for measuring the amount of impact the change from butter to margarine has had on customers at the Happy Pancake House is flawed in several ways. Further, several alternative explanations may be valid reasons to understand why the impact on customers at the Happy Pancake House has been low.
First, it is an assumption that customers do not distinguish butter from margarine or use the term “butter” interchangeably with “margarine”. An alternative explanation may be that customers are not always told by their server which product they are receiving. Some margarine products are very close in texture and taste to butter and may therefore be indistinguishable from butter to some customers. Another explanation may be that some customers prefer margarine to butter because of the health benefits margarine may offer. For instance, a customer may be watching his or her cholesterol and believe that margarine contains less cholesterol than butter. Thus, in order to strengthen the argument, exactly how customers distinguish butter from margarine should be explored.
Second, the facts stated in the argument may result in several alternative explanations as to why the change from butter to margarine has had a low impact on the customers at the Happy Pancake House. The argument infers that 98 of 100 customers are happy with the change. However, is the sample of 100 people representative of the customers who frequent the Happy Pancake House? Further, the “98 out of 100 people” is inferred from 2 percent. Further, while the argument states that only 2 percent of customers complain about changing from butter to margarine, it is assumed that 2 percent equals 98 out of 100. However, 2 percent accounts for what total amount of people? If 2 percent of 10 people complain, the significance of the results is quite different than if 2 percent of 500 people complain. Thus, in order to strengthen the argument, the numbers should be adjust to accurate measure a representative sample of the customers at the Happy Pancake House.
Thirdly, the argument states that a “number” of servers report that a “number” of customers who ask for butter do not complain when the customers are given margarine. However, without knowing the exact numbers, we again cannot determine the significance of the impact of changing from butter to margarine on the Happy Pancake House customers. An alternative explanation could be that the customers do not know when they are given margarine and when they are given butter. Further, it may be that only 2 servers reported that 2 customers did not complain when they were given margarine. In contrast, if 100 servers reported that 500 customers did not complain when they received margarine, we can draw a different conclusion. In order to strengthen the argument, it would be necessary to give an exact number of servers and an exact number of customers who did not complain when they were given the margarine alternative.
In sum, several assumptions need to be fleshed out in order to strengthen the argument that the change from butter to margarine has indeed had little impact on the Happy Pancake House customers. It may be that further examination of the numbers given and appropriate calculations and comparisons will yield a result that may be used to either validate or provide an alternative explanation for the argument. It is recommended that alternative explanations are explored before a final conclusion is made.
I don't think you can reasonably call your first alternative explanation a true alternative explanation since it appears to be in fact the same explanation. The memorandum states that "customers do not distinguish butter from margarine or they use the term 'butter' to refer to either butter or margarine." You state "Some margarine products are very close in texture and taste to butter and may therefore be indistinguishable from butter to some customers." What you say here would help us appreciate why the business manager's first explanation might be valid, but it is not really an alternative to that first explanation. Your second explanation is an alternative explanation as to why customers who ask for butter don't complain when given margarine: they don't complain because they actually prefer margarine. Of course, that explanation would only be plausible if there were a reason why, given that preference, they might have asked for butter in the first place.
I'm afraid I don't understand your next argument at all. It seems to be based on a misinterpretation of the figures cited in the memorandum. All the memorandum claims is that 2% of customers complain and therefore 98% (that's what "98 out of 100" means) are happy. It's not clear why you want to know the "total amount of people." To be sure 2% of 10 is a smaller number than 2% of 500, but if Happy Pancakes only have 10 customers, they have bigger problems than whatever the level of dissatisfaction with the margarine may be (and in any case, the phrase "2 percent of 10 people" has no real meaning).
The larger problem with the paragraph is that it does not in fact offer an alternative explanation. Perhaps what you intended to convey was uncertainty about the validity of the survey of customer satisfaction, implying that the 2% figure might have been deduced from an unreasonably small sample size. I don't think that's a reasonable objection; to me the 2% figure seems to have been arrived at by adding up all the complaints and comparing the total number to the total number of customers (or perhaps to the total number of customers who had pancakes with margarine). The real problem with the original argument is that it takes absence of complaints as evidence of satisfaction.
The next paragraph is dealing with the same issue as the first paragraph. Note the final sentence of the memorandum is an explanation of the penultimate sentence of the memorandum. As you mentioned earlier, the fact that some customers might actually prefer margarine is an alternative explanation of the fact that "a number of customers who ask for butter do not complain." That is the only fact that you need to offer an alternative explanation for. What the total number of such uncomplaining customers is should be considered irrelevant for this prompt. An alternative explanation of the reported fact would look like this: "It may be that these customers did not complain because they dislike complaining more than they dislike margarine."