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Gre Argument 15

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"Recently, butter has been replaced by margarine in Happy Pancake House restaurants throughout the southwestern United States.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."

The author came to the conclusion that the replacement of butter by margarine has had little impact on Happy Pancake House's customers, citing that there are only customers who have complained about it. However, as far as I am concerned, the conclusion cannot be drawn so quickly in the presence of some other explanations that could rival the proposed one.

First, the author said that the change has only happened in the restaurants throughout the southwestern U.S., and we do not know how many customers it contributes to the restaurants throughout the country as a whole, thus we cannot come to the conclusion which is based on the fact that only 2 percent of customers have complained about the change, for the number of customers in the southwestern U.S. might just take 2 percent out of the number of customers all over the country. If this explanation is true, then the fact that there are 2 percent of customers who have complained just disproves the conclusion, which is to say, that the change has had a big impact on customers who have experienced it. Even granted that there are only 2 people out of 100 complain about the change in southwestern U.S. on average, it does not necessarily mean that the rest 98 customers who do not complain about the change are happy with it. They might have no idea that their butter had been replaced by margarine; or they just feel the replacement is merely acceptable, but not enough to make them happy.

Second, when the author explains that why the customers who ask for butter do not complain when given margarine, he/she simply assumes that they either do not distinguish butter from margarine or they use "butter" to refer to both of them. I think the author here misses the following alternative explanations: customers who want butter but get margarine instead may just do not want to bother complaining about it, for they may think that butter and margarine taste alike and it is OK to take margarine occasionally; or they might have been informed earlier, either from other customers or from the mass media, that Happy Pancake House in southwestern U.S. have changed their butter into margarine, so that they have already known that they would get margarine even when they order butter, but they do not complain because they have had psychological preparations, otherwise they may not order it at all. Or it could also be explained by a decrease of the food price in the restaurants which have begun to use margarine as butter, so customers would also not complain because of the cheaper price.

In conclusion, the argument can be dubious unless the above-mentioned alternative explanations for the facts that the author had cited in support to the conclusion that the change of butter has had little impact on their customers can be excluded.

Submitted by: Michael

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