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Junque Miles:

By Mark Roberts

Consumer Response Card

It is said that ours is a consumer society. But after dealing with many businesses I often feel more like a "consumee" than a consumer. What really stands out is when I get really exceptional service somewhere, because it's so uncommon. When that happens, I often find those "Consumer Response Cards" displayed inviting me to tell the management how they're doing. Of course, I never see these cards at the places that treat me like dirt or rip me off (or both). They have them at Hilton Hotels but not at Ed's Transmission Repair Shop. You might get one from American Express but don't hold your breath waiting for the phone company to ask for your opinion.

The problem is that many smaller local businesses don't really understand what their customers do and don't want. How are the guys down at Greaseball's Garage supposed to know that you don't want oily fingerprints left all over your dashboard? Should the waiters at Dishwater's Bar and Grill be so presumptuous as to just assume that you'd like to place an order within half an hour of entering and get food within 45 minutes of that? Do you expect the loan officer at your bank to simply divine out of the cosmic ether that being treated with respect and courtesy is considered pleasant by some?

It's always possible to just write them a letter of praise or condemnation, but it doesn't have the impulse-purchase-like immediacy of checking off a few boxes on a pre-printed card. I'd like at least to be able to rate them on a scale of one to ten with where 10="Federal Express" and 1="Department of Motor Vehicles".

So recently I thought to myself, "Why should I wait for someone else to print one of those reply forms for me? Why can't I just make one myself?" So I did. First of all I created a specialized form with which runners can rate races. Print it out, make some copies and then fill it in and send it to the race director after the race:


Name and date of Race:__________________________________________

(Check one in each category)

  [ ] Superb - All entry forms filled out in advance by local psychic
  [ ] Very Good - Pre and post entry areas well marked and organized
  [ ] Average - Registration area had a roof over it
  [ ] Poor - T-shirts only available in size extra large
  [ ] Awful - "I don't know who was supposed to bring the entry forms"
  [ ] Excellent - Glamorous supermodel starts race on clear 6-lane highway
  [ ] Real Good - Banner over start actually let runners locate start
  [ ] Acceptable - Starting line within a mile of registration
  [ ] Substandard - No one at registration knew start location
  [ ] Dreadful - "Sorry about that misprint! The race began an hour ago!"
  [ ] Top Notch - Accurately marked, traffic blocked, lotsa water stations
  [ ] Quite Nice - Mile markers in correct order and reasonably accurate
  [ ] It'll Do - Course actually had both start and finish line
  [ ] Not Good - Road marshals (if any) didn't know where course went
  [ ] Yikes - Half the field met the other half coming the opposite 
              direction (and it wasn't an out-and-back course)
Finish Line:
  [ ] World Class - Gorgeous hostess to escort each runner to free massage
  [ ] Above Average - Finish line crew actually knew what they were doing
  [ ] OK - Clock above finish line within 1 minute of actual time
  [ ] Bad - Clock above finish line???
  [ ] Worst - "Stay three abreast in the chute and remember your order"
  [ ] Best - Real-time results on 12' video screen as runners finish
  [ ] Real Good - Done shortly after last runner finishes
  [ ] Passable - Done while you're munching bagels
  [ ] Poor - "We'll have 'em before lunch time"
  [ ] Awful - "Er...We'll mail them to you (Yeah, that's the ticket!)"
  [ ] Magnificent - Color TV for every finisher!
  [ ] Great - Trophy or plaque that you're not embarrassed to display
  [ ] So-so - Better than a sharp stick in the eye
  [ ] Please Don't Say So - Keep hidden in drawer so no one sees it
  [ ] Wretched - Throw it away and deny ever running this race
  [ ] Opulent - Orange juice and champagne, fresh fruit and caviar buffet
  [ ] Significant - Nonfat yogurt and Powerbars available
  [ ] Satisfactory - Enough Gatorade and bagels to go round
  [ ] Unsatisfactory - Not enough Gatorade and bagels to go round
  [ ] Inferior - Water available in nearby puddles you can share with dogs

Of course that form is all well and good for runners and races, but what about people who don't run and have to deal with that car repair shop or the dry cleaners or restaurant or whatever? Aha! Now we come to the real point of this column! (You were wondering if there was going to be one, weren't you?) As a Public Service to Mankind(!) I have created a generic Consumer Satisfaction Survey form which you can send to virtually any business of any kind! After any notable consumer experience (there's a euphemism, hey?), be it with a hardware store, Indian Restaurant, drain clearing service, taxidermist/delicatessen or whatever, you just fill in a couple of blanks and circle a bunch of numbers. It's painless! If you do it while you're still at the business establishment itself you can simply hand it over to an employee and tell them to give it to the manager (they'll probably think it's something the owner thought of and with any luck you'll be out the door before they find out the truth). Otherwise you mail it in afterwards. Even if no one reads it, you'll feel good about it. But the best part is: if lots of people do it the management may actually react! OK, I'll admit to being surreally optimistic on that last count, but doesn't that part about feeling good appeal to you? I thought so.

Here's my generic, all-purpose Consumer Response Card:

To Whom It May Concern:
I recently had the experience of doing business with your establishment.
Here is my assessment of that experience (1 is poor, 5 is excellent):

PRODUCT OR SERVICE:_____________________________________________
                                                  -  RATING   +
Courtesy of staff:                                1  2  3  4  5
Knowledge of staff:                               1  2  3  4  5
Promptness of staff:                              1  2  3  4  5
Helpfulness of staff:                             1  2  3  4  5

COMMENTS ON STAFF:______________________________________________

Quality of product or service:                    1  2  3  4  5
Price of product or service:                      1  2  3  4  5
Timeliness of delivery:                           1  2  3  4  5
Overall value of product or service:              1  2  3  4  5

COMMENTS ON PRODUCT/SERVICE:____________________________________

Would I recommend your business to a friend:      1  2  3  4  5

GENERAL COMMENTS:_______________________________________________


Just print it out or cut and paste it into your word processor to send in a letter. If you're industrious enough to find a way of doing it, it will fit on a 4" x 6" post card--I'm actually looking into getting some printed up and making them available to the public.

By the way: If you'd like to express your opinion of my work, and what you think of the Junque Miles column in general, I'd be delighted to hear from you! Just use the following Consumer Response Card and send me an email today:

Dear Mark,
Here's how I rate your Junque Miles column:

[ ] Utterly, totally superb; Pulitzer Prize material
[ ] Really excellent; a wonder to behold
[ ] Very, very good; a model for writers everywhere
[ ] Completely outstanding; I am in awe
[ ] Exceptional; well worth every penny I pay for it

Copyright © 1998 Mark Roberts

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