05:59:20 am on
Wednesday 19 Sep 2018

An Average of Nine
David Simmonds

I have never been keen on filling out customer satisfaction surveys. I think it might be because I’m egotistical enough to resent my finely developed opinions reduced to a choice between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied.”


Every now and then, I relent.

Here’s a case in point. The other week I went into my car dealership for warranty work. I have or did have a good rapport with the service personnel.

I spent a few minutes chatting, amiably, with them about crankshafts and alternators, as if I knew something about them, which I don’t. I left with the feeling that I was in safe hands. When I got home, I found the usual customer satisfaction survey waiting on my computer and decided that, this time, I would complete it. I knew that if I didn’t, I would still receive two or three more reminder messages, so completing the survey seemed at the time like the benign alternative.

Such experience, as I have with satisfaction surveys, tells me that if I am given a range of satisfactions to choose from, in this case, one to ten, one being “utterly disgusting” and 10 being “transcendent,” I am usually going to rate my experience as a six or seven. For me, the experience of having my car dealer replace a piece of equipment does not rank up there with my truly extraordinary experiences, such as being stuck in an elevator with Fats Domino, which would earn a nine rating, or my transcendent ones, such as listening to J.S. Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring,” which would earn a 10.

As my service experience, this time, had been so positive, I decided to rate it at somewhere between eight and nine. I finished the survey. I clicked the “send” button, feeling the warm glow that came of knowing I had shown a generosity of spirit that would improve the lives of countless others.


That feeling was not to last.

The next day I received this self-flagellatoring missive from the service rep that I had dealt with. “Dear Mr. Simmonds,”’ she wrote, “I take full personal responsibility for whatever it is I have done to disappoint you, with the quality of our service. I am deeply ashamed and want you to know that I will personally do whatever it takes, be it round the world air tickets or your own personal parade float, to bear the cost of making you smug and self-satisfied, again” or words to that effect.

I did toy with the idea of the float for a minute. The camel on the Shriner float, in the Santa Claus parade this year, did not look particularly seaworthy; it occurred to me that I might ‘re-gift” my windfall. After that minute passed, a sense of horror set in. The service adviser was going to lose her job, maybe, sent to some re-education camp, because of what I thought were my reasonably generous ratings! What was I to do?

I did the only thing I could think of. I phoned the dealership and asked to speak to the manager, immediately. I started blubbering on about how he had to stop whatever disciplinary action he was about to take and instead pin a bouquet on her. He quickly put me out of my misery, telling me that a rating that came in anywhere lower than an average of nine causes a computer in the head office to request the apology and receive a full report on how the customer was eventually satisfied.

An average of nine; surely, there is something wrong here. I’m now scared off taking any more surveys for fears of the havoc I will wreak. I now know how to game the survey to produce the result we want, but, at the very least, much the survey is padding.

Surely, it’s silly to pretend, in the first place, that a relatively banal automotive maintenance transaction is equivalent to meeting Fats Domino or listening to Bach. Let’s leave superlative words for superlative experiences. The English language is already rich enough to employ words adequate to the task of rating automotive service.


Retailer workers should rate their customers, too.

I feel most sorry for the dealership employees. They face a bar set far too high to clear and thus are required to grovel to customers in order to mollify the head office computer. As small compensation, perhaps should at least allow their staff to rate customers in the same way. I would expect to be rated as a six or seven; in fact, I would worry if I were rated any higher. I don’t purport to be anybody’s transcendent experience.

 

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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