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The Scrivener: Are You Listening?

"You meet people who do not or will not listen. Or, if they do, they don't think.'' Brian Barratt fails to convey a message about paracetamol.

I had a most interesting discussion with a young lady in the local pharmacy. I was buying a particular brand of paracetamol available only at pharmacies. It comes in boxes of 100 tablets.

I commented, just to make conversation, ‘I can buy four boxes of 24 of a supermarket brand, and pay about the same as this.’

She responded, ‘But you need a prescription for these’. (She was wrong. You simply need to be known to the pharmacist.)

So I said, ‘No, what I mean is that the supermarket brands are as cheap as these.’

She replied, ‘You can't get these from a supermarket. Only from a chemist.’

I twitched just a little bit. ‘I know that. I'm just explaining that if I buy four packets of 24 of the supermarket brand at $1 each, they cost about the same as buying this packet of [brand name] at $4.’

‘Supermarkets don't sell these.’

I gave up. The smile was leaving my face, and I was on the verge of doing my Grumpy Old Man performance.

It's sad, isn't it? And worrying. You meet people who do not or will not listen. Of, if they do, they don't think. It happens in letters, too. I don't mean e-mails, which so many people can't be bothered to respond to. I mean proper letters sent by stickystamp mail.

Not too long ago, I had cause to complain about a small detail of a product. I hope you won't find this anecdote embarrassing. The product was toilet paper. Instead of buying the usual plain white variety, I picked one with small coloured motifs printed on it. I didn't notice which colours they were. When I used the toilet paper, I found that one of the colours was light brown.

Now when you're using toilet paper and you see small brown marks on it, you assume that you haven't quite finished, right? I don't think I need to explain that any further, do I?

I phoned the manufacturers, not to complain but to tell them that I thought their choice of this colour was unsuitable. Blue's fine, but not brown. Nothing wrong with the quality of the product, I assured them. And then I repeated it all, very slowly.

In case my message had been misunderstood, I sent them a carefully written letter (by stickystamp mail, of course). In short paragraphs, I explained again that I was questioning colour, not the quality. I told them that in future I would make sure that I bought plain white.

Three weeks later, they sent me a letter assuring me that they had very high standards of quality control. They also sent me a free replacement. It was exactly the same as the product I'd reported. It was not plain white, but had those little brown smudge patterns
So I wrote another letter, short words, short paragraphs. Three weeks later, they sent another free replacement, plain white.

One of my neighbours thinks I'm nuts. Why bother about such a trivial thing? Well, the reason I do bother parallels my concern about that young lady at the pharmacy.

And if you think this article was about the price of painkillers and the colour of patterns on toilet rolls, you haven't been listening, have you? Read it again!

© Copyright 2005 Brian Barratt
Adapted from an article first published in Bonzer


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