RE: Smart answers and useful answers

Subject: RE: Smart answers and useful answers
From: "Joe Malin" <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>
To: "Dan Goldstein" <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 16:05:32 -0800

I thought about this one. Sometimes I get into trouble by using the
wrong terminology to talk about something. Mistakes like that cause more
problems than we'd care to admit, and in all parts of our lives.

Of course, in your particular case, salesperson (sp) #2 should have
asked "Excuse me, sir, but what problem are you trying to fix? Do you
really need a *composite* cable? We have (x) cables..."

Mebbe sp#2 didn't understand what you were looking for until the last
moment? Or mebbe he was trying to show off.

This is why I hate to buy anything at a store. You only get confused by
the people who are trying to help. Online, at least, your confusion is
limited by the amount of information people are willing to write down.


Joe Malin
Technical Writer
jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com
The views expressed in this document are those of the sender, and do not
necessarily reflect those of TuVox, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+jmalin=tuvox -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf
Of Dan Goldstein
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 2:14 PM
Subject: Smart answers and useful answers

Had a little experience the other day -- could have been a trigger
sketch for a presentation about tech-writing.

I went to a Major Electronics Retailer and asked a salesperson for a
switch that lets you attach a TV to both a VCR and a DVD player,
selecting either one at a time.

The salesperson turned to a second salesperson and said, "Hey, do we
have a composite cable that lets you switch between video input

The second salesperson said, "There's no such thing."

I said, "You're kidding. There's no device that lets you switch between
video input devices?"

The second salesperson said, "There's no such thing as a composite cable
that lets you switch between video input devices."

I said (not serious), "Gee, what an obvious device. I can't believe it
doesn't exist. I'm gonna go patent one right now."

The first salesperson, confused, repeated his exact, original question.
The second salesperson repeated his answer with exaggerated enunciation.

I had caught on by now and was ready to go to another Major Electronics
Retailer. As I turned, the second salesperson delivered what he must
have thought was the punchline.

"You're not looking for a 'composite cable.' You're looking for a

He then showed me what I wanted. Of course, by then I wasn't going to
buy anything from them.

Neither your user nor your SME wants you to show off how smart you are
-- especially at their expense. They want you to show how *useful* you
can be.


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