Re: Is the Customer Always Right?

Subject: Re: Is the Customer Always Right?
From: Tom Little <LITTLE_TOM_H -at- OFVAX -dot- LANL -dot- GOV>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 14:54:00 MDT

An anoymous poster writes:

> An analogy is this: if you go to a doctor complaining of abdominal pains
> and say: "Doc, I reckon I've got appendicitis", the doctor doesn't say
> "Well; you're the customer. The customer is always right. So let's open
> you up and take out the obviously offending organ." The reason is simple:
> a doctor is not in retail or trade (where it might make sense to say that
> what the customer wants is what goes). The doctor is less accommodating
> because medicine is a profession.

The analogy isn't right, IMO. Rather, the doctor tells the patient, "You have
appendicitis. If we don't remove the appendix, it will burst. Shall we schedule
the surgery?" The patient _does_ have the right to refuse the surgery, and the
client has the right to overrule the editor's suggestions, unless the tech
writer/editor is given final authority by the publisher.

> So, if technical writers consider themselves professionals, are they
> entitled to say to clients: "No; page numbers can't be aligned along the
> inside margins. Or, no, paragraphs must be indented. Or, no, we don't
> instruct trainees to "originate a plan", we tell them to " devise a plan"
> ... and so on ... whatever you might wish?

It's not a matter of professionalism, it's a matter of the authority you've been
given by whoever you're working for. Usually tech writer/editors aren't given
much authority; we have to persuade clients of the merits of our suggestions.
It's not always easy, but that's the name of the game.

Tom Tadfor Little | This
Technical Writer/Editor | space
Los Alamos National Laboratory | for
little_tom_h -at- ofvax -dot- lanl -dot- gov | rent

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