Vanilla Ice Cream puzzles General Motors

I got this in a mail today. Really amusing stuff. Also really enlightening! 🙂 Never underestimate your Clients’ Complaint, no matter how funny it might seem!

This is a real story that happened between the customer of General Motors and its Customer-Care Executive. Please read on. The Pontiac Division of General Motors received a complaint:

‘This is the second time I have written to you, and I don’t blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of Ice-Cream for dessert after dinner each night, but the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It’s also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem.

You see, every time I buy a vanilla ice cream, when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds “What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?” The Pontiac President was understandably skeptical about the letter, but sent an Engineer to check it out anyway.

The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn’t start.

The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.

Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: He jotted down all sorts of data: time of day, type of gas uses, time to drive back and forth etc.

In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavors were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to check out the flavor.

Now, the question for the Engineer was why the car wouldn’t start when it took less time. Eureka – Time was now the problem – not the vanilla ice cream!!!! The engineer quickly came up with the answer: “vapor lock”.

It was happening every night; but the extra time taken to get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapor lock to dissipate.

Even crazy looking problems are sometimes real and all problems seem to be simple only when we find the solution, with cool thinking.

If this story is actually real, then there are a couple of things I really liked about it.

  1. The company actually took the complaint seriously and sent an engineer out to check it out.
  2. The customer presented his problem in plain English without adding his own theory to it. (I think this helped the support approach the issue without any pre-assumed ideas)
  3. Once they had reproduced the problem, the support guy meticulously ticked off all the hocus-pocus and tried to find the “real problem” instead of trying to solve the “given problem”.

Really nice! 🙂

Advertisements
  1. #1 by humorousarts on March 20, 2007 - 3:00 pm

    That’s fantastic! But in a sense, it was still the vanilla ice cream that was stopping the car. I wonder, if tests had continued, they’d have found a similar problem with:
    1) Cornflakes (as opposed to Sugar Puffs)
    2) Coke (not Vimto)
    3) Biros (not fountain pens)

    Thank you!

  2. #2 by Phillip Avery on December 24, 2007 - 12:53 am

    Well said. I would be happy to read anything else you might contribute on this subject.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: