Service of Credibility

October 14th, 2010

Categories: Communications, Control, Credibility, Quality Control




I don’t normally take a train out of Grand Central Station on Sunday morning but did recently. I checked the digital monitor, went to the gate listed and the train at the gate was going to Connecticut and I was off to upstate New York, so I headed for the landmark information booth.

The information man told me I’d have to fly to catch it and told me the gate number. Got there like the wind, no train, but a conductor on the platform said, “He gave you the wrong track number. The train leaves from here in an hour. You should have been at gate 23–see? There’s the train! It’s pulling out.”

grandcentralSo last week, when I asked information whether Columbus Day was considered a holiday train-schedule-wise, I didn’t believe the answer which was “no.” Last year, we were tripped up by another such potential holiday and had to wait 2 hours for the next train. [The holiday train leaves half an hour earlier than the weekday one does and service from the sticks is spotty.] So now I know to ask. [Couldn’t find anything on line and sometimes the online schedules don’t match the printed ones anyway.] But the point is: What good is it when you don’t believe the information you’re given because the source has lost its credibility?

For years I represented a certain decorative product and had collected all sorts of color, pattern, decorating and installation information as well as statistics about it. When I left the agency whose client it was, I continued to get calls from the press asking me to confirm what the new information resource gave them as some of it “didn’t seem right.” It wasn’t. And yet instead of saying, “let me find out,” the PR person spewed goodness knows what that was top of mind and mindless.

And something just happened with this post. The word “you’re” in the sentence above that ends “….you don’t believe the information you’re given because the source has lost its credibility?” had a green squiggle under it. I clicked to see what Word suggested as a substitute. It was “you is given.” We already know not to accept all suggested spell-check changes, nevertheless….take this as another warning.

Amazing when people or businesses don’t guard their credibility and reputations as the most precious thing they own. Have you lost faith in a service or information resource lately?


5 Responses to “Service of Credibility”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    Many years ago a venerable, luxurious Boston restaurant forfeited its credibility and my father as a customer. Since the establishment assured that it offered a home made fresh apple pie he was surprised to receive a serving of an unmistakably commercial pie popular for school lunches and made by a client of his office. He never returned to the restaurant. He did not like the pie, but disliked the duplicity even more.

    I lost faith years ago in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and plane, train, and Boston area public transportation schedules. I lost faith in estimated waiting times for online telephone assistance. However, these are small matters when viewed in comparison with the scheduling problems of the rescue of the Chilean miners.

    Long ago I also ceased to believe dentists or doctors who reassured me that any particular procedure would not hurt, or at least not a lot.

    However, much more devastating is the credibility that the World’s Greatest Hospital lost for me, after creating a fictional record to cover failure to attend to and diagnose a critical illness in an advanced stage. The horrifyingly incorrect manner in which that situation was dispatched will always reverberate with me. Compounded with other situations of medical care proffered in a less than thorough, forthcoming, or accurate fashion, I am left with an indelible unease with respect to any such matters and a desire to be an ombudsman for patients in general.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What is striking about the examples you give is that not one would have to happen if people were paying attention, doing their jobs–nothing more.

    I can’t get over the hospital example and fear you are one of far too many who know people or have experienced such a situation. Tell you the truth, every time I or a family member get blood test results I think, “Bet they mixed ours up with someone else.” What a way to feel.

    In any case, if you would be my ombudsman, I’d be grateful! Nobody better.

    Your father’s story is similar to one of my father’s, but his was about shoes. My dad knew his leathers–he imported raw hides. He went to a store, asked to try on a pair of shoes and when the shoes came out of the box he pointed out that they were nothing like the sample in quality or color. The salesman tried to give him a run around–even though he held both the sample and shoe for sale in his hands and the difference was clear. He left that store never to return.

    Your father’s apple pie story is amazing. There is no resemblance between store bought and home made anything. Some people may prefer the taste of store bought items because they are used to it. And I always wonder when I read about “homemade ice cream” if it really is. But to blatently push off junk for the real thing hoping that customers can’t tell the difference–pathetic.

  3. Luca D. Said:


    Your post reminds me on an old Italian story from the country’s years under Fascism.

    In that time before autostradas, a well-to-do motorist driving to a destination in the countryside, became lost and stopped to ask for directions. The peasant he asked replied, “Sempre Avanti” (always or straight ahead). “Sempre Avanti” was one of Mussolini’s favorite mottos, with the double meaning of “charge” or “always progress.” The driver was no better off than before he asked the questions, but the canny peasant was safe because nobody could fault him for having used one of the Duce’s pet sayings.

    We live in a time where power has increasingly consolidated in the hands of the few who, thanks to the revolution in technology like the medium I am using to write you, are increasinlg able to manipulate (control) the many. Many of us communicate for communication’s sake, and not to inform or educate. The more we do so, the less important truth and credibility will become, and the more we collectively will believe what the manipulators wish us to believe.


  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There is a similarity between many of the examples we give, whether your Italian peasant, the Grand Central Information booth attendant, the experience Martha relates about the hospital’s misdiagnosis: The people doing the sloppy work feel anonymous, as though nobody will pin anything on them–because it’s hard to identify who did the misinforming or test analysis. Personal pride in work well done has no place in these examples.

    However, the peasant was showing something else–his grit, a good sense of humor, a subtle way to ping a rich city slicker with a dash of healthy cynicism.

    Are you trying to say that when people are uneducated, they can be easily manipulated, so that credibility no longer matters? I may be uneducated but if I am directed to the wrong train, eat lousy food at a high price, am misdiagnosed by a well known hospital, I think I’ll know it, so I’m not following your line of thought.

    Martha’s restaurant pie example occurred at a higher level: The chef knew what he/she was serving and that not only did the restaurant not go to a fabulous bakery because the bakery chef fell sick, it went to a cheap and lousy source without changing the menu, putting a huge dent in their credibility as a top restaurant. The only thing I could think of in this instance is that the place was up for sale, riding on its reputation and trying to show prospective owners how cheap it was to run the place.

  5. Luca D Said:

    The peasant lived in a totalitarian society. He was scared and gave a safe answer to cover his butt, meanwhile punning to make fun of the Duce safely.

    In the process of consolidation of power in the hands of few, and the technological revolution, we have scared many people and made them into surplus. The railroad information man may have been afraid he was going to be fired, or maybe he was on dope. The restaurant was trying to squeeze an extra buck out of the place. Nine out of 10 customers wouldn’t have known that the pie was lousy. The manager played the odds that the fame of the place would outweigh the bad pie.

    What I am trying to say is that appearance has become more important than reality. If we think we are happy, we are happy, although we are really unhappy.

    We are better educated than ever, more college graduates than ever, etc. But half the population doesn’t know the name of the VP. The government does crazy things, the un- and underemployed go up and the stock market goes up when things are rotten. Is it credible?

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