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PC Ratings Challenged

May 26, 1991

The article "Auto Rater J. D. Power Begins Ranking PCs" (May 9), listed the 10 top suppliers of personal computers on the basis of Power's ratings of users' satisfaction.

The information in that article could be very misleading. The story stated that the "study was based on responses from 2,253 computer users who were asked a series of questions designed to determine how happy they were with their product in relation to their expectations." But the article didn't give any clue to what those questions were!

In my experience as a computer consultant, I have found that most people who are unhappy with a computer, chose (or were provided with) a machine and software that are not compatible with their needs. In many cases those people were not willing, or able, to devote a sufficient amount of time to learning how to use their computer and software.

Dell is at the top of Power's list of computers with which people are satisfied. Perhaps that's because Dell primarily sells its computers by mail order as a result of advertisements it runs in magazines that knowledgeable computer users read. The people who buy Dell computers know what they need. They benefit from Dell's willingness to tailor systems to suit their customers.

But what about those people who buy a computer from a local store. They often listen to a fast-talking salesperson and buy the system the salesperson recommends--probably the one that gives the highest commission. Those are the people who are likely to be dissatisfied with what they buy, not because what they bought was a poor product, but because it is not appropriate to their needs.

If the Power ratings are to be helpful, consumers need detailed information about the questions asked, and some understanding of how those questioned chose their particular system.

The same comments apply to Power's rating of automobiles.

GORDON PADWICK, Agoura

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