Friday, April 16, 2010

verisimilitude: the best 'tude for business success

Verisimilitude: the quality of appearing true or real.

The first time I heard of verisimilitude was when reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn in 10th grade American Lit. Although the book was fictional, Hawthorn frequently attributed many events in the book to "witness accounts" in order to create a sensation of reality despite the known fabrication of the story. Though I was less-than enraptured by the snail pace of Hawthorn's five-page description of a red rose juxtaposed against a dark cellar door, the motif of verisimilitude is something that struck me and remained all these years. Hawthorn's use of verisimilitude was often an admission that events in the book may not have in fact occurred, but he was simply relaying them as reported; he was "honest" that he could not defend these accounts to be fact: Hawthorn admitted his "shortcomings". Though I generally write more reflective pieces rather than fictional, the theory behind and purpose of verisimilitude is something that extends beyond literary purposes, and something that I feel directly applies to success in business.

My first laptop was a Dell. Just after one year, that computer continuously crashed and erased all of my files and memory; this was a nightmare for a college student. Since this began after my one-year of free warranty had expired, all service support was routed to India for a fee of $50 per call. I made multiple calls to their service center, continuously racking up bills, and to no avail. Even more frustrating was that I knew many other Dell users experiencing the same symptoms with the same model laptop. After several failed attempts to troubleshoot the computer, I was deferred to the manager who offered to send me a free basic printer "for my troubles". Though the intention was empathetic, it didn't fix the problem and it didn't void out all the money I'd lost trying to fix my computer.

In the end, I purchased a HP Pavilion laptop. My computer problems didn't end when I made the switch, but the way I was treated did. Two years after I brought my HP home, the wireless and Internet connections failed. I did a little research and found through HP's site that this was the preliminary sign of a motherboard failure. I immediately contact HP (for free) and spoke with a representative who, recognizing that this was a model failure, sent me a pre-postaged packed to mail back for corrections. I was well-over my warranty period, but HP admitted to their shortcomings, took care of the problem for free and made me a very satisfied and now faithful customer.

Verisimilitude allows authors to convince readers with an air of doubt. Rather than demanding readers to believe all that is written is fact, the author, will the reader, admits the lack of logic or reason behind their own text and draws the reader to trust him or her. When HP readily admitted to me that there was a major failure with their product, I wasn't angry with the company for selling a faulty model. When DELL continuously sent me bills and then a cheap printer for a reoccurring (and common) problem, I lost all trust in the company and will never return to patron their business.

The theory behind verisimilitude for business and fiction confirms a basic principle: honesty is the best policy.

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