The Cadillac Of Columns?

Hands and Royal manual typewriter
The good news is that J.D. Power and Associates ranks no column above mine. The bad news is that J.D. Power doesn't rank columns, and has no plans to do so in the near future. I know because I contacted them about it.

Everybody gets awards these days. You can't walk into a store without seeing an Employee Of the Month plaque. A coffee shop near us even gives out a "Customer Of The Week" award. And it seems like there are more award shows on television than regular shows. So, I thought, "why not me?" and I contacted the folks at J.D. Power and Associates.

J.D. Power is famous for ranking cars, but they're involved in non-automotive things as well. Among other areas, they give out awards for wireless service, hotels, and health care. In case you've always wondered how there can be so many J.D. Power Number Ones, it's because they have many specific categories. That way, Hyundai can win the award for "Most Appealing Entry Midsize Car," Hilton Garden Inns can win for "Guest Satisfaction Among Mid-Price Hotel Chains With Full Service," and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power can win for "Highest Customer Satisfaction with Midsize Business Electric Service in the West."

It's because of all these categories, that I thought J.D. Power would be the right place for me to contact. I'm not so egotistical to think that my column should necessarily get the Best Column In The Whole World Award. All I wanted was for them to consider me in some appropriate category — maybe something like, "Best Column That's Usually Humorous That Appears Online Weekly. On Wednesdays. In the Morning."

So, I e-mailed them. I acknowledged that they probably had not honored columns in the past, but thought that should make it even easier for them to consider doing so now. Since no columnists would be expecting to win this award, nobody would be disappointed if they lost out to somebody like me.

Two days later, I got a phone call from someone at J.D. Power. We had the following dialogue:

    Me: Have you had a chance to read any of my columns?

    J.D. Power Guy: Yes, I have.

    Me: Did you like them?

    J.D. Power Guy: Yes, I did.

    Me: Great! Where do I pick up my trophy?

I quickly told him I was kidding — I didn't expect them to give me the award without going through their usual process. I just wanted to be considered in my appropriate category. But he disappointed me by saying that he doubted that J.D. Power was going to get into column-ranking. However, he promised someone would get back to me in a couple of days.

After we hung up, I sent them another e-mail. It is excerpted below:

    When I think about the categories that you usually concern yourself with, I feel that it's completely consistent with your approach to consider rewarding me for my work.

    Reliability: I deliver a column each and every week.

    Customer Service: I reply to every column-related e-mail.

    Comfort: Readers can read my column in any comfortable setting that they desire.

    Smog-Free: Although sometimes hot air is involved, my column does no harm to the environment.

Two days later, I got another call from J.D. Power. This guy was more serious than the first guy. For some reason, he thought that if J.D. Power and Associates considered my request, it would diminish the respect and credibility of the company. I didn't understand that. Who thinks that car manufacturers, wireless companies, and health care providers are more respectable than columnists?

I sensed a little frustration on the other end of the phone when he finally asked me, "Why do you really want this award?" I explained that I thought their recommendation might help promote my column, I always liked the way the certificate and statuette looked, and, frankly, I think it would be nice to win something.

His response seemed a bit strange. He suggested that if I wanted to win something, I should go on "Fear Factor." I assume that he was kidding. After all, these corporate types are always ranked very high when it comes to their sense of humor.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver