Experts Don't Always Know
by Ed Newman
What They Are Talking About
Marketing & Advertising Manager, AMSOIL INC.
Experts perform a valuable function in our modern world. Whenever
we get into an argument, whether heated or as a diversion, it
isn't long before we reach for a forceful quote or two from an
Experts strengthen our confidence in views we've chosen to defend.
Experts supposedly know what they're talking about because they've
got the inside track on specialized knowledge. Experts are called
upon to give us the final word in matters both obscure and self-evident.
And sometimes experts are wrong.
Minnesota's recent governor's race is a prime example of the experts
being wrong. Polls consistently showed Jesse Ventura to be running
third and the pundits gave him no chance of winning. Jesse was
almost always discussed in terms of whether his candidacy would
hurt Coleman more than Humphrey.
History shows us that misguided predictions are nothing new. In
1876 an internal memo at Western Union declared, "This 'telephone'
has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means
of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
According to Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and
father of television, man would never reach the moon regardless
of all future scientific advances.
In 1949, Popular Mechanics boldly asserted that "computers
in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
Actually, there have been a lot of embarrassed experts when it
comes to assertions about computers. The editor in charge of business
books for Prentice Hall in 1957 said, "I have travelled the
length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people,
and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't
last out the year."
Commenting on the microchip, an engineer at the Advanced Computing
Systems Division of IBM said, "But what . . . is it good
for?" This was in 1968. By 1977, the chairman and founder
of Ken Olson expertly demonstrated his prescience by exclaiming,
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their
home." I still remember hearing opinions of people who shared
The entertainment industry has produced a few guffaws as well.
"Who wants to hear actors talk?" said H.M. Warner of
Warner Brothers in 1927. Gary Cooper, in turning down the leading
role in "Gone With the Wind" said, "I'm just glad
it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
And when the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962,
their in-house experts assured management that, "guitar music
is on the way out." Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
In fact, misguided experts embarrass themselves in nearly every
field of endeavor.
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value,"
said Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy of the Ecole
Superieure de Guerre.
In 1899 Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents,
declared "Everything that can be invented has been invented."
I suppose the inventiveness of 19th century inventors left him
pretty much blown away and incapable of conceiving anything new.
If you listen around, you'll hear experts cited in our industry,
too. Have you never heard any of these?
"Synthetics are too expensive. They'll never sell."
"Synthetics are a fad."
"Oil should be changed every three thousand miles, even if
I suppose it does me little good to quote experts who think otherwise.
Recent tests at Mobil have demonstrated synthetic motor oils with
a three year, 25,000 mile life span. AMSOIL has had 25,000 mile
drain intervals for 25 years, only recently introducing a motor
oil inside a somewhat "normal" range, that is, 7500
miles.... which some insist is still too long.
Some "experts" are saying, for example, that quick lubes
will lose money if drain intervals are extended. I beg to differ.
Extending drain intervals may provide an opportunity to make more
money. Quick lube operators can begin to charge a premium for
a high end synthetic motor oil and a lower price for conventional
I am well aware of the fact that you can easily use this argument
to discredit my views as a so-called "expert." In point
of fact, I am not asking anyone to take my word on anything. What
I would really like is for the industry, and you as individuals,
to take an open mind approach to all these things. Listen to everything.
Question everything. Get informed. Find out for yourself.
I like what Joe Haggard said in his October "As I See It"
column when he said that we "need to filter all the data
that comes through our senses. There are a lot of gems in the
flow, but a lot of garbage, too." He went on to spell out
some of the criteria he uses to filter information. "Make
a vow to bypass all those inputs based on greed, lust or self-enhancement
at the expense of others. In short, have a strong conscience.
Don't lie, cheat or steal if ever influenced to do so by others."
We live in a very complicated age. You, as quick lube owners and
operators, are perceived as experts by those who entrust their
vehicles to you. You have a responsibility to your customers to
become truly informed so that your advice is reliable and trustworthy.
You certainly don't want to be numbered with those who must later
eat their own words.
Consider the words of those drillers whom Edwin L. Drake tried
to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859: "Drill
for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're
This article originally appeared in National Oil
and Lube News, March 1999
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