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Purpose: To effectively deliver bad news in a business letter
Audience: Ms. Margaret Clemmons (details in the case)

Assignment: Write a letter of no more than 1 page to Mrs. Margaret Clemmons, 762 Buns Parkway, Venice, CA 90028, explaining your denial of her claim #712. Remember, you do not want to lose this wealthy customer’s business.

Background for the letter:
The ATM Error Resolution Department at Union Bank of California (where you work managing operations) often adjusts customer accounts for multiple ATM debit errors. It is usually an honest mistake: a merchant will run a customer’s check debit card two or three times through the credit card machine, thinking it didn’t “take,” when in fact the machine was working. The problem is that customers don’t discover they’ve had multiple purchase charges until they receive their bank statement at end of the month. And then they get very angry.

The bank’s teleservices department calmly takes their information, gives them a claim number, and explains they must send your department a signed, dated claim letter, describing the situation and enclosing copies of receipts if they have them. They’ll be notified of your decision within 10 to 20 business days.

The routine solution is usually a credit to their account to correct the error. But this time, your experience and intuition have made you suspicious about the letter from Margaret Clemmons. She maintains several large joint accounts with her husband at Union Bank of California.

It is true that three debits indicated on her checking account statement were processed on the same day, using her card (not her husband’s), and were credited to the same market, Wilson’s Gourmet. The debits carry the same transaction reference number, 7620011, which attracted Mrs. Clemmons’ attention. While that number does indicate time, it changes daily, not hourly. So purchases made on the same day but from different stores carry the same number, as can different purchases from the same store.

Mrs. Clemmons’ statement indicates debits for different amounts: $23.02, $120.10, and $43.19. That doesn’t strike you as a multiple-card-swipe situation. And no receipts were enclosed with Mrs. Clemmons’ letter. Mrs. Clemmons wrote that the store must have bee trying to steal from her by reusing her card numbers, but you doubt it.

You have contacted Wilson’s Gourmet, and their statements corroborate your suspicions. The manager, Rob Reynolds, claims that he’s had no problems with his equipment, so it was unlikely that either customer or clerk was able to run a card more than once. He also mentioned that it is common for food shoppers to return at different times in the day to make additional purchases, particularly for highly consumable products like beverages, or to pick up something they forgot the first time. Some will stop during a work break to buy lunch, and then return after work to do more shopping.

You’re convinced this was neither a bank error nor an error on the part of Wilson’s Gourmet. Whether Mrs. Clemmons is trying to commit intention fraud is not going to concern you. It could be that she is merely mistaken or has memory problems. She might even be an elderly woman on medication. In a situation like this, bank rules are clear: Deny the request politely.

You are to write a letter of no more than 1 page to Mrs. Margaret Clemmons, 762 Buns Parkway, Venice, CA 90028, explaining your denial of her claim #712. Remember, you do not want to lose this wealthy customer’s business.

Helen Robinson is a 43-year-old Caucasian woman who came to counseling due to problems in her marriage. Helen holds an MFA in playwriting from Yale. She is married, and she and her husband Steve have three children. She met Steve while she was attending Yale and he was working in New York City as a bond trader. Steve is 48 years old and grew up in suburban New Jersey. The three children are a ten-year-old boy (Luke), a twelve-year-old girl (Grace), and a fourteen-year-old boy (Charlie).

Helen grew up in suburban Chicago. Her parents Sarah and William are a nurse and medical doctor who met while serving in the Korean War. William is 82 and Sarah is 77. Sarah and William are quietly religious. They are retired, living most of the year in Chicago. They raised five children in a loving but not very demonstrative family. Their oldest child is Helen’s sister, Mary Grace, who is 48. Next oldest in this family is Elizabeth (“Betsy”). She is 45. Helen is the third child. The fourth is another daughter, Tess, 40 years old. The youngest child is a son, Will. He is 38.

Helen’s family of origin had the appearance of the “perfect” family. Her dad was a very successful surgeon, but he was not encouraging or involved in the children’s lives on a daily basis. Her mom was loving and steady yet also somewhat reserved, perhaps more concerned with what others thought than she would have liked to admit. In some ways the family environment was one of benign neglect the children behaved well and so no one thought there could possibly be anything wrong. But in fact, two of Helen’s sisters had eating disorders and her brother has battled alcohol addiction.

Helen and Steve lived in New York City after they got married. Helen had an administrative job with a theatre and wrote some at night, although she stopped writing when they had their son Charlie. They had plenty of money, but Steve began to gamble during a period when his work was not going as well as he would have liked. They owned a small house at the beach that they sold when they were about to have their third child, thinking they would use the proceeds and move out of the city. They made $75,000 profit on the house, which they put into a money market account while they looked for a new home. Helen was eight months pregnant when she found the perfect house and subsequently learned that Steve had gambled away all of the money in the account as well as most of their savings.

Helen was devastated, but having grown up in a family where you stick it out no matter what, she immediately began looking for treatment for Steve and housing options for their young family. He voluntarily entered an in-patient treatment center and then attended Gamblers Anonymous for a while. Unable to deal with the strain, Helen called on her parents for assistance (in spite of the fact that she believes that they never truly accepted Steve). They suggested she look in the Chicago area because it would have job options for Steve and perhaps less pressure than New York City. Helen’s parents offered financial assistance in the form of a down payment on a house and although it was never stated, it was understood that the money was for a house in Chicago. Because Steve was not close to his family, he was open to the move, perhaps eager to just put troubles behind him. With a baby and two toddlers in tow, Helen found a home in a suburb near her family, engineered a move and supported her husband during his job search, which ended successfully. They have lived in that house for ten years.

Although he stopped gambling, Steve never really expressed any remorse for his behavior and has taken for granted Helen’s loyalty and sacrifice during this difficult time in their lives. Although Helen grew up in a stable home, she received little verbal affirmation growing up. Thus Helen had self-esteem and confidence issues at the time she met Steve. By the time she sought therapy, her confidence had plummeted. In spite of the fact that she has a prestigious degree, she has little hope that she will ever write plays again.

On a recent trip to New York with some friends, Helen ran into a former professor from Yale. He is divorced, eight years older than Helen, and very handsome. He asked about her work and although she was pleased that he’d asked, she was also embarrassed that she’d done nothing (although in her mind this lack of progress was no great loss because she feels untalented). He reminded her that she won a competition during graduate school and he shared a couple of things faculty members had said about her in which they praised her talent and insight.

He asked her to meet him for a drink and gave her his business card. She didn’t call him, but kept the card and did not tell Steve about the encounter. Having survived a crisis in her marriage, she now feels resigned to her life with Steve, though Steve does not support her career ambitions and has never really confronted his own demons.

Helen is a thoughtful woman and a good mother, who has no interest in destroying her family by having an affair. However, she is troubled deeply by the way she feels right now (that her husband can “do no right”). Her fear is that nothing will change for the rest of her marriage. She is surprised that the crisis she and her husband endured (because of his gambling) did not cause her to feel like ending the marriage. It is only now that she doubts the marriage (now that she’s met someone who is interested in her). She’s also interested in this former professor, irritated that her husband doesn’t support her, worried about the aimlessness she is feeling now that her children are older. These feelings bring her to a decision to seek help.

A building project requires the use of a special brick.

a) The most likely brick price is $120.00/ton but this price is volatile and fluctuates. The most optimistic price is $80.00/ton and the most pessimistic price is $180.00/ton. (Note there are 3 data points in for this estimate.)

What is the expected price of the brick?

b) Also, I’m uncertain how much of the brick I’ll need. I have to wait and see what the building site conditions are like and what changes the owners have in mind. I think I’ll most likely need 36 tons but could require as little as 28 tons, or as much as 56 tons.

How much of the brick can I expect to use?

c) Based on the estimates, what is my expected cost for the brick using the COMPLEX method?