Q: Different businesses in the Quad-Cities advertise the fact that they have won a J.D. Power and Associates award. Who is J.D. Power and Associates? What makes J.D. Power an authority on their business? Why is the award important?

— Ron, Quad-Cities

A: According to its Web site, J.D. Power and Associates was established in 1968 as a global marketing information firm that conducts independent and unbiased surveys of customer satisfaction, product quality and buyer behavior. Today, the firm’s services include industry-wide syndicated studies, proprietary (commissioned) tracking studies, media studies, forecasting and more. On April 1, 2005, J.D. Power and Associates became a business unit of the McGraw-Hill Cos.

The firm has strict guidelines for advertising claims, and every advertising claim related to a study is reviewed before publication to ensure accuracy. Only top-ranked performers in pre-defined categories are allowed to license the use of J.D. Power and Associates awards in advertising.

Results are based on measures of customer satisfaction and quality by consumers that are proprietary to J.D. Power and Associates. Awards and performance ranking are based on numerical scores, and not necessarily on statistical significance. The company says that even when small differences occur in the scores of those being measured, these small perceived differences help drive competition in the marketplace, thus improving product and service quality and overall customer satisfaction.

Q: Some of my co-workers and I live in Davenport but work in Rock Island and lately we’ve noticed there are black squirrels scampering all over in Rock Island but none in Davenport, only gray and what are called fox squirrels. Can you shed some light on this curious bit of nature?

— J.H., Davenport

A: What a squirrelly question! According to Greg Wolf, environmental education supervisor for the City of Davenport, black squirrels simply are a color variation of the gray squirrel and can be found on both sides of the river. He said many of them frolic in Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport.

A common urban legend in these parts is that the black squirrels came to the Quad-Cities when a general from Bavaria visited the Rock Island Arsenal and brought one with him. Alas, according to a previous story in the Times, there is nothing factual to back up this rumor.

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