Hundreds of Pennies for My Thoughts

Many months ago, I mentioned that I routinely refuse requests to take a survey unless I will be compensated for the information I’ll be providing, which is rarely the case.  (I notice that many websites also ask me to take a survey so they can “better serve” me and of course I refuse those too.)

But for some months now, I’ve been giving lots of businesses my opinions.  Because I am being compensated for my valuable insights.  😉

One of the hotel rewards programs I belong to invited me to join a survey program called eRewards.  In exchange for participating in online surveys from all sorts of businesses, I receive e-dollars which can be converted to miles in many airline Frequent Flyer programs, hotel points, and discounts at two major department stores. The amount I earn for any particular survey depends on its length and whether I complete the “full” survey. And, I can limit (or not) how many offers a week I receive.

Obviously, businesses are not looking for the opinion of just anyone with a pulse. So each survey begins with screening questions.  If I’m screened out, I earn a token amount…25 to 50 e-cents. If I’m screened in, then I earn anywhere from 3 to 8  e-dollars.  Some surveys offer as much as 12 e-dollars.

Sometimes, it is easy from the screening questions to see what it takes to be screened in.  If I want to take the survey, I just answer “correctly.”

For example, in one screening I was asked a number of questions about ED (Erectile Dysfunction). Had I been diagnosed with it? Was I taking medication for it? Was I going to ask my doctor about it at my next visit?  It was very… hard  😉  to resist the temptation to screen myself into this survey but I decided to go… soft  😉  on them and answered honestly: I don’t need no stinkin’ Cialis! (Or maybe it was Viagara.)

Often, it is not easy to see what the screening questions are trying to identify.  Last week I was presented with an opportunity to take a survey on “grocery shopping.”  Since I make most of the grocery buying decisions, I thought I’d be good for this survey.  (That’s right, Susie goes to the grocery with me for only two reasons: to push the cart and pay the cashier.  😉  )

The screening questions asked if I was familiar with dozens of brands. Some were “generic” (Pillsbury) and others were both generic (Kellogg’s) and specific (a specific Kellogg’s cereal). I had no idea what they were looking for, so I answered honestly and was screened in.

It turned out to be a very long survey about Yoplait, Activia, Cheerios and Pillsbury. Since I rarely buy any of these products, I didn’t have much opinion about them but they probably found the information useful for analyzing how to get me interested in those products.

I’ve noticed from the surveys I’ve taken that the manufacturers have a keen interest in psychological associations with their products. To my knowledge, I don’t buy based on psychological associations. With groceries, I’m looking at the labels to see how much protein, fat, salt, etc. products have.

If two cereals I like are about the same price, I go with the one that has more protein. So I tend to buy cereals such as Quaker’s Oatmeal Squares or Kellogg’s Special K, both of which have 6 grams of protein per cup.  That’s two to three times what other cereals have.

So I’m a bit consternated (not to be confused with a condition which may require a laxative) when I’m asked whether I feel Yoplait is “down to earth.” On the other hand, based on those commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis, I just might feel that Activia is “snobbish.” (But the survey didn’t ask me that question.)

Similar psychological association questions were asked in surveys about tires and cars.  Hey, I buy the cheapest tires I can find because I drive less than 7,000 miles a year and those tires often rot before the tread wears.

I bought a Corolla because it gets 30/40 MPG, not because it “makes a bold statement about me.” But with so many SUVs on the road, I guess a lot of guys buy them for psychological reasons. (I’ll bet half of male SUV owners need Cialis!)

A survey about an upcoming Sony pocket camcorder was very straightforward and focused on what I thought about specific features. I was enthusiastic about it until I was asked how much I’d be willing to pay for it and then learned my answer was half the projected price.

Another survey probed my familiarity with and use of Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. Well, I’m a Google fan and Bing will have a hard time converting me. I did learn that Yahoo’s search engine is “powered” by Bing.  They showed me a screen shot at the bottom of the Yahoo search results page which points that out. I didn’t know! (And I don’t care!)

A survey I was screened out of involved Chef Boy Ardee canned pasta products, a survey which a co-worker would have been perfect for because she loves that…“stuff.” I think their products are another word that begins with “s” so they should have screened me in to learn how to bring their…”s”…up to my standards.

So how much have I earned taking these surveys? Just under 60 e-dollars. Earlier this week, I converted some e-dollars into 500 points with USAirways, an airline I’ve not flown (on a paid ticket) in over 15 years. I once had so many USAirways miles that Susie and I flew free to London and Italy for a month in 1988 and then to Spain in 2006.  (It was 30,000 miles each for London / Italy and 50,000 miles each for Spain.)

I still have a bit over 52,000 miles, which is currently enough for one more ticket to Europe (off-peak), which I hope to use for Amsterdam.  But those miles expire after 18 months unless I have some “activity.”

Since I’m not flying them anymore, I’ve had to resort to minimalist actions – earning a few token points to keep my account alive.  My last activity was about 15 months ago – I bought something from one of their “ participating merchants” program (and it’s a long list). I can’t even remember what I bought but it was about $25.

With this 500 miles “activity” in my account, those 52,000 miles are good for another 18 months. Not sure when we’ll get to Amsterdam. I’ve been trying to get us there for at least 5 years now.  We almost went in 2006 but chose Spain instead because we had to travel in late September and October, which is getting cold in Holland but is still very pleasant in Spain.

I’m off to check my e-mail for another survey offer!  If I can get those USAirways miles up to 60,000, I can get a ticket to Amsterdam anytime except “high” season and I avoid that anyway.

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9 responses to “Hundreds of Pennies for My Thoughts

  1. I loved this post…I think I would be great for a survey about food brands. I have “my” favorites and I’m very loyal to them! And there is nothing scientific about my choices 🙂 It’s also interesting to contemplate the impact of advertising (particularly on TV). I’d say I’m more likely to try a product after seeing an ad, but if I’m disappointed, I’m done. Take Activia as the perfect example (I really like Jamie Lee Curtis!) Let’s just say it has much in common with your description of Chef Boy-ar-Dee products as described above, lol. It’s hard to imagine how you could screw up yogurt.

  2. I take a few surveys, it’s usually when I am being asked about customer service. I believe in being brutally honest about quality of customer service. Very good and very bad service are never an accident. So when asked I usually respond.

    I have been a Suv owner for years because I like many features they offer. I like the road vision I get from a higher seat. I like the cargo space with the seats down and the hatch back door that lifts up. They are good grocery getters and great for little league baseball gear and tailgates in lot 14.
    And you can put a hitch on and tow U-Hauls, which I have done on many occasions, like last week when a found a great deal on a GE refrigerator on Craig’s List. Found it at 8 AM, figured from the pics it looked clean, so I rented a U-Haul flatbed and had it loaded by 2PM and home by 3. I figure I can save a lot of gas money by not paying someone else to do what I can do for less, so Suvs are for me. I am shopping for my next one now. I would apply your ownership psychological speculation to the owners of Hummers.

    I let my frequent flier miles expire because I would rather have a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than go to an airport, much less actually suffer the indignity of getting on a plane. And I don’t just refer to the stupid screening, but as much to the stinking customer service given by the airlines. I can find someone to insult me in a much more comfortable venue than a cylindrical torture chamber traveling 450 mph. I began to show this prejudice about 2000 after flying all over NA for the previous decade. After 911 in got exponentially worse.

    FN I am still loyal to the brands of my youth. Never met a Nabisco, Campbell or Heinz product I din’t like:) The color yellow also attracts me unreasonably.

  3. You both have it wrong. It isn’t the guys with SUV’s or Hummers. It’s the 60+ guys with fire-engine red, convertible (fill in name of sports car). But you both have it right too–letting your vehicle say something about you, rather than it being a tool to get you from Point A to Point B, and doing what you want it to do in between is just bizarre to me.
    I absolutely miss my old Camaro, because I could carry a giant amount of firewood in its surprisingly roomy trunk. With my new baby Toyota, I’d be lucky to find room for a stick. But it does get 38 mpg on the highway…Of course, it’s so small that if I’m in a wreck I’m dead. But actually that was true of the Camaro too. It’s all a trade-off.
    pt, I have switched many brands from my youth! Of course, I was never even exposed to yogurt as a child. Once I was in college, I practically lived on yogurt and herbal tea (which I’d never been exposed to either). On the other hand, tell me one product that is superior to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese 🙂

  4. > FN: It’s hard to imagine how you could screw up yogurt.
    Add lots of sugar so it’s no longer “healthy.”

    >FN: one product that is superior to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
    Yecch! I hope that smiley menas you’re kidding. But then, you like Spam…

    > PT: I have been a Suv owner for years
    Well, you’re obviously in the other half, because you actually use the features.

    > PT: stinking customer service given by the airlines.
    I suspect you’re right on with that comment. I say “suspect” because we’ve only flown SW for over 12 years (ever since they came to Florida) and our experience with their customer service has only been very good.

    I read where Delta was rated the very worst in CS for 2010 and I believe it. They gave us a hard time years ago for boarding late when the reason was a delay in arrival from another Delta flight. That was our last Delta flight. Thankfully, SW goes where we want to go.

  5. Yogurt…quite true. In my college days, I mostly ate plain yogurt with a bit of honey added. Now I remain a huge fan of Dannon (“fruit on the bottom”). You can mix just enough of the fruit to suit your taste, and I like to do it at a minimum. I learned to like the taste of plain yogurt. I suspect that the fruit part has a lot of sugar, but as I said, I’m not scientific in my choices.
    I am absolutely NOT kidding about Kraft M&C! And pairing it with Spam? It just couldn’t get any better 🙂
    Both of you have flown much more than I have, but I will echo pt’s comment about being poked in the eye being preferable to flying. It’s about a 5 or 6 hour trip to my sister’s house northeast of Atlanta. It’s about a 45 minute flight from here to Hartsfield. Then you add in getting to the airport in advance, going through security, renting a car, collecting luggage, driving mucho miles to Buford–I can get there faster by driving. I can remember when flying used to be a pleasant and adventurous experience. Now I will never do it again unless forced.
    As for Southwest, they are fun. Delta should take lessons. But you have to drive 200 miles to get to them. Speaking of adding time. But I understand it. When I lived in Des Moines, I would drive either to Omaha or Kansas City to fly.
    As for customer service, that is not my primary criterion. I want to get from A to B safely. That is all that counts.

    • >Southwest…drive 200 miles to get to them.

      SW now flies to Panama City airport, so that’s “only” about 120 miles. But I prefer Jax because SW flies non-stop to Vegas from there. Also, we can spend Saturday in St. Augustine if we want or visit with Jax friends.

      Jax airport security’s not too bad and Vegas is very efficient because it has so many folks going through.

  6. But more about customer service. I consider myself to be something of an expert on the subject. Part of how I got that way is by working for McDonald’s as a manager for 8 years, and learning what not to do. They believe they can get good customer service from their employees by demanding it. Everyone must be like a TV commercial, always smiling and never deviating from the prescribed script. It never allowed for any individual variation or personality, even for a variation of the greeting. So in my current world, we require a greeting…I think that’s essential, for one reason, you get back what you give. But I don’t require that it be phrased a certain way. That’s just robotic, and customers know it. They know when employees are being forced to parrot something. Both the customer and the employee are dehumanized by that.
    So, my strategy is…make your employees happy. A happy employee is more generous and willing to engage the customer, when they are not rigidly controlled. I may sometimes cringe, but it’s more important to allow them to express themselves, within reason. I’d probably balk at a greeting of “Yo! Wassup?” But people need freedom to perform at their best, and they need to know they are appreciated and be rewarded for it.
    I have to tell you that this is very hard to do in corporate culture, because the mindset is, Fire them. We can always find someone else.

  7. Don’t know if youre an addict, but iTunes purchases will go toward your USAir Miles and keep them active.

    I agree, if they want my time and opinions bad enough, there ought to be some compensation.

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