Joe Lavin

July 20, 2004

Survey Says


Hi, I'm the sucker who always says yes when asked to be in a survey. I confess that I'm not always the most helpful respondent. In fact, rarely do I ever tell the truth. My income is almost always in the six-digit range. My address is usually thousands of miles away from the truth. And whenever I'm asked for my birth date, I like to choose the oldest possible date. It's even worse when I'm registering at a web site. I am probably the only rich 104-year-old woman from Guam reading ESPN.com.

I am so used to giving phony information that occasionally when ordering online I'll have to stop myself from putting down a fake address out of habit.

"Um, I haven't received that book I ordered last week. You see, I accidentally put down my mailing address from 1992. Oh, and I said my name was Agnes by mistake."

Despite my penchant for lying, I do get called often to be in opinion polls. Once the research companies find a sucker, I guess they just keep calling. Last week, NPR wanted to know how I thought the country was doing, and for once I was actually truthful. I used to lie in political polls in an attempt to skew the results, but then I realized that I might as well just be truthful since many of my views are already skewed.

NPR's questions weren't all that remarkable, though I was able to tell them that I thought the country was on the wrong track. (Someone had cut ahead of me in the supermarket checkout lane that day, and that was just enough to tip the scales.) I eventually heard the results on the radio and was excited to discover that 54% of the others in the poll had also said the country was on the wrong track. What great news! I thought. My side was winning. Go wrong track!

Three days later, I was in another survey. This time, a company called Audience Studies wanted to express-mail me a videotape of a "situation comedy appropriate for family viewing." Sure, what the hell, I said. The woman left the impression that this would be a pilot for a new sitcom, and that when they called for my opinion it would help determine whether the show ever made it on the air. Even better, I was sent a special tape that self-erased while I watched it. How cool is that? I suddenly felt like I was in the "Mission Impossible" of lame phone surveys, though I was a little worried that my VCR might explode if the tape did self-destruct.

Unfortunately, that was the high point. You can probably tell from the title alone ("Dads") exactly how bad the sitcom was. It was about three divorced fathers, who bond when they meet in their children's kindergarten class. One is an executive, another is an Italian guy who "works with his hands," and the third is an architect who lied to his ex-wife that he planned a giant birthday party for their five-year-old and now has to come up with a kick ass party on short notice. Hijinks do ensue.

Meanwhile, Rue McClanahan from "The Golden Girls" plays a kindergarten teacher with perhaps the worst fake German accent I have ever heard in my life. It wavers in and out like the signal of some distant radio station. At one point, I swear that she sounds like she's from Brooklyn. If anyone is on the wrong track, it's definitely Rue.

Just in case you're wondering, the show wasn't nearly as good as it sounds.

Strangely, the survey itself was all about the commercials within the sitcom. Most of the questions were about a commercial for Centrum Carb Assist multi-vitamins, a spot that I barely remembered watching. I was even taking notes, and I still had almost no recollection of this commercial. That didn't stop the interviewer though.

"Did you find the commercial for Centrum Carb Assist very interesting, somewhat interesting, or not interesting?"

"Not interesting."

"How would Centrum Carb Assist fit in with your low carb lifestyle?"

"It wouldn't. I don't have a low carb lifestyle."

"How important is it for you to have a low carb lifestyle?"

"It isn't. I'm actually trying to get more carbs into my diet."

"How likely would you be to buy this product?"

"Not at all likely."

"How likely would you be to use this product?"

"Well, since I wouldn't buy it, I probably wouldn't own it and thus wouldn't be able to use it."

"Um, would that be a not likely then?"

"Yeah."

"Earlier, when you said that you found the commercial not interesting, what did you mean by that?

"I meant that it was boring."

I must be on some sort of list now. Just yesterday as I was running out the door, another company called asking me to participate in a beverage survey. I told them that I thought they were on the wrong track, and luckily that seemed to get rid of them.


©2004 Joe Lavin

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