Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stupid Surveys

Every now and then I am offered an opportunity to participate in an "eRewards" survey, in exchange for some quantity of a theoretical currency I haven't yet figured out how to spend. The surveys have to do with consumer preferences and buying habits, ranging from food to electronics to cars and so on. You're supposed to think that by participating in the survey you are helping stores and advertisers better understand what products appeal to different age groups, economic brackets, and so on. But in reality, what you're probably telling them is what kind of marketers to sell your personal information to.

Increasingly often, I ignore these invitations. Now and then, on a whim, I decide to participate in a survey to see what happens. God knows, maybe I'll earn enough eRewards bucks to buy something... if I could only figure out how. But time after time, after I have answered a few introductory questions about my height, weight, favorite color, and the like, I get a message saying I do not fulfill the criteria to continue with the survey or to earn full credit for my participation.

Naturally, I'm miffed. It only takes 3 or 4 questions for these marketing people to decide that they don't care about my opinion. Clearly, they already know what they want the survey to tell them, or they wouldn't be able to spot me so quickly as someone who won't tell it to them. But I wonder: if the survey's results are so carefully predetermined, why do they even bother asking the questions?

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