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Oldie, 4/14/10: Surveys and Dream-Teasers

Sorry for the looong absence -- just nothing worth writing about.  However, two worthy topics sprang to mind today:  Surveys and dreams.

I take a lot of online surveys, purely out of greed.  Periodically, I'll get a surge of ambition and sign myself up for anything and everything that promises an incentive.  I've been doing this for somewhere between 5 and 8 years and have done reasonably well with it.  If I spent more time and took more risks, there might be even more to brag about.

Harris Interactive is one of my all-time favorites.  They let you tell them how often you want to be "invited" to take a survey.  The shortest interval is every 3 days, which I've signed up for, but usually it's more like every 10 days.  So when Harris shows up in my inbox, there's no rolling of the eyes or "not this again."  Their surveys are well-constructed; they're not too long or too short.

One pet peeve of mine with regard to surveys is when they ask you eighty bazillion stupidass questions over a span of 20 minutes and then suddenly hit you with a screen that says "Oops!" or "Sorry! -- You did not qualify for our survey opportunity" or "Our quota for your demographic is filled," etc.  Beyond a certain amount of time and effort, I think you deserve something.  Harris doesn't pull that kind of nonsense, which is why I stick with them.  They make you feel that every survey, no matter the outcome, is important to them, and therefore, so are you.  They have a progress meter, and it's pretty easy to tell if you're getting the long form or the short form, because it will jump from, say, 20% complete to 75%, and then they start with the "wrap-up" questions, such as whether you're Hispanic or how much TV news you watch in the average week.  They'll also ask you if you noticed any errors or redundancies in their questions.  I rarely do, and wish other survey companies would ask me that.  My response would be quite different.   Even if they deem you ineligible for the long survey, Harris will still award you some of their "HI-points."  Sometimes it's as much as 300, but often it's more like 30.  Still, the points carry over and you don't have to worry that the pokey points are going to outlive you.  It's relatively easy to cash in.  I've gotten cookware, gadgets, grooming sets and gift cards from Harris and consider myself a "satisfied customer."

Select the brands of which you consider yourself a "satisfied customer" is a question frequently posed by another fave of mine, YouGov, formerly known as PollingPoint.  This is another group that doesn't carpet-bomb your inbox.  It's once every 2-3 weeks, and their polls have a bit of meat on the bones. Most of what they ask you pertains to companies.  Since they invite feedback, I've commented that they frequently get "brands" and "companies" confused.  Some people may not know (or care) that Coca-Cola and Sprite are manufactured by the same company, but one thing about us old Marketing majors, we never really quit.  So, if you can get past that little shortcoming, you'll enjoy their polls, which often include political questions as well.

Those are the two perennial favorites for me.  I have 3 main e-mail addresses and have tried to spread my survey-taking out so that none of my inboxes get too bombarded.  Many of the survey companies, the ones that pay, will keep track of your physical address and/or birthdate and ding you if you sign up with them under more than one e-mail address, however inadvertently.  Global Test Market is one of those; they didn't invite me to participate at one e-mail for a long time; aware of this, I assumed I'd dropped them.  Sometimes survey e-mails populate in your inbox like salmonella and you get to where you just have to purge.  Figuring I'd done this at some point, I signed up with GTM at a different address a year or two later and was rather indignantly informed that my home address was already listed with them.  So after going through the gyrations of requesting a password refresher and getting it, I tried signing on at the original e-mail address, only to be told that that was the incorrect password.  So to heck with 'em.  Plenty of other companies want to throw money at me.

Inbox Dollars is one.  Now, be aware, the money comes in VERY slowly if all you do is click on their ads.  Slow like two cents at a time.  And, their minimum earning level for payout is 30 bucks.  And, when you get to 30 and request payment, they skim 3 bucks right off the top for "service fees," whatever that means.  So you let it get to $33, and I'm less than 25 cents from that right now.  I'm a little inboxed-out at this point, so once the money is in my PayPal account, I'm getting off that particular merry-go-round for awhile.

However...  Inbox Dollars does offer lots and lots of opportunities to build your balance up faster by referring friends, taking surveys (often for a whopping ten cents, but a dime's a dime), completing those annoying "Win a laptop -- just tell us which is better, McDonald's or Burger King" things, which the fine print doesn't tell you ALSO involves trying to recruit other people; playing online games; signing up for book clubs, insurance plans, and a whole host of other offers.  There's plenty of variance along the sleaze spectrum; they're all legit, but not all will be to your taste.  Vista Print is one you'll see frequently at Inbox Dollars.  You can get free (plus S&H, of course) notepads, address labels, business cards, etc. and gain a few extra bucks.

A relative newcomer is Dollar Surveys.  It's basically what it sounds like:  If you have a PayPal account and "complete" one of their surveys, they'll pay you a dollar.  "Completing" is the key -- they'll frequently bump you mid-survey as described a few paragraphs back.  But they DO pay.  They'll tell you to expect payment in about a week, but it's more like two.

One pitfall for the novice is companies that don't actually conduct the surveys -- they're more like portals to the survey universe in general.  You'll start signing up; they'll send you the "Welcome" e-mail and then direct you to page after page after endless, repetitive, mind-numbing page of questions such as "Do you or someone you care about suffer from gout? Yes/No" and "Would you like to find out if you're paying too much for your auto insurance? Yes/No." After awhile you get tired of answering these things -- which brings me to yet another pet peeve.

Those little round bubbles where you fill in your Yes or No are called "radio buttons" by those who write the code for them.  You'll see them after questions that can only have one answer.  Checkboxes are designed for questions that can have more than one answer (Such as "Which TV networks have you watched this week?  ABC / CBS / NBC" with each choice having a checkbox).  All this is fine, but why do the radio buttons have to be so blastedly tiny?  Some surveys make you feel like you're in some Kafkaesque archery competition, where the bulls-eye is 1/100 the usual size and if you don't hit it squarely in the center, you get yelled at.  Don't they know there are nearsighted middle-aged people taking these surveys?!!

Oh, and speaking of which, I find it endlessly fascinating how different research orgs divide their categories.  A person with annual household income of $40,000 will feel like they're on the precipice of abject poverty while taking one survey, which divides income categories into a) $0-100,000 b) $100,001-500,000, etc. and then a likely denizen of Trump Tower while taking the next one, which has categories like a) $0-5000 b) $5001-10,000 c) $10,001-15,000 etc.

Anyway, that's how I plan to amass enough money for my first new pair of shoes in over a year and a half -- or maybetwo  pairs, if I can hit PayLess when they're having one of their "BOGO" sales.  Wheeeeeee!

Speaking of dreams, that was the other potential topic today.  However, I'll save that for another day.  I already have the title picked out, based on last night's offering:  The Carnivorous Monochrome Turkey.  Shades of Tom Wolfe!


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