Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Great Shopping Survey Experiment

My usual response is a mumbled “Thanks,” as I stuff the store receipt into my purse. The survey that the cashier has helpfully highlighted in pink remains unanswered as well as all of my chances to a sweepstakes for a gift card if I simply “go online and complete a brief questionnaire about my shopping experience.” 

What started out as a mandatory salutation from bored salespeople coupled with an offer for their store credit card at a handful of stores has become part of nearly every transaction at retail and restaurant chains across the country. It seems as though everyone wants your opinion and is willing to give you certain shopping perks in exchange for it.

I decided to host an experiment to see just how much my opinion mattered to those cash register receipts.

For a period of about a month, I decided to complete every survey from everywhere I shopped or dined that offered one. I answered each one honestly and independently from one another and recorded the time it took to complete, the ease of the process and what the promised payoff to me was.

Not much, was the resounding answer.

The Good:

Of the 15 surveys I completed only two from retail stores and two from restaurants offered something tangible. Dick’s Sporting Goods emailed me a $10 off coupon immediately after completing their six minute survey, and Off Broadway Shoes gave me an instant $5 off my purchase at the register if I texted a number they provided. I appreciated that instaneous savings. 

And of the two out of three restaurants I tried, Sticky Fingers Smokehouse and Outback Steakhouse gave me a code for a free dessert and an appetizer respectively.

The Not Bad:

JCpenney is offering a button after a purchase at their store. You go on the website, enter in the code from the back of the button, and you are instantly notified if you’re a winner. 

I didn’t win, but by this point, I was used to it.

The big, bad waste of time:

Every other retail store I sampled entered me into a sweepstakes of varying prizes. Best Buy and Home Depot were the most generous with a chance at a $5,000 shopping spree, while Joann Fabric and Craft Center offered a mere $25 gift card. None of this mattered since to date, I haven’t won a dime.

The average time it took to complete a survey was about 7 minutes, but Toys R Us took a whopping 13 minutes. But if you’ve ever stood in line at this chronically understaffed store during the holidays, anything under an hour seems like a bonus. Pier 1 Imports was the only one I chose to answer by phone, and I think this added considerably to the time devoted to a $7 clearance floral stem.

So after a couple of hours of visiting store websites and placing numerical values to whether signs printed in Spanish enhanced my shopping experience, I can’t say that it was worth the investment. To be fair, I am not a particularly lucky person nor am I particularly patient. The nebulous sweepstakes offers seem awfully shallow when stores are asking customers to invest additional time to advance their consumer research. While the store got my time, age, and annual income, all I got in return was a receipt eight inches longer than necessary, strange 800 numbers calling during dinner and a Blooming Onion.

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