A Market Researcher’s Worst Nightmare

I just got off the phone with a market research company. They were screening me for an upcoming market study.

I’ve been on this company’s list for a long time, and have only qualified for one study, and that was in my capacity as a professional, not as a consumer.

As a consumer I guess I’m pretty lame. They ask me questions like:

“Did you recently purchase or will you, in the next 6 months, purchase a major appliance such as a refrigerator, washer, dryer, or dishwasher, or range?”


I don’t plan to replace major appliances. I replace them when they break.

I didn’t qualify for that study. I guess you have to buy a major appliance every 5 or 6 months…

“When you purchase a new mattress, what factors do you consider the most important when choosing a brand?”

The last time I purchased new mattresses was twelve years ago, for my children. I think I just had the children lie down on them and pick the one they liked, as long as it wasn’t too expensive.

Cost and comfort.

I recently replaced my 18-year old daughter’s mattress by trading it for a newer mattress my mom had in her guest room but hardly ever used. Does that count?

Once, after a recent move, the children and I did find ourselves short one mattress. My son and I stood at the window discussing this problem, and a moment later the neighbors across the street came out of their house carrying a mattress and box spring, placing them on the side of the road and affixing the garbage stickers to them

My son and I looked at each other, said “Huzzah!” and went across the street to pick up the mattress and box spring. Carefully, I peeled the stickers off and knocked on the door to return them (no sense letting municipal garbage stickers go to waster…)

The neighbors were grateful. They said the mattress was still perfectly good but they were replacing it with a larger size. “Here,” said the woman of the house, handing me a plastic bag. “This is the sheet set.”

Relying on Providence doesn’t sit well with marketers, apparently, because I didn’t qualify for that study, either.

“How many times per month do you go to the movie theater?”

Let’s see…

I go to the movies maybe twice a year, when a highly anticipated movie comes out, usually something our family wants to see together. In fact, I can recall by name all the movies I’ve seen at the theater in the past 10 years, more or less in reverse chronological order:

  • The Hunger Games
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2
  • Of Gods and Men
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1
  • Star Trek
  • District 9 (sort of a strange choice. My son and I went to see it…)
  • Inception
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Prince Caspian
  • Bella
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Return of the King
  • The Two Towers
  • Fellowship of the Ring
  • Shrek
  • Monsters Inc.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Needless to say, I was not chosen for that market study. They want somebody who darkens the door of the Cineplex more than 0.16 times per month.

Nor was I chosen for the one I just got off the phone about. The interview went like this:

“Do you have any children living at home? What are their ages and gender?”

An 18-year old girl and a 14-year old girl. My son, 20, no longer lives at home.

“Do you have any children under 11 to whom you are related, or with whom you have a close association?”

Yes. My youngest nieces are 8 and 5, respectively, and my youngest nephew is 3. I also have several close friends who have small children: two 9-year old girls, two 6-year old girls, one 10-year old boy, one 6-year old boy…let’s see…I think there are more…

“That’s okay. You don’t have to list any more.”

I took that as a good sign.

“In the last 30 days, have you shopped for toys for any of the children in your life?”


“In the last 30 days, have you shopped for clothes for any of the children in your life?”


“In the last 30 days, have you shopped for books for any of the children in your life?”


Rats! I can tell where this is going…

“In the last 30 days, have you taken any of the children on a special outing? For example, to the zoo, the movies, a museum?”

Yes! We went to see The Hunger Games! And I took my daughters to Caribou Coffee yesterday.

But it was too late to redeem myself:

“At this time, ma’am, your answers are leading us away from the direction the company wants to go, so you do not qualify for this particular study. But we will keep you in our database and contact you about future studies.”

Questions for Reflection:

Which principles of simplicity cause me to consistently strike out with market researchers?