from the "Basically Brooklyn" Series
by Jon Simonds
(continued from homepage)...some kind of survey having to do with something about life in these United States.
In the past seven weeks, I've been asked to partake in radio surveys, television surveys, and even a newspaper survey. I've been part of surveys on finances, automobiles, healthcare, politics, politicians, and even pets. Why just a few nights ago I was called by an individual conducting a survey on, of all things, underwear.
"What kind of underwear to you prefer?" I was asked. "White cotton underwear? Brightly colored underwear? Bikini briefs, or Boxer shorts?"
I was dumbstruck. The interviewer repeated the question and as I regained my composure, I thought I saw an easy way out of this particular survey.
"I don't wear underwear," I declared.
Unfortunately, I have since come to learn that every good interviewer, stuck in a small little cubicle, comes equipped with a computer that, when properly prompted, offers a potential probe for every possible response an individual might offer.
"Underwear," the interviewer added, "is everyday apparel, easily put on and just as easily forgotten. Perhaps when you dressed this morning, you slipped on a pair of white cotton shorts, or a brightly colored brief. maybe you pulled up a bikini, or stepped into a pair of boxer shorts?"
I shook my head in utter amazement. "I'm not sure," I finally said. "However, if you give me a minute, I can check."
I mentioned this particular interview to a couple of colleagues at work and was comforted to find that I am not alone in this constant barrage of surveys. We generally believe them. After all, if enough people respond in a particular way to a particular ideal, or subject, then it is the majority response that can have the effect of re-shaping such a subject. Why would anyone hang up on such an opportunity? After all, what separates us from the rest of the world is the fact that we can stand up and voice our opinions, even if we are sitting home on the phone. Who wouldn't relish the chance?
After a long debate, my colleagues and I decided to conduct a survey of our own. We wanted to see what majority of Americans take surveys. We conducted it by randomly dialing ten numbers in ten major areas to simply see if anyone would be willing to take our survey. We met with some very surprising results. For example, we found that the nastiest people in the country don't live in New York City, but rather in Lexington, Kentucky, where 80% of those we reached shared the common practice of pressing a digit on their touch tone phone until we were forced to hang up.
In New York, the only thing 100% of the homes we reached were concerned with was how long it would take for us to conduct our survey. In Miami, we discovered that no one is ever home. In Cincinnati, everyone seems to have received the same melody-playing answering machine for Christmas. In Los Angeles, nobody has the time for this sort of thing but everybody is more than willing, provided you call them back on their cell phone; while in Chicago, they were concerned with being asked personal questions.
"You're not going to ask me any personal questions, are you?" Because I'm not going to answer any personal questions. I mean, you guys might be with the IRS or somebody like that. I got no real way of knowing, being that this is coming in over the phone."
Perhaps our biggest surprise came from the Washington, D.C. area. Every household we reached asked the same silly question. "Are you going to pay me?"
We went on to explain that their opinions would have great impact on the outcome of our survey.
"Are you going to pay me for my time?"
We weren't going to pay anyone. It was costing us a small fortune just to make the phone calls.
"I'm not taking your survey if you're not going to pay me."
I suppose this shouldn't have surprised us. After all, Washington, D.C. does have a large concentration of politicians, and as George Will might point out: "They're Democrats. They always have their hands out for something." George Will may well be right.
As for our survey? We found that most people don't believe that it is a survey. They believe the interviewer is out to sell them something and this isn't always true. So, the next time your phone rings and some jerk claims to be conducting a survey, give him a few minutes. Take the time to stand and be counted. And remember, the longer it takes you to come up with an answer, the costlier it is for the company conducting the survey. Trust me. I just received my phone bill.
Jon Simonds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org