In my Opinion

Online Survey

Ouch…oooh, that doesn’t feel good. I think I’ve pulled an index finger muscle. Oh, no…maybe I’ve got mouse-click-induced carpal tunnel. It is not surprising considering I’ve clicked my way through about a dozen on-line surveys this week. By golly, one of these days I’m gonna win a $1000 gift card. I wonder if it will be redeemable for a wrist brace.

It seems like almost every retailer now has a link to a survey on their receipt. Some have instant coupons but most entice you to their survey with a chance to win. Beats me why I sucker for that 1-in-a-bazillion chance. But then there really isn’t any other good reason to do it.   I rarely take the survey to actually help the store improve. Generally, I only take the survey to be eligible for the Sweepstakes. Did you know that you cannot participate in any of these Sweepstakes where they are prohibited by law? Darn, that takes most of the fun out of it. Oh, and don’t forget the carte blanche permissiveness of most Sweepstakes: No purchase necessary.

Seriously?   Now you tell me, where can I get postage stamps without purchasing them? Yup, you can ONLY enter the Sweepstakes two ways. On-line, with a valid “purchase receipt” …or by mail, if you don’t make a purchase at the Sweepstake Sponsor’s store. Last I knew, the postman will not deliver an entry which has no “purchased” postage stamp on the envelope.

In case you have not read any Sweepstake rules lately—and most of them are boilerplate—here’s a couple which I believe are extremely important.

You must be 18 years, or older, to enter. Oh, but wait…if you are, in fact, under 18, and happen to win a Sweepstake prize, mom can sign your “affidavit of eligibility”. Excuse me? I’d have to do more research to be sure, but this sounds like it’s bordering on prohibited by law in most jurisdictions of the United States. Yeah, I know, 18 may not be the age of majority in some states, but I’d expect those jurisdictions would categorically make Sweepstake entry unlawful until you reach whatever age they consider the “majority” portal.

Reading the rules further, I find the ultimate, superfluous, caveat. If for any reason, including but not limited to, misdirected, mutilated, unintelligible, written, telephone, or electronic communication; hardware or software program failure; network or computer malfunction …or for that matter…failure or difficulties of any kind; your entry will be declared invalid. Whoa, hold it there! Ya mean, if y’all don’t get my entry, it taint no good?

Oh, yeah, and “Any prize notification returned as ‘undeliverable’ may result in forfeiture.” May result in forfeiture?

With all of this in mind, you might imagine that I often succumb to filling out the surveys rather flippantly. In addition to the aforementioned superfluous rules, some of the questions within the survey itself are hardly applicable to most of my shopping experiences. Here’s some thoughts that reverberated in my skull with a particular retailers survey.

How would you rate your overall shopping experience? Hmm, how to answer this rather limited question? I didn’t go into the store to buy overalls, only a tube of glue.   Even if I did want clothing, what’s with the gradient of choices between 1 and 5? All they needed was 2…succeeded or failed. You know what…if they really wanted a valid survey, they should give out receipts for failed shopping ventures. Yeah, the Greeter could have a counterpart saying Good bye to empty handed shoppers at departure; “Sorry you couldn’t find something to buy, but here’s a dissatisfaction receipt with a chance to win a gift card.”

Was there a sufficient selection for you to choose from?   I obviously bought the item I was shopping for, so apparently the store having one in stock was sufficient. And again, why 5 choices for me to choose a response from. I have always done better with true/false tests than multiple choice. And by the fact that I’m taking this survey on line, the questions moot…I bought something so the selection was sufficient.

Was the merchandise arranged in a way that made it fun to shop? Fun? I went to buy a tube of glue. I suppose I would have scored the survey a lot higher if they had arranged for bags and glue samples in a private sniffing room.

What would have improved your shopping experience?   Ah, finally a comment box. Oh, they really shouldn’t do that. Once I wrote that they should give out marijuana samples. That would really have heightened my experience.

How would you rate the price-to-value of the item(s) purchased? A tube of glue? When was the last time you comparison shopped for glue? Besides, how could I be sure of its value this soon after purchase?

Considering your checkout experience, was the employee considerate of your time? Oh, boy, that’s really not so tough to choose between 1 and 5. I mean, a 5 would probably be they scanned the glue and tossed it to me. Conversely, I’d surely rate it a 1 if they read the infinitesimally small print warning label to me. The best and worst is relatively easy. But how do you know if it’s a 3 or a 4 if they only ask if I want a bag or not. There are so many ramifications to accepting a bag. My contemplations over whales, recycling, and ozone alone, can usurp lots of my valuable time.

But, the most fun for me is the demographic questions at the end of the survey. I like to skew the marketing profile. For one of the surveys I submitted this week, I checked that I was single, had 12 children under the age of 18 and an income under $15,000. Hmmm, now that I think about it, answering like that probably ruined my chance at the $1000 gift card.

Cake Consumer

Cup cakes

I am a cake consumer. I am not a baker. The last time I used an oven, I broiled a pizza.

Nor would I ever be a host who opted to serve cupcakes instead of traditional wedges. Cupcakes may indeed be an advantage for the hostess, yet they are an adversity for their guests. I am not sure why so many party hostesses choose to bake cupcakes. Of course, I can see the eventual benefit of not having dishes and forks to wash, yet the preparation of cupcakes would seem to me to be far more difficult than pouring batter into a pan.

Even though I’m not allowed to be alone in the kitchen, I have helped. I can attest to the fact that cupcake papers do not separate easily. In most cases when layers of plastic or paper do not easily separate, I tend to lick my forefinger and thumb to assist. When the process is used to open a static clinging kitchen trash bags, there is hardly the chance for adverse consequences of saliva on a garbage bag. Not so with cupcake papers. Any stated logic about salivary enzymes non-survival of oven temperatures, has about as much credibility as the 5-second rule’s validity to gum dropped in the grass.

If there’s not enough difficulty in preparing the papers for batter deployment, removing the papers after baking is even more challenging. Cutting a sheet cake with a knife is much less messy than peeling crumby paper from baked batter. If there’s something special about individual servings being round, use a Christmas wreath cookie cutter instead of a knife. But, let’s face it, round does not enhance flavor. I taste no flavor advantage to cupcakes. Therefore, the only reason I can see for a host to choose pleated paper encased sweetness is for the ease of clean-up.

Ah, but that’s because clean-up from consuming cupcakes is not the host’s responsibility. It is the consumer who must face the clean-up calamity of eating cake without a fork or plate. With a fork I can detach a bite-sized portion of a frosted 3-layer cake, consume it, and gently pat my lips with a napkin to clear away a stray crumb.

Biting into a cupcake, on the other hand (actually it requires both hands) will certainly leave a late night snack imbedded in my mustache. Which brings up another question. Who decided that a cupcake requires one third of its mass to be frosting?

It is impossible to avoid the mountain of icing impacting my mustache at some point in the experience. Tongues are very effective for clearing stray bits of frosting from the lips. They are practically useless in salvaging large globs of sweetness from the bristles on my upper lip.

Using a napkin to accomplish this clean-up is self defeating. It may indeed be effective at removing embedded frosting, but there is no gracious way to lick a napkin. So, I often simply squeegee the frosting off of my upper lip with my finger. This should be done in the privacy of the nearest corner lest other guests become uncomfortable with my finger licking good, albeit crumby, smile.

Speaking of crumbs. Other than all over my face, where do they go?   Yup, into the paper cup to join their friends still pasted within the pleats. On a plate, cake crumbs can be collected between the tines of a fork. Cupcakes come with no fork.

There is no respectable way to scrape, lick or chew off the crumbs adhering to the paper cup. My oft chosen methodology is to use my incisors as hoes grading the furrows of a garden. A note of caution. Use your upper incisors and keep the crumby paper upright or there will be collateral crumb fallout to the floor—which tends to negate the hosts benefit of minimal clean-up.

But of course, considering the definition and functionality of incisors, there is always the likelihood of cutting off a bit of the paper as well.   It is socially un-cooth to spit out the paper. Just swallow it. Though it is indigestible cellulose, there could be benefits to fiber in your diet.

Again, this consumer clean-up activity should politely be done facing into the nearest corner. Alas, by now there are longer lines at the corners than in the hall to the women’s bathroom. So, until a corner becomes available, seek another person with icing on their upper lip to converse with. Neither of you will mention the blue mustache nor the food dyed staining of teeth and tongue.

I will continue to be a cake consumer. I’ll just take my cupcake in a to-go box, please.


Satisfaction Guaranteed

Satisfaction Guaranteed

That’s always a statement that gets my attention.  Not so much for the promise that I will be happy with the product as the assurance I’ll enjoy the ad.  Usually I don’t pay particularly close attention to TV ads, yet when I hear that claim at the end, I make sure I watch for the ad the next time.  My good fortune with one particular TV ad was when I got a duplicate offer in the mail.

They were selling quarters. Yeah, quarters like in coins, money, legal U.S. tender.  Who wouldn’t be satisfied with that product.  Oh…, well…, I suppose there just might be a point of contention over the cost.  Fifteen ninety five for two quarters.  Guaranteed you would not be satisfied dropping one of those quarters in the parking meter.  So how do you market a 50 cent product for nearly 20 dollars…if you consider shipping and handling.  Ahhh, no handling.  After all, these are uncirculated quarters.  Let’s see, the ad said “service” not handling.  Good choice of words, ’cause handling these brilliant specimens would most certainly have devalued them and lost a lot of customers.

Choosing the right words is critical in advertising.  You must use enticing words like last chance, dwindling supply, collectors dream, emptying our vault.  Wow, “two quarters” has gotta be worth twenty bucks if they’re kept in a vault.  Hey, I’ve got quarters in a vault.  Maybe even a collectors dream.  I could be a millionaire if I could find a chump to pay such an inflated price per coin.  But wait…for $15.95 you get a lot more than just any old pair of quarters.  These are guaranteed uncirculated.

Is this the place to mention that I’ve got uncirculated grade, hundred year old quarters that I couldn’t sell for a $1.59.  Yet the ad wants me to pay ten times that much for ten year old stuff.  Oh, but wait, you get so much more than just the quarters.  You get a postage stamp too.  Historical stamp at that.  Actually, I’d categorize it more like hysterical.  The one in the picture is worth .5 cents.  Yup. that’s one half a cent.  And only if you use it on an envelope.  A dealer might give you a penny for three of them.

Oh, oh, I almost missed this extremely important aspect of the ad.  The dies which made these quarters have been retired.  “Done. Finished. Complete.” (please note, I’m quoting the ad)  It’s over.  The last of each quarter has been struck at the mint, never again to be made.

Okay, boys and girls…who can tell me how many United States coins are ever made more than one year?  Here’s a hint.  Look at any U.S. coin and you’ll surely find a year.  You found it didn’t’ you.  It’s singular right?  Guess what, that singular date is in the die which is retired, done, finished, complete every December.  And even if they never ever make any of these Statehood Quarters again, the government made a billion or so every year.  You know what!  Dealers and speculators bought up nearly half of what was minted in this 10 year series, and put it in their vaults.

Oh, my what comfort there is in “Guaranteed Satisfaction”.  I surely am satisfied.  It didn’t cost me anything either.  It came free, no obligation, in the mail.  I crave foolish advertising, and this one definitely fulfilled my gluttony…at least temporarily.  I hope this free frivolity satisfies you enough that you won’t be duped into ordering any quarters for $15.95 a pair.