The wrong man for the job

I don’t know why I even opened that bit of obvious junk mail last month. But doing so was a big mistake.

What was inside the innocuous-looking white envelope was a form letter from a marketing company asking me to complete an online survey. Doing so would allegedly take under five minutes. Ordinarily I’d have dismissed such a request out of hand, but in this case I was compelled to make an exception, because there were two actual one-dollar bills attached to the letter. And while I had no real interest in filling out any surveys, the thought of pocketing two dollars for doing nothing didn't seem right, so I dutifully went online. As promised, the exercise took less than five minutes. Knowing I was finished, I donated the two dollars to the local food bank and called it a day.

But that old saying about no good deed going unpunished is all too true.

A week or so later a large cardboard envelope marked “Priority Mail” appeared on my front doorstep. “Dear Mr. Young,” the enclosed letter began. “Thank you so much for completing our online survey. Can you help us now by completing this equally important Survey of the American Consumer questionnaire booklet?” This time there was a five-dollar bill enclosed. I felt helpless. Having already established I couldn’t accept two dollars for doing nothing, I obviously couldn’t just pocket a fiver, so I resigned myself to filling out the entire 124-page questionnaire.

Fortunately I was able to omit large portions of the survey. For example, one section asked me to check off the name of every store I had visited in the last six months. I answered “no” to Abercrombie and Fitch, Aeropostale, Banana Republic, Bath and Body Works, Big Lots, Bloomingdale’s, Crate and Barrel, Dollar General, Eddie Bauer, Forever 21, The Gap, Hobby Lobby, J. Crew, Kohl’s, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, Pottery Barn, and all 58 of the other listed establishments.

Before beginning the survey I had no inkling of just how many products exist that I don’t buy. My bottom line (money spent on listed item) was zero for, among other things, tanning products, electronic cigarettes/vaping, body powder, boxed chocolates, snack mixes, malt liquor, motor oil additives, foreign vacations, cruise ships, fine jewelry, cameras, video games, mobile phone accessories, casino gambling, sour cream, dry cake mixes, frozen hot snacks, dessert toppings, frozen pizza, canned meat, pickle relish, nectars, spray starch, carpet and rug cleaners, cat litter, dog treats, wood pellets, infant cereal, lighter fluid, and approximately 745 other things.

Pages 69 thru 85 asked which cable TV channels I watch. I said no to Netflix, VH-1, Newsmax, Starz, Lifetime, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, MTV, Animal Planet, Telemundo, HBO, Hulu, History Channel, BET, Comedy Central, the Food Network, Cartoon Network, Disney, Bravo, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes, and every other option listed, many of which I’d never heard of. I’ve never been happier about having a TV-free house than I was when I realized I’d be able to skip 16 pages of that survey.

The seemingly endless personal inventory took parts of four days to complete, but when I finished I heaved a sigh of relief, earmarked my “free” five-dollar bill for the local food bank, and considered the matter closed.

By now it’s been established that I am to consumerism what Pee Wee Herman was to bodybuilding.

So hear this, marketing companies: I’m not filling out another survey, no matter how much money you attach to it! There is nothing to be gained by sending me another one.

Unless you’re affiliated with the local food bank.

Andy Young
March 22, 2024

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