Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Why People Don't Answer Surveys Anymore

Is it really a survey, or just a push-poll from Sirius XM?   And what did I say about entering into a business relationship predicated on a lie?   A fake survey is a lie.  Do the math.

Donald Trump may be right about one thing - surveys and polls are really unreliable indicia of public opinion.  Pollsters like to tout their scientific methodology and claim that their sampling techniques represent public opinion.  Oftentimes, however, this methodology is skewed.  For example, how useful it is it if you sample the opinions of the same people over and over again?    If your initial sample was skewed, your subsequent samples will also be skewed.

However, in this modern day and age, it is hard to gauge public opinion when so much of it is self-reported and moreover, so many people simply hang up on pollster calls assuming they are some sort of con artists - which they are most of the time.

Consider this SPAM message I received from "Mary Williams" the other day:

This is a followup to the invitation we sent you last week.  You are one of a very small number of car owners from around the country who have been selected to participate in an anonymous survey about audio entertainment options in your vehicle.
The answers you provide will help shape the future of audio entertainment in automobiles.
The vast majority of people complete the survey in less than 10 minutes.

Odyssey, a leading customer research firm, is conducting this online survey on behalf of a major company with an interest in how vehicle owners are using the audio entertainment options in their cars, trucks, and SUVs.
This survey is for research purposes only, and is not intended to sell or market any products.
Our client values your opinion and wants to know what you think and how you feel.
Your opinions are very important to us and all information you provide will be kept STRICTLY confidential.  It will only be presented in aggregate.

We ask that you complete the survey as soon as possible to make sure that your opinion counts!  To take our online survey, please click on the link below, or copy the complete address into your browser:


This is not a sales effort.  This is strictly for research purposes.   Thank you in advance for your participation!
This message was sent by Odyssey, 2261 Market Street, Suite 1400, San Francisco, CA 94114. To unsubscribe, click below:

Of course, they are not interested in my "opinion" on anything.  If you click on the link, it takes you to a survey about Sirius XM radio and asks why you unsubscribed and then asks increasingly detailed "questions" which are more selling points for the Sirius streaming service and finally making the sales pitch - wouldn't you like to re-subscribe?

It is a desperate ploy from a company with a huge costly satellite infrastructure and a shrinking audience.  They are a dying business and are struggling to stay alive - finally realizing they need to join "the dark side" and go to a smart-phone streaming model, as no one in their right mind spend $17 a month to listen to Howard Stern unless they are particularly dense.

(One problem with Sirius XM radio is that you can't even get the news - only people talking about the news.  So while you can go to "NPR" on XM, all you'll get is canned talk show programs like Fresh Air but you won't get the hourly newscast.  The music content is predictable and lame - and repetitive.  It just isn't compelling at any price).

The point is, this isn't a survey or poll at all, but more of a "push-poll" - an advertisement designed to shape opinion rather than sample it.   Politicians use these as well, offering up "questions" such as "Would you still support Hillary Clinton if you knew that she had ordered the murder of our embassy staff and military guards in Benghazi?"   It is not so much a question as an argument.

Other "polls" or "surveys" are just come-ons for outright ripoffs.   Sirius XM is just a shitty bargain and shitty content - it is a "legitimate" business, although one that flirts with illegitimacy with its stubborn insistence on the use of "negative option" subscription models and flaky pricing schemes.   Outright crooks, on the other hand, use "surveys" as bait to lure their victims - which is why when Sirius starts using fake surveys, you know their time in the sun is fading fast.

The "free cruise" people use "surveys" as a gambit to get you to talk on the phone and then tell you that you've "won" a free cruise.   Of course, everybody "wins" the cruise - and then they ask for a credit card number to pay the port fees and other miscellaneous charges.   It is not free, just an inexpensive cruise on a shitty cruise line and you are forced to sit through a three-hour timeshare program before they let you board - and then you are pestered to buy once they have you trapped on board.

Online, almost all surveys are come-ons or frauds.   The self-reporting "surveys" that Trump likes to tout, are ones where people "vote" like with America's Idol.   Only those aware of the survey will vote, of course, and since they are advertised on Trump discussion groups, you can only guess who wins them (apparently Trump will win on November 28th, in a landslide).  But those are just shitty online contests, really.

Other survey come-ons promise the participant riches, promoting the idea that companies will pay money for your oh-so-precious opinions.   They won't, of course, and if you go down the click-bait rabbit-hole of the online survey, you will find your wallet a little (or a lot) lighter, as you will end up having to agree to buy magazine subscriptions or other products as part of this scheme.   Others simply steal money directly from you by claiming you need to pay "processing fees" up-front.

So people today are skeptical of surveys.   And it doesn't help when the survey taker outright lies from the get-go:
"This is not a sales effort.  This is strictly for research purposes."
Alas, it was exactly what they said it was not - a sales effort.   And as I have noted time and time again in this blog:

Any business relationship predicated on a lie, no matter how trivial, will inevitably go downhill from there.
Liars play their hand early.  When you answer the phone and someone says "how are YOU today?" they are lying to you, as they really don't care about how well you are doing.  When you get a piece of mail that says "urgent!" when it is just an ad, or is faked-up to look like a tax refund check or something important - to get you to open it - they are lying to you.  When a commercial says you can "lease a new car for $199 a month!" and you get down to the dealer and realize it will cost far more than that, they are lying to you.
People who lie to you at the get-go aren't going to become more honest over time.  Just walk away from deceptive advertising, practices, and come-ons.  Every time you send business to people to operate this way, you encourage more people to do it - and drive out of business the few honest people left.
And that's why people don't answer surveys anymore - and likely why they shouldn't.