Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Telephone Surveys, I Keep Them Busy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Telephone Surveys, I Keep Them Busy

Article excerpt

It's a rare afternoon at home alone, and I answer the ringing telephone. Within the first two seconds, the caller's inability to pronounce my fairly phonetic name establishes that we have a stranger on the line, either sales or survey. Five more seconds (it takes her a while to be certain that I am, indeed, fine today) and the range of choices has been narrowed to "survey." Yes, I am the Lady of the House and, yes, there are teenagers who reside with me.

At the other end of the line, I can hear the survey girl rubbing her hands with glee. I am the perfect candidate to answer "just a few questions."

This is the moment when the conversation could have been terminated. Clearly, the caller missed her chance. "Are you the person in your family who is primarily responsible for doing laundry?" she asks.

I bypass an endless number of sarcastic one- liners in favor of, "Yes." Years of experience have taught me that playing it straight is faster.

"Do you use laundry-spray pretreatments?"


"Would you say you use them: (a) every time you wash, (b) one to four times per month, (c) less than once per month?"

"Every time I wash."

"Do you buy these products: (a) monthly, (b) once every one to three months, or (c) once every three to six months?"

"No," I say.

"No what?" she asks.

It is easy to envision her fingers hovering above a computer keyboard, anticipating the response that will let her move on to the next question.

"I haven't bought laundry pretreatment spray for....," I pause to count on my fingers, "at least four years."

"Four years?" she repeats.

"That's right," I say. "My daughter was in fifth grade when she picked a science-fair project on which spray removes stains best. We bought them all, and I'm still working on the supply. She's a freshman now."

The survey-giver is silent a moment. "So would you say that when you buy these products you are most interested in: (a) value, (b) convenience, or (c) quality?"

"Well, honestly, we were only interested in variety. …

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