How to Skew a Survey

One of the side effects of replacing my cell phone was having to transfer my number directory from the old unit to the new one. The cell phone company had a nifty device that would do this (surely there must be a means to accomplish this using the cell network instead of a physical connection).

Anyway, the salesperson connected my old and new phones to this data-transfer unit and in seconds had my numbers moved. As I thank her, she said, “Normally there is a $10 charge for this, but if you’ll complete phone a survey, I’ll waive the fee.”

Happily, I agree. She then gives me some strange instructions. “On the survey, please give me all fives. Even if you give me a four — which seems good — it counts against me. Plus, questions like the store condition apply to me, too. So please give everything a five.” Skeptical, but wanting to ensure I avoid the extra charge, I nod in agreement.

It was an automated survey and the longest I’ve every encountered. After several questions, I decided to just press “five” as quickly as possible to fulfill my half-hearted promise. But then things changed. There were now yes/no questions (press 1 or 2) interspersed with the “on a scale of 1 to 5” queries.

At the end, they gave me an option to record comments: “This is the longest and most ridiculous survey I have ever taken, and I will never complete another one from your company,” I sputtered.

When my future son-in-law, Chris, stopped in to have his numbers transferred, a different clerk gave him the same spiel. If these survey shenanigans are widespread, the results will be so skewed as to be meaningless, but at least their boss will be pleased.

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