"IF YOU GIVE ME YOUR OPINION...."
8 August 2005
(So starts one of the Gilbert & Sullivan patter songs, from Princess Ida.)
There was a time, many, many years ago, before we moved to Davis, where Walt and I participated in focus groups. I can't remember what the perks for giving them a couple of hours of our time were ,but it must have been good enough that we would go down and test peanut butter or wine or something else, or give them our opinion on whatever was the burning consumer topic of the day.
I remember those experiences as all being fun, a nice diversion and we probably took home $10 or something.
I don't know why I enjoy doing surveys--both taking them and conducting them. There was a time, when I was a kid and reading lots of novels about women with interesting jobs, that I thought being a professional survey taker might be fun. (It probably is boring as hell, but at the time it seemed like an interesting way to earn a living.)
It's been years since I've participated in a focus group, but Ellen alerted me to one that was paying $75 to get people's experience, feelings, and suggestions about travel. They promised not to be selling anything.
Heck, even if they were selling something, my sales resistance is excellent now that I'm not working and have no regular income! And for $75, I didn't mind giving up a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. It also meant that I wouldn't be here when Ashley picked up Petey, and I wouldn't have to say good bye, not knowing whether he would find a family today or not.
So at the crack of dawn this morning, Ellen and I drove in to Sacramento. We had been told that we weren't supposed ot know each other (which seems pretty silly, actually), so we entered separately and didn't sit next to each other and Ellen picked up a magazine and began reading. Later I found out that most people in the room knew each other, since the call had gone out to the same mailing list. The only person I acknowledged knowing was someone I was surprised to see there, who was a patient of Dr. G's when I was working there (and still is). We exchanged "what are you doing now?" and Dr. G stories, which I assume was OK because when the group was divided up into two groups, she and I weren't in the same group anyway.
We were taken into a big conference room with a huge mirror wall, which I suspected right away had a camera behind it, since we were supposed to sign a release to allow our faces to appear on film in promotional settings. Kate, the facilitator, did let us know that yes, there was a camera there which was filming us, but assured us that it was only to keep track of our answers, since she couldn't be expected to remember it all (though she did write furiously during the 2 hour interview).
It really was fun, actually. Lots of laughing and talking and exchanging ideas. One of the thing she asked us was to identify with one of three story boards depicting types of travel. One board was a collage of "land travel," showing people in interesting places (like the Eiffel Tower, or Mazatlan); the second board depicted cruise travel, with all the typical cruise activities; and the third board showed a typical spa vacation, with massages, meditation, etc.
My choice was obviously the land travel option. The only cruise I've ever been on was back from Hawaii with my mother and grandmother when I graduated from high school in 1960 (we flew over and took the ship back--we should have done it the other way, because after a week with my grandmother, the very LAST thing my mother and I wanted to do was spend 5 days confined to a ship--no matter how large--with her!)
I really would love to cruise the inland passage to Alaska, I've said several times, but am not part of the "cruise crowd." Steve and his husband Jimmy cruise all the time--they are the only people I know who take luxury cruises in order to save money, since Jimmy gets hired as a lecturer, so all their food and other expenses are covered during the time they are on the cruise.
As for the "spa" vacation, I can't think of anything I would be less comfortable doing. I might actually get into it if I really tried it, but it always seems to me that it's a place to go and spend lots and lots of money, and come home having seen nothing new in the world.
So it's land travel for me, and, actually, with the exception of one woman who really liked her spa vacations, we all pretty much agreed.
The questions went on about our experience with travel agents, the kind of accommodations we prefer, what we like best and least about traveling, whether we prefer to make arrangements our selves or use a service, etc.
The closer to the end time it became the more pointed the questions became and, though they aren't supposed to reveal the company for whom they are conducting the survey, it was pretty clear that they were doing a marketing survey of how much we know about AAA's travel planning service. And, in truth, I didn't realize that AAA did more for you other than provide maps and triptix, so--who knows?--maybe I'll check into it sometime.
But at the end of the morning, they asked us to sign a sheet, they handed over an envelope containing $75 and we were on our way again.
All in all, something different to do, something kind of interesting, fun people, and at the end they paid me $37.50 an hour to sit there. I could do that again!
GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS. I'm not sure which is which, but Petey got adopted...the only dog to be adopted this week (thankyouverymuch...I sound like a proud mama), but Ashley showed up with Bud, who will be here till Tuesday, when he goes in to be neutered. Not only do we have revolving beds around here, lately we're having revolving DOGS!
PHOTO OF THE DAY