“It’s a company doing a marketing survey on food buying,” my wife said, handing me the phone.
Yes I do the grocery shopping. I volunteered several years ago to give her more time to attend to her production agency.
I took the phone. “Hi, my name’s xxxxxx and I’m calling on behalf of Sirs, a marketing firm. . . . .”
I try to cooperate with marketing firms doing surveys for obvious reasons.
The questions were well structured and it soon was clear that I shop at three different stores: Tops, Wegman’s and Shure Fine. At first, the answers were easy.
As we drilled down, the answers were not so easy. Rate the quality of the selections; rate the variety of offerings; rate the price. . . .
Finally I cut in and said, politely: “This survey is skewed in the sense that our Shure Fine is a small neighborhood grocery store, not nearly the size of Tops and Wegmans. There’s no way Shure Fine can compete on selection, variety, even quality on certain things. Can you make a note of that?”
“Well, there’s no place here. . . but I can tell my supervisor.”
I knew where that would go. No room for exceptions in a database that’s already been set up in a world built for Excel, speed and efficiency.
I finished out the survey, which, in my mind, was already worth less than when we started. Tops came out on top because that’s where I shop every week and spend the most money.
Nowhere will those reading the results know that I stop in at Shure Fine three times a week for dairy products, meats and other convenience items. Or that I’ve done it for 30 years.
It probably won’t matter that the place is clean, the tellers are friendly and the local owner hires and trains local high school students who learn, among other things, interpersonal skills and how to be polite.
There’s nothing in there noting that the owner inherited the business from his father and three generations of the family have contributed enormously to the community.
Again, Sirs is a reputable firm, the questions were well-thought out and logical and the whole experience was professional.
But the results are skewed.
It’s a reminder to take any survey or poll with a healthy grain of salt.