So last week, the phone rang not long after I got home one evening. The only people who ever call are my mother-in-law, old ladies from the Knitters Guild, and telemarketers. It turned out to be the last. Just as I was gearing up to tell him to never call me again, he uttered the magic words: “We’d just like to get your opinion on a new TV show. Would that be all right?” Why yes, it would! (I think 75% of the shows on TV are utter crap. Therefore of course I’m happy to do anything I can to, like, replace some of the crap with stuff I like. Plus I like the idea of people listening to my opinion, of course.) Also, they’d give me a $10 Myer card and I could win like $250 in prizes for helping. So he said they’d send me out a DVD to watch and then call the next day to get my thoughts. And by the way, could I please tell them if I’d purchased any breakfast cereal in the past month? How about moisturizer? Toilet bowl cleaner? These questions raised a big red flag in my mind, but I shrugged it off as mere demographic information. I WAS GONNA GIVE MY OPINION ON A TV SHOW, DAMMIT.
Yesterday was finally the big day. The Snook opened the envelope and started laughing at me. It contained the DVD along with a massive stack of papers, some in envelopes marked “OPEN BEFORE WATCHING DVD” and even “DO NOT OPEN”. There was a whole instruction sheet on what I had to do. In one envelope was a series of “prize” selection sheets, and I was meant to go through and indicate which “prize” I’d like if I won the drawing. And what were the prizes? Coincidentally, things like breakfast cereals… and moisturizer… and toilet bowl cleaner. The situation was becoming clear. Then I was instructed to watch the DVD, which had a complex series of menus I had to navigate to “unlock” the show. (The instructions also said I could only watch it once. I am somewhat curious to see what will happen if I put it in again.) The instructions told me that the show was an old pilot that they were thinking of remaking. Folks, it was awful. It was called “The Rocky Laporte Show” and seemed to be an “Everybody Loves Raymond” clone set in Chicago from five years ago. I sat through the whole stupid thing, including the commercials. (Another warning flag.) Then I opened up the “OPEN AFTER WATCHING THE DVD” envelope to find another set of “prize” selection sheets, where I was again instructed to select from breakfast cereals… and moisturizers… and toilet bowl cleaners.
“Do these people really think I’m that stupid?!” I asked the Snook. “This isn’t about the show at all! They actually think that seeing a couple commercials is going to make me pick different brands from the list? THIS IS THE STUPIDEST MARKETING EXERCISE EVER.” There actually was a small questionnaire about the show, just a couple multiple choice questions about whether you liked it and whether you liked the characters. (I said it SUCKED.)
So after spending like an hour on this whole stupid thing, I decided to google “Rocky Laporte Show” and see if this really was a legitimate pilot. The very first result is this blog post, written by someone disgusted over getting tricked into watching the show as part of a stupid marketing exercise. Folks, it was the EXACT SAME SURVEY… and hers was from FOUR YEARS AGO. That was it. I chucked the papers in the bin and made a mental note to give the guy a piece of my mind when he called.
And that was tonight. Interestingly, they seem to outsource the data collection to India. Before the operator could get into his spiel, I cut him off. “I don’t want to participate anymore.” “You… don’t want to participate? Why?” So I told him. “I think this whole thing was misrepresented. I thought I was going to be giving my thoughts on a TV show, and instead it just an excuse for a sneaky brand survey. The show sucked. And afterwards, I googled the title and saw that you guys have been pulling the same stunt for four years now. So I’m not participating.” He thanked me and hung up.
So learn from my example! Don’t get sucked in by flattery, thinking you’re going to be commenting on some new TV show. Chances are they just want to find out what brand of toilet bowl cleaner you use.