Back when the National Do Not Call Registry first came into being, there was a fair amount of talk about the exemptions to the rule (nonprofits, surveys) and whether telemarketers would find clever ways to circumvent the Registry. I seem to recall a humor piece on NPR portraying just what such a call might sound like, though I haven’t been able to find a link to it.
I wasn’t thinking about any of that earlier today, though, when a pleasant-sounding lady called from Potomac Survey Research and asked if I’d be willing to answer some questions about “television and the Internet.” I was in a pretty congenial mood, and looking for some way to pass the time other than trying to get my mind around the fact than in twenty-four hours or thereabouts I will be a father. (That fact has had a way of creeping into recent blog posts regardless of context or appropriateness. I don’t know what to say about that, except that it accurately mirrors my life.) I also thought that maybe I’d get a chance to mention my favorite television shows and web sites. (“Yes, “West Wing”:http://www.polytropos.org/archives/000149.html, mm-hmm. And for Internet that’s p-o-l-y-t-r-o-p-o-s-dot-org. I can’t believe you haven’t heard of it!”)
So I consented to the 7-10 minute survey, and started rating my general impressions of this technology or that company on a scale of 1 to 5. Gradually the questions started narrowing in on cable TV service, and it became clear that the survey was either being conducted on behalf of Comcast or one of its competitors. After the questions about what I thought of Comcast’s customer service, we hit a yes-or-no one that struck me as a little odd:
“Were you aware that Comcast provides HDTV service for a number of channels, including NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and ESPN?”
“Um, yeah, I guess so.”
“And were you aware that such service is available for as little as –”
That’s when the alarms went off. Now, I didn’t know for certain whether the entire survey had been, in fact, leading up to a thinly veiled advertisement. I briefly considered holding out to the bitter end just to be sure, but I was taken by a suddenly strong sense of having my time egregiously wasted, especially since the questions they’d asked weren’t really about “television and the Internet” at all. So I hung up on the pleasant-sounding lady.
Curse those telemarketers! My phone survey days are now done. I’ll still make time for a political poll, in the hopes that my small voice might make its infinitesimal imprint on a sea of data. But if the guy calling from the Dean campaign wraps up by telling me I’ve won a Caribbean vacation and all he needs is my credit card number, my head is going to explode.
UPDATE: “Jim”:http://www.highclearing.com/ was sent some “interesting info”:http://www.highclearing.com/archivesuo/week_2003_11_30.html#004742 about the very survey call I received, from “someone”:http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/ who actually worked on the survey! Turns out it’s not a sales pitch, though some questions stray admittedly close to the line. Follow the links for the whole deal.