Today I was sprang a surprise at the door.
I wasn’t really surprised. It’s not the first time I felt I could do with a little less wind from the corridor. Gracious as they may be, salespeople are always intrusions. At any time of day. Unlike TV advertisements, I can’t excuse myself when these eager visitors can see me through the metal gate. I’m not that impolite to shout “Not at home!”
This time, it was a surveyor. The lady wanted to know which Internet service provider (Starhub/SingTel/M1) my family uses. Upon enquiry, she was revealed to serve one of those companies. I happen to be using the services of another.
One of my unstated aims of studying sociology is to be more sympathetic to surveyors, most of whom intrude on the streets beside the environmentalists (oh… I mean flyer distributors). If anything, I feel less sympathetic now.
Surveys only matter when results can be said to be valid. This requires a random, representative, and sufficiently big sample. Questions must also be arranged in an order that best facilitates honest responses. But I needn’t go to all that. This lady failed to provide a valid representation of this sample data point – me!
Entire sections in the thick booklet were skipped. When she did ask about my perception of the wireless performance of my network provider, I said “Good”, which translated to a hasty “A Bit Satisfied”. To make it clearer, “A Bit Satisfied” is a ‘3’ on a 5-point scale. Just above neutral. Was my “Good” so understated to be misleading? No. Right before that, I had to emphasize ‘4’ to move her pen away from ‘3’. She was just too quick on the next occasion.
I guess I should thank her for completing a 25-30 minute survey in no more than 5 minutes. Yet I am now an unwitting statistic that can be used for purposes not clear to me. The “research” was by no means ethical, and it doesn’t take any sociological training to figure that out. The only consolation is that as a public, we are discerning enough to regard all marketing tools with sceptical eyes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I see myself on TV, disguised in numbers. I would head for the toilet.
And I’m shutting the door for now.