The Market Research Temp

To supplement my income, I took on some evening shifts at a market research company. Yes, I was the one who called you during your dinner time to ask your considered opinions on the durability and strength of your current toilet paper.

The cohort of staff consisted mainly of university students or mothers. I was neither. Each of us was bonded together by the desire to reach our evening targets, get our commission and get out.

Starting at 6pm and finishing at 9.30pm, armed with one of Babcia’s (Polish for grandmother) crusty bread (the one that is shreds the roof of your mouth) and her home grown tomato sandwiches, I would take my place at my booth, perusing what inane questions I would be harassing people with.

We covered myriad topics from how important was spreadability in your butter, how much lather was enough in your shaving foam and, occasionally, election campaigns.

Before each shift, we were briefed by the designated supervisors on that evening’s campaign and our targets. This particular campaign was about a new prototype contraceptive, a bit like a malleable tampon made out of, what appeared to be, a phallic shaped washing up sponge. Given that this was a delicate subject matter we were coached on how lead into the questions and extract maximum qualitative information.  My first call didn’t pass the qualifying questions as it was an all men household. The second call didn’t yield better results as it was a retired couple household who had as much need for contraception they did jet skis.

Seventh call, finally a qualified respondent. Are you a woman of child bearing years? Tick. Are you currently in a relationship? Tick. How often do you engage in sexual intercourse: once a week, 2-3 times per week, 4-5 times per week, every day? Silence. Me “Mam, what do you mean you don’t do it?” Silence.

Market Research Image 29 June 2015


For the first three months, I couldn’t work out why I would only ever make half the quotas of some of the seasoned staff. They had time to sashay around the cubicles chatting to their friends and supervisors. While I, like Pavlov’s dog, just kept pressing the call drop button hoping to get a qualified respondent. The mystery was solved when I sat next to one of the superstar researchers, David. Typically, the noise levels of the phone room would rival that of a Guns n’ Roses concert. Listening in to one of David’s calls in the hope of getting some pointers, I couldn’t help overhear a faint but eloquent voice that kept repeating herself. “The number you have called is either disconnected or out of range. Please check the number before dialling again.” I suspected David didn’t check the number because the disconnection voice furnished him with erudite responses on the viscosity of her mascara and meeting his quota.

As you could imagine, the political campaigns were my favourites. In addition to the tiresome questions on what the pundits thought of the party’s health agenda, foreign aid policy or public transport upgrades, I channelled Barbara Walter’s for the harder hitting questions like:

“Does wearing red make the female candidates appear more aggressive or more confident?”

“Which campaign slogan do you prefer Moving Forward or Pursue Your Dream?”

 “Are candidate Higginbotham’s sideburns too long?”

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