I don’t feel like writing a set up to this story, so let’s just skip to the part where I got invited to participate in a survey to gauge my reaction to a fast food chain’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich (a teacher of mine once claimed that all songs have a few introductory bars to set the tone and tempo, but there’s no way to introduce a pork sandwich survey). Just to aid in the telling of this story, here is a grossly exaggerated and sexually misguided picture of a woman eating a sub.
Online surveys have become ubiquitous at franchises and chain restaurants these days. It’s hard to take a sip of water without being offered a QR code or a special numeric key to feed into your smart phone so you can rate the service or the thirst quenchingness of your beverage. In return for a few minutes of your time and a surprising quantity of personal information, you’ll get a free cookie. Or a coupon, mailed to you in six to eight weeks’ time, for $10 dollars off your next entrée with purchase of other entrée. Goodie.
Nonetheless, I had a sizeable amount of work this afternoon that I didn’t want to do, and telling my computer about my sandwich seemed like a great way to put it off for a few more minutes.* Fritter your days away with surveys and focus groups, people. At least it’s not Facebook.
I hadn’t anticipated the seriousness of the online survey. When I typed the URL into my address bar, a page came up with the stern reminder that I would not qualify for the survey unless I had, in fact, purchased and eaten the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich in question. Good thing, too. Imagine all the cheese sandwich and profiterole people who would otherwise throng the site with their irrelevant experience.
Once I logged in, though, the site still wasn’t satisfied that I had the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich authority I claimed. “Did you, yourself, eat the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich?” it asked me, with a kind of doggedness not seen since the demise of the Stasi. I clicked my assent. It asked me whether the sandwich was toasted - unfortunately, there were no options marked “Duh” or “No, because I hate it when my sandwich tastes good,” so I clicked Yes once more. Then it asked me to quantify what exactly I’d eaten on my BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. Had there been pulled pork? How about BBQ sauce?
I was about to walk back to the restaurant and tell them to stop giving me survey cards, when I realized that the questions were surprisingly relevant. I’d refused the offer of BBQ sauce, since that stuff is mostly sugar suspended in a matrix of other sugar. I realized that the survey was right to question the basic substance of what I’d eaten, right down to the elements that gave the sandwich its ontological grounding. I expected the next question to demand proof that I existed apart from the sandwich. And since I’d just finished eating the thing, I wasn’t sure that I could furnish said proof.
After a few more questions about my sandwich, the survey switched to the ‘classification’ section. Those are the questions that drill down into your income and education, and generally make you feel like you’re underqualified to answer questions about a sandwich. The clincher came on the last page, when it turned out that I needed to give my name, phone number and address in order to claim my $5 certificate and complete the survey. Which would be mailed to me, instead of, say, printed out right then and there. And since the survey didn’t furnish its interface with a ‘back’ button, I couldn’t opt out of any of the income/education info that I’d provided. No thank you.
And that’s how I ended up not waiting around for six to eight weeks for my $5 gift certificate to a fast food restaurant. If you can explain to me why I wrote all this down in the middle of the night on my blog, feel free to explain it to me.
*The views expressed on my blog do not reflect those of my employers. It’s their position that I should do the work they give me.