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master of all I survey

This just in from the never believe a survey front. Last month, in what would have been a moment of drunken idiocy, except that I was sober, I agreed to participate in a broadcasting survey. (What can I say -- I got the phone call while my pot of potatoes was boiling over. Somehow it was easier to say yes and hang up than to say no and hang up.) The next week, the booklets arrived. Three booklets. One for me, one for Imo and one for Ed. (Somehow it was easier to tell the truth and say there were three people in the household at the moment than to lie and say only one.) I put the surveys on the counter, ignored them for a couple of weeks, and then began to feel guilty. Another week or so went by, and I figured we really should fill in the booklets.

The kids protested but I insisted. And, I said, there's a twoonie taped to the back page for you. Which was enough incentive. We opened our booklets together.

The survey wanted a record of age, marital status, ethnic background, and income level as well as radio listening patterns for a week. I spent a half hour on mine, trying to remember when and for how long I had listened to what station. On a scale of one to ten for accuracy, I would score my survey a seven. Imo and Ed finished their booklets in slightly less time, and went off to the convenience store to spend their twoonies. I mailed the surveys off in the envelope provided, and forget about them.

Yesterday I got a phone call about Imogen's survey. She wasn't around. I explained that I was her father and asked how I could help. The market testing guy wanted to know about a radio station nicknamed "The Bear's Den," which Imo claimed to have listened to a lot during the test week. I told him that it was an oldies station (now, for some reason, it was easier to lie than to tell the truth and say I had never heard of it. Though the picture up there looks more heavy metal, don't you think?). He thanked me and hung up.

When Imo came home I asked her about her survey. She told me how she'd filled it in, and I began to laugh. Not only were all the radio stations made up, so were the personal data. Imogen claimed to be widowed, of Polish descent, and 87 years old. Oh, and her income last year was $475, 000.

What the analysts will make of a well-to-do elderly east-European widow listening to oldies rock and roll I do not know. Especially since their verification source is her (presumably at least centenarian) father. Personally, I wouldn't trust any of their conclusions.


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