Randi Kreiss

Dear reader: Have a moment for a survey?

Posted

Of course you don’t have a moment. Neither do I, but what does that matter? Ubiquitous, intrusive and endless surveys are a good idea gone bad.

Suddenly, all of life’s experiences are followed by an e-mailed questionnaire asking you to rate your doctor, car rental, hair colorist, breakfast cereal, political candidate, favorite wine, motel, coffee or underpants. Have a moment? Have a moment? Have a moment?

The basic idea of soliciting people’s opinions about service and products and experiences is sound. But, as with many decent ideas today, companies are beating it to death with overuse. You cannot make simple purchases without the inevitable survey landing in your inbox. “Hello, would you rate your service at the Department of Motor Vehicles today?” Only kidding. They don’t care.

Let’s agree that there are surveys you will consider answering and some you delete immediately, for very good reason.

Example: I hurt my wrist last week and went to a local urgent care. The survey popped up on my phone before I even left the premises. It was pages long and asked my input on everything from the hygiene of the location to the “friendliness” of staff at all levels and my thoughts about ever returning to that center or recommending it to others.

I was impressed with the place, the efficiency and kindness of the staff, and the thoroughness of the doctor. I was unhappy with one of the medical support people who poked around my wrist with some indifference to my pain level, and there was a place on the form to say so. I gladly filled out the online survey and happily signed my name. I will probably not go back there again because I have my own doctor. That’s why I felt safe to relinquish anonymity.  

A few days later, I had the follow-up appointment with my physician to check my wrist. I see him twice a year. I chose him as my doctor because I like him and the way he works with patients.

By the time I got into my car, swish, the survey popped up. I did not fill it out because I am not stupid. In the most suspicious part of my brain, I believe the doctor somehow can access the surveys and find out who threw him under the bus. I can imagine him in the evenings, poring over the surveys, tracking the patients who mentioned how freezing the examining rooms are or how frustrating the office phone system can be.

He is the guy with the needles and potions and sharp instruments at his disposal. I would never put anything online that wasn’t in the order of high praise. No, there will be no surveys for me at my doctor’s office.  

I look forward to the mother of all surveys, the United States census. The next one will be in 2020 and will be accessible online. I am saving myself for that one, and will freely answer all questions honestly. A “72-year-rule” prevents the Census Bureau from releasing any personal data for 72 years. I will be safe.

Open Table, the restaurant reservation website, sends surveys all the time, soliciting consumers’ opinions about everything from food to service to ambience. In one exchange, I wrote a seriously negative review of a restaurant we frequent all the time, explaining that our experience seemed to be an anomaly, but it was awful, and I wanted the owner to know. I signed my name.

The owner called me and invited us back for a free dinner. We went. It was great. I said so in a follow-up survey. Good. Good.

Now, if I had nothing to do in my life but fill out surveys, I would be giving feedback to Chukar Cherries, my food gift outlet of choice; Optum RX, my mail-order drug company; Amazon; The Washington Post; BridgeBase, my online game site; UPS; Marriott Hotels; Chewy, my go-to store for pet supplies; American Airlines; and every magazine to which I ever subscribed.

But I have a busy life, and in order to discover how well I'm doing in my own arena, I developed a small survey for my son and daughter to complete. Just five easy-to-answer questions, which I e-mailed to them last week:

1. Did you have a happy childhood?

2. Do you have any memories of the time I flipped out, took the car and ran away from home when you were 2 and 5?

3. Why don’t you call more often? Is it you? Me?

4. Have you ever told a therapist any family secrets?

5. What are your feelings about adult children taking in elderly parents?

No surprise: There has been a complete communication blackout. I guess answering anonymously wasn’t an option.  

Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.