My husband Dave and I received a thick, official-looking envelope from the Nielsen Ratings Company last weekend. The Nielsen ratings system measures television viewership in the United States. The information they gather establishes commercial advertising prices and determines which shows stay or go in the program lineup.
Having this kind of control is a huge deal. Think of it as the adult version of being crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Not just anyone gets picked and you can’t volunteer for the privilege. Being selected as Nielsen Family means you’re something. People would kill to be you.
The letter gave a brief overview of how the system works and explained that we could make up to $450 for taking part. Sounds good, right? Wrong. I decided to do some research. Little by little, I realized we didn’t want to do this, since it comes with a whole lot of annoying strings attached.
The letter stated they’d like to “stop by to talk to you about this excellent opportunity.” I planned to give them an emphatic “We don’t want to do this” and the case would be closed. For some reason, I assumed they’d call to schedule the visit.
Instead, my door bell rang at 6PM last night.
Turn on the porch light, open the door and who do I find standing there but a Nielsen TV Ratings representative.
“Hi, you received our letter?”
“Yes, but we’ve decided not to take part.” Deaf to my response, she moved right into her spiel, explaining how wonderful an opportunity this is for me and wouldn’t I like to be part of the select group that was chosen by a very elaborate, scientific process… and on and on it went.
Rah, rah. I still don’t want to do it. It should be noted I did not invite her in. From what I’ve read, they can be pretty forceful and I knew if I let her in, I’d wind up making her dinner. In more than one case, people have compared these folks to the FBI. My FBI agent came bearing a box of chocolates.
I gave her a look that said, “It’s not you. It’s me. I’m not ready for a relationship.”
She persisted with her cheerleader-y speech and I knew I was in trouble. I was going to have to fight. I was going to have to make her hate me. I was going to have to kill her with questions, and so began The Inquisition.
“I’d read that technicians come to your house and attach wires and boxes, and even solder something to every TV set in your house. Is this true?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. Maybe. But we wouldn’t damage anything.”
“We just bought a very expensive high-def TV and we don’t want anything to happen to it.” Concerned about the amount of time it takes to set everything up, I followed up with “How long will that take? I read it can take six or seven hours.”
“Well, probably not that long. Maybe four.”
I counter, “But then I’d have to take a vacation day. The amount of money you pay us isn’t worth the aggravation. I’m a very annoyed person.”
“Well, we could do it on a weeknight.”
“We could do it on the weekend.”
“Not much better.”
I probe further. “I’ve also read that you have to login to a device every time you walk into a room with a TV on, and then logout when you leave. Is that true?”
“Yes. You need to punch in your name and age.”
“I don’t want to do that. Plus I’ve heard that if you don’t confirm you’re still watching TV after 42 minutes, a box starts flashing red lights until you press something on the remote.”
“But I’m a very annoyed person.”
She kept the joust going. “If it helps, we asked other participants if they found the process annoying and they said after about ten days, they got used to it.”
Now rubbing my temples, and freezing because I’m standing in my doorway in a pair of shorts on a 35 degree night, I tell her “Really. We don’t want to do this. I know you’ll have to pick someone else on our street now. I’m sorry.”
“Well, I wish you’d reconsider. Here, at least have these chocolates as a token of our appreciation.”
“Thanks, but no. We’re dieting.”
“No, really. You’ve been so kind.” Kind? How? For letting you stand in my doorway and not inviting you in from of the cold?
“OK. I’ll take them and share them at work.”
“Would you allow me to call you in a few days to see if you changed your mind?”
Oh my God, lady! I said no! No means no!
Because I’m a crumpled, guilt-ridden, chocolate-box-holding mess now, I sigh, “Yes. You can call, but I really don’t think I’ll change my mind.”
I reluctantly give her my work phone number, knowing full well when she calls me, I’ll be saying no all over again. She thanks me, we part ways, and I finally get back inside my warm house with my box ‘o chocolates.
The first thing I do is get on my laptop and email my sister about tonight’s bizarreness. Her response:
She came all the way from New Jersey!!!! What if you weren’t home? What if you were a serial killer? I would never go to a stranger’s home by myself. Oh yeah, the chocolates would protect me. The idea is intriguing, but I would probably regret the whole thing if I had signed up. Do you have to fork over all your financial statements, too? It’s like the IRS, they’ll make you do it, or else! I would do it for maybe $5,000.
She’s right. If I signed up, I’d regret it immediately. The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is do more WORK. Press buttons, log in, deal with flashing lights if I don’t press a button in 42 minutes?!?! Yikes. I have enough pressure 9-5.
Not wanting to put off the inevitable, I contacted the representative today at lunch, hoping I’d get an answering machine. Unfortunately she picked up. I explained to her that after careful consideration, we still didn’t want to take part.
She was deflated. I reminded her for the third time what an annoyed person I am and to please understand that my time is more valuable than the money they offer, but if they really wanted people to take part, they ought to up the anty to $5,000. That put an end to the ordeal. FINALLY.
Today I picked up our mail and found another package from the Nielsen people, which contained brochures, a questionnaire and five single dollar bills. A five spot? Multiply that by a thousand and we’ll talk. Or bring me a box of diamonds.
UPDATE: There’s more to the story. See http://www.junkdrawerblog.com/2008/03/next-step-restraining-order.html