What Did You Just Ask Me?

>> Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I don't know if any of you ever take online surveys (for points, spare change, good will, whatever). I've been taking surveys regularly for about a year now, and every day I find myself puzzled, amused, and sometimes stunned at the way these survey makers write their questions.

For example, I am frequently asked the question, "Which of the following best represents your age?" I find this question puzzling on so many levels. First of all, "best represents". What do you mean by, "best represents"? Is it really possible that more than one category will represent my age? The question implies that I *might* fit into more than one category, but there is no overlap between categories.

At this point in the monologue in my head I am forced to consider that perhaps I don't understand what they mean by "represent" or perhaps "age". Are they trying to ask me how old I am chronologically? biologically? emotionally? in my fantasies? how old I feel? These options are the only way I can conceive to have more than one age.

Can someone enlighten me -- if they want to know how old I am, why don't they ask me, "How old are you?" If that kind of question offends me, then trust me, I'm not going to be taking many surveys.

Of course, answering the "age question" is always fraught with emotion. Every survey company makes its own age category. Sometimes the ranges are 21-25, 26-30, etc. etc. At some point in time, you will tip over into an age category you don't like anymore, but that isn't the survey maker's fault. But ... sometimes, you have the choice to say you are (a) under 18, (b) 18-30, or (c) over 30.

Really? Does this mean everyone over 30 is old? Is that what you are trying to tell me, 21 year old survey writer? (Of course, anyone who writes a question using 30 as a major landmark has to be barely old enough to write their name ... right? I mean, I am right ... right?)

Then, periodically, I get the questions with no answer, like this:

1. What is the age of your child, (a) under 2, (b) 3-10, (c) over 10.

Um, what if he is ... 2...?

I also from time to time come across the questions that force me to lie:

1. How many boxes of rice did you buy? (Answer must be at least 1).

But I didn't buy any!

2. Did you love the book, or did you hate it?

Umm ... I was lukewarm about it. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't my favorite either. Which should I pick?

3. Was your hotel stay for business or pleasure?

Umm ... it was a funeral. My kid was in the hospital. We weren't on business, but no one was having any pleasure, I assure you. How would you propose I answer that? (For more on this subject, see here.)

Of course, there are the occasional surveys that are obviously written by someone who barely speaks english, and those are challenging enough. In fact, one of them routinely tells me this: "This survey requires use of the full screen, so please do the needful, then proceed."

Do I even need to tell you what first crossed my mind when I saw this sentence? (If you need a hint, you might want to see my post about Bathroom Humor.) I mean, really? "Do the needful?"

Oh, well. If they didn't ask me odd things I probably wouldn't be anywhere near as entertained.


Clark Kent's Lunchbox February 3, 2010 at 10:26 AM  

My favorite-true story-for an insurance form:

How many deadly diseases have you had?
A) One
B) Two
C) None
D) Not sure

Karin February 3, 2010 at 7:23 PM  

I like that! First you have to figure out what the heck is a "deadly disease". I can honestly say (even for life insurance) that I have a good argument for answering "D".

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