How to get free coffee

I’m in marketing, and I love asking questions. My company doesn’t have the resources to do a lot of focus groups, but we often survey our customers (or prospective customers) for their opinions.  One of the best ways I’ve found to learn about good survey techniques is to take other people’s surveys.

So I figured, if I’m going to take surveys, I should make some cash.  I mean, everyone and their mother “makes money at home, taking surveys,” right?  I was skeptical, but gave it a ride.

I had some success, so I thought I’d share it here.

I explored a bunch of sites:

None of them delivered on the perception that taking surveys results in a huge stream of cash, goods to test and free services.  But one did manage to make me $50 in 7 weeks.

Opinion Outpost is the best

First, this was the only site that actually gave me a chance to take surveys! I got Opinion Outpost surveys daily, sometimes multiple times daily.  I got 72 Opinion Outpost surveys in the time I got 4 total from the other 3 sites.  There are pre-screening questions before each survey (for the benefiting company to control data), so I got kicked out of a lot of surveys before taking them.  I actually only completed 24 of those 72 surveys.

Second, each survey has some meaningful value.  Surveys average $1.50-$4.00 each.  On the other sites, they were a factor of 10 less.  Do the math.   Also, each averages about 15 minutes.  So I spent about 6 hours taking surveys in nearly 2 months, and averaged $8.33/hr.

Free Coffee

So, while spending dead time at work or home learning about proper (and sometimes crappy) survey techniques, I earned about $7/week.  That’s 14 coffees/week for my handy dandy Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine (man I love that thing).  That’s more than enough coffee for this guy.

Spend idle time (or get a break from work) to learn about how to ask good questions, and earn a few bucks that I can cash in for my coffee habit? Not bad.

Click here if you want to sign up for Opinion Outpost, and I’ll get $2. How altruistic of you.


Grocery Shopping Decision Tree

This is how I roll at the grocery store (click picture to enlarge).   You?  Leave your wisdom in the comments.

I am not a man

Apparently, notwithstanding having fathered a child, possessing a Y chromosome, and producing more testosterone than estrogen, I am not a man.

As a man, I should be forgetting my wife’s birthday.

As a man, I should be a slob.

As a man, I should be stubborn, insensitive and socially oblivious.

As a man, I should be overweight.

As a man, I should have my wife rolling her eyes at my every move.

None of those things describe me, and yet they’re true for every bumbling father on sitcoms (Everybody Loves Raymond, anyone?), every Neanderthal husband in Hallmark cards (example), and every poor sap who was unlucky enough to be cast as “Husband” in a commercial geared toward women (in 2006, this actually happened: Brawny Academy).  Oh, and how about every romantic comedy?

Even the much-heralded new Old Spice “The man your man could smell like” campaign (which I admit is entertaining) does more to belittle men than praise: “Your deadbeat man would be more tolerable if he at least smelled like Old Spice.”

Why are so many male characters in media such louses? In my experience, it’s not an accurate reflection of reality, at least not in the proportions shown.

My theory is as follows: we’re all insecure.  Advertisers play into this insecurity in many ways.  They promise men “manliness” and they promise women “sex appeal.”  But they use a special extra technique when talking to women:  they put down their man to make them feel better about themselves. They are the “other man” in your life, saying “This guy’s a louse. You don’t deserve it. But at least I understand you. Now buy me.”

My fear is that over time this Neanderthal caricature  becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Men see themselves as dolts enough times on the big screen and they figure that’s how they’re supposed to act.

To combat this trend, I suggest subscribing to this.

Car Shopping: Some Direction on Getting a ‘Nav’

During this journey it has become apparent my wife and I have different opinions on the integrated navigation system option for whatever car we chose.   Here is how each argument lays out:

Option #1: Get the integrated nav

Pros: big screen, typically allows a richer interface for music controls than the regular dials, everything is right there integrated into one user experience

Cons: disc-based maps are out of date the minute they’re printed and cost >$100 to replace, option seems to average $1,500-2,800, not upgradable (you have to use that interface for the life of your car)

Option #2: Get a Garmin

Pros: portable so I can use it in either of my cars (the second one doesn’t have nav), 1/10th the price ($100-200), satellite-based maps can update without buying a disc, replaceable as new technology necessitates, can ID points of interest

Cons: possible theft (a friend just told me thieves look for the suction cup mark on your windshield to see if you have one and are hiding it), takes up windshield space and a power outlet and is extra clutter on the dash

What do you think?

Car Shopping: Cadillac SRX

The Cadillac SRX, a brand I never thought I would drive, was the first one on our list we visited. Here is my review.

Cadillac SRX

Exterior: A
Gorgeous from all angles.  This car is sexy.

Cabin: A
Very spacious cabin and very high trim level. Also, there’s a lot of glass in this car, so excellent visibility for the driver wherever he’s looking (e.g. Turning around to back the car up I felt like there was no car, only glass.)

Back seat: A
Plenty of room, even with the driver’s seat pushed back to accommodate my 6’1″ frame.

Trunk: D
Once we put the stroller in here (which we brought to the test drive), there was virtually no space left. No third row, so there’s no extra space to steal. Let’s face it manufacturers: that glove compartment you put in the floor of the trunk is good for road flares and a spare pack of dental floss.

Ride (Smoothness and Quiet): A
So the tongue in cheek drawback with how smooth and quiet this ride was was that I was at 70 on a residential road without knowing it. No exaggeration. That might be a problem. (By contrast, I felt like I would have had to punch a hole in the floor and run my way to 70 in the Veracruz). All kidding aside, I would love the trip to Massachusetts in this car.

Gas Mileage: 17/23 (AWD)

Outfit: Comes with all the trimmings pretty much included.

Salesman said MSRP was $43k, we’d get it for $40k. But at 5.9% financing, it’s more expensive than we’re comfortable with. But if anything changes on that front, we would love to take this car on long trips or just down the street.

Car Shopping: Hyundai Veracruz

This is what I said my wife and I were looking for when we started this search:

  • Big trunk
  • Comfortable ride
  • Safe
  • Spacious cabin
  • Bluetooth
  • Good gas mileage
  • At or under $35k (net of deal)

But after test driving both the Cadillac SRX and the Hyundai Veracruz (review below), it has become apparent that there are going to be more things that enter the decision. Disclaimer: We know prices aren’t equal, but we’re evaluating everything anyway because you never know what kind of deal you’ll get, and it forces us to hone in on our priorities.

Hyundai Veracruz GLS AWD

Exterior: B-
Looks hot from the side, the back is ok, the grill ruins the front.

Cabin: B
Very spacious cabin and the trim level on the console was great. Driver’s gauges were mismatched with the console.  The visible space in the cabin was amazing; felt like I was driving a glass house.  Even more so when I turned my body around to back up.

Back seat: A
Plenty of room. Loved the separate temp control (daughter currently gets no love for A/C or heat in our Xterra).

Trunk: A
Third row makes this trunk huge. Even with the third row seats up, it was enough for a stroller.

Ride (Smoothness and Quiet): B-
Ok, the SRX ride sets the curve at an A. My Xterra is a D (though it brings back fond memories of riding in the back of the school bus). The Veracruz earned a B for smoothness and quiet, but loses a third of a grade because the acceleration was so horrible it actually detracted from the ride. Jumping off the line isn’t important to me, but this was so sluggish it was annoying as a driver. That took me by surprise (both that it happened and that it annoyed me).

Gas Mileage: 16/22 (AWD)
With acceleration as weak as it was, you wonder where all the fuel economy is. Unfortunately, this seems par for the class.

Safety: 5-star front, 5-star  side, 4-star rollover

To get Bluetooth and the rest of the stuff that comes in the Premium package, you’re under $35k for sure, before dealer incentives.

Apparently the Santa Fe is their biggest seller.  But it’s small for what we want. Unfortunately, we might be leaving Hyundai’s bread and butter as we get into their ‘high-end’ model. Both of us couldn’t help but feel like we expected more, and were a little disappointed. But it stays in the running because of price.

Could you, Would you, Cast a Vote?

Congress voted on 2,000 pages of Healthcare Reform last night.

I don’t care how you feel on the subject.  Honestly, I don’t care.

I just want to know: if you were asked to vote right now, would you feel comfortable that you know enough about the bill to cast a vote in either direction?

I certainly can’t trust the Republicans or Democrats to tell me what the hell is going on.  Instead of laying out facts for the last few months, they’ve been lobbying to win/lose the vote.  I don’t want a sales pitch, I want the facts.  And they’re very difficult to find without editorial.

Now a quick strategy question: If you’re the Democrats, why would you vote first, and educate the public second? If you had the public behind you, you’d have the vote too.  Seems like the whole initiative to “educate the public now that this bill is signed” will be a lot harder now that people have opinions than before they did…

I could not, would not, cast a say //  What does this bill do, anyway?