panel of experts.

18 06 2010

consumer panel you might have noticed that i’ve been a little more MIA this week than usual. i’m actually kind of surprised that i didn’t get any emails saying “hey, your lame father’s day post has been up for 3 days- what gives!”. well, i’ll tell you what gives.  for the last 3 days, i’ve been languishing in the excessively tight clutches of an online consumer panel.

when the company (sorry, it’s a secret!) contacted me via email 8 months ago, i thought that a consumer panel would make an interesting topic for a blog post and was excited at the possibility of getting some sweet free product samples…. TIME PASSES…. then about 6 months ago, they called me mere seconds before i was about to go into the nickelodeon for a movie and proceeded to take way too long to ask me a series of repetitive questions, at which time i became severely agitated and was very impatient/not nice to the interview lady (my bad!)….MORE TIME PASSES…. and as winter fades into spring, i’m assuming that my chronic CSR rudeness condition (CCRC) has driven away the opportunity forever….YET EVEN MORE TIME PASSES…. it is now exactly 2 weeks until official summer, and i have completely forgotten about the panel and am going about my merry business when *WHAM* an email from the company hits, telling me that my online panel discussion group will begin in 2 days. oh, and they’re going to give me $50 for my troubles. amazing!

according to instructions, i am to log onto a dedicated BBS (that’s bulletin board service for those of you who didn’t have web access in the early 90s) and answer a series of questions posted by the moderator, and then log on again once more during the day to answer follow up questions.  seemed simple enough until i logged  onto the site and was reminded exactly why the BBS has gone the way of the dinosaur. what in the clunky archaic hell were they thinking when they hired someone to design this focus group site? they also asked me to get all myspace and fill out a profile with all my favorite movies, books, and tv shows. you could also look through the other profiles for the rest of the focus group (there appeared to be 18 of us),  under the “friends” tab, and as it turned out only me and one other chump actually bothered to do it. this would be one of many indicators that i was putting in way more effort than this survey deserved.

day one. unfortunately it arrived at midnight, as the testing facility was on pacific time, drastically cutting my window for when i could take care or business. i dutifully logged on during my lunch break and started to sift through the questions. the site was set up so that you couldn’t see anyone else’s answers until you had answered first. i felt compelled to earn my $50, and tried hard to be thoughtful with my replies. too bad nobody else did! two word answers at best. they almost seemed angry- like how dare this survey demand more than checking boxes or rating things one to five! and then of course the moderator had to drag additional information out of everyone for the sake of the study, which involved even more follow up questions that i felt again compelled to answer carefully.

day two. i had passed out on the couch around 2 am before finishing up the questions from day 1, so i again had to sacrifice my lunch break to wrap it all up. i barely made it onto the day two questions at all before i had to get back to work and then had a 3 hour dance class/rehearsal immediately afterward.  my exhausted ass got home around 10, at which time i found a nasty note from the moderator telling me that i needed to answer the day two questions- or else (ok, it didn’t actually say “or else”, but it was heavily implied). i logged in and started banging away, still foolishly attempting to give quality information. again, i fell asleep on the couch at 2 am. i tried getting up up early in the morning to finish, but the program had kicked me out. i assumed that i had been booted for not finishing the day 2 questions before midnight. i wrote a frantic note to the moderator.

day three. my privileges (mercifully?) reinstated, i had PROMISED the moderator that i had time in my schedule to finish both day two and day three of the survey. i lied a little, and it was also taking several hours to get through all the repetitive bullshit. “on a scale of 1-5, does this statement make you feel more or less like gouging out your own eyes? please explain using as many descriptive words as possible.” the follow up questions were in many ways worse, and began to make me wonder if the moderator was not in fact the pleasant looking office girl in the photo, but possibly a robot or someone in an outsource factory in  new delhi  or something. definitely an ESL feel with questions like “tell me more about this myspace is too sparkly?” i again collapsed on the couch around midnight, only to wake up frantically around 3, hoping that i had not again been shut out. i deliriously pounded out my last few answers and dragged my carcass up to bed. sweet release.

i really thought that $50 would be  fair compensation for 3 days of online question answering/interaction. most especially for a brand and a product that i really enjoyed using. unfortunately, my sad tale proves that not to be the case. hassle, tedium, lost sleep, anger, wasted days not posting to my blog… like godzilla attacking the city, somehow this monster ate 3 days of my life and left the city in ruins behind it. i suppose it made for a good story, but that $50 better be wrapped around a gold brick or a fruit basket or something.  it just pains me to confirm how little big companies value their consumers. our opinions are far more valuable than we are ever compensated for (hey, at least i didn’t do it for coupons!). is it time to unionize? time to daft some fair compensation for survey takers legislation? time to mobilize the masses? fuck that. it’s time to take a nap. wake me up when my $50 gets here.





vacation all i ever wanted.

4 06 2010

when i was a little girl, my dad would take two weeks off of work every summer, stuff all of the kids (4 girls, all roughly 1 year apart in age) into the station wagon, and go camping all up and down this great state. did i mention that it was an un-air conditioned vehicle? with burgundy leather interior? and wood paneled sides? oh, and then there’s that part about my extreme predisposition to car sickness… yeah, it was a LOOOOONG drive to acadia every summer. but once we finally arrived, it was all sorts of magic. i’m pretty surprised that the blackwoods campground never blacklisted my boisterous/insane family, because we tore that place up from echo lake to thunder hole. not in a vandalism kind of way, but we experienced the crap out of that national park.

well, it’s time to put on my exploring pants again, because i just booked myself a real life vacation on long pond for later this summer (view exhibit a- tiny charming cabin at left). thankfully this time around, i have a vehicle with AC, a good supply of dramamine, and the aid of a little sexy modern technology. the chimani company contacted me a few weeks ago with an offer to review their acadia national park informational/navigational app for the iphone. so just in case there was any question: no, i’m not getting paid to write this, but yes, chimani did give me the product for free (a $9.99 value on itunes). but don’t worry, i’m a merciless reviewer not swayed by swag. i promise.

now i won’t be able to really see what it’s made of until it’s time for summer vacation fun, but i figured i could screw with it for a while and see what i could learn. here’s what shook out during my first poke around:

1. it’s pretty intuitive. the navigation screen has a series of big buttons that say nice and obvious things like “map”, “hiking”, & “auto tour”. which is good, because there is no big button that says “directions”. (the app info button was shockingly less informational than i would have preferred).

2. it’s crazy full of information. (well, except for how to use it) take the auto tour and learn everything you ever wanted to know about acadia but it never occurred to you to ask. who knew that the bubble rock parking lot had such a fascinating history?  if it’s vaguely notable and inside the confines of the park, chimani can tell you about it. looking for the only fjord on the east coast? CHECK.  need to get your hands on a copy of the beaver log newspaper? DOUBLE CHECK. um, did i mention that there are AUDIO CLIPS?

3. it knows i have a tiny bladder. the auto tour makes heavy (and specific!) mention of restroom locations, all are well marked on the map, AND there’s even a big  happy button devoted entirely to the subject. chimani even takes this function to the next level by providing DESCRIPTIONS of said restrooms. “restroom oasis” anyone?  it’s comforting to know that i can spend my vacation confident that i won’t have to be squatting behind any nationally recognized boulders or shrubs. which is good, because i always end up peeing on my shoes.

4. it makes sure i don’t miss the bus. i actually had no idea there even was an acadia shuttle. this program not only shows all of the designated island explorer pick-up points on the map (although it also taught me that you can just flag them down wherever), but tells you exactly when the next shuttle will arrive at each stop, and how much longer you have to wait.

5. it doesn’t discriminate against the chronically out of shape. all hiking trails are listed by length and graded by difficulty. this assures that asthmatic fatties like me don’t end up way over their heads when they just want to go for a brief mountain jaunt. sorry perpendicular trail, i’ll be sticking to the wonderland path. although the bike trails are not similarly color coded by how much they’ll kick your ass, they are described in enough detail that you can easily avoid anything involving the words “steep” or “recommended only for experienced cyclists”.

6. it knows where i am even when i don’t. it took me slightly too long to figure out how to do it, but when you hit the little bullseye icon on the map… BAM there’s that comforting little blue GPS dot telling your exact location. knowing my proximity to the restrooms at all times is tantamount; as is knowing exactly how much longer the slightly too hard hike i picked out is going to last, or if i’m about to wander into some sort of tragic gorge accident.

7. it makes sure i’m never bored. fishing, swimming, biking, hiking, birding, boating, camping, picnicking, and even HORSES all have their own big shiny buttons on the chimani app. considering that it costs $36 bucks to get into funtown for one day- the $20 7-day pass (per vehicle) to acadia is a way better value, and there’s just as much stuff to do- all of it better for you/more fun than eating too much funnel cake and puking on the thunder bolt (not that i know from experience or anything).

in short, it’s a pretty incredible app (more incredible than i could reasonably cover in one review). it’s economical, information packed, extremely efficient, and takes up a lot less space in my backpack than a map and/or guidebook. however, despite the general coolness/utility/awesome informational factor, i can’t give it my total 100% thumbs up. there were a few minor quirks and missing pieces that i feel could be improved over time:

1.i can’t figure out how to un-favorite things, and it’s filling me with rage.

2. maybe it’s just my older version iphone, but the program crashed 3 times while i was using it. not a huge deal, but inconvenient none the less.

3. i ran an update and it took FOREVER to load. and then the program crashed again.

4. does anyone know what the cell coverage is like in acadia? how much  functionality do i lose if a wander into an area with no bars (which seems likely the further downeast you go)?





upliv update.

14 01 2010

i thought that maybe on this giveaway-eve of my first real contest with a prize that people might want, a little update on my first giveaway- of the upliv stress management system that i thought was gross and gave to the first person who was willing to take it out of my apartment.

in comes christine! mother of 2-year old twins, she was definitely not lacking in the stress-requiring-management department. what did she think? well, for a while she was too busy with her extremely hectic life to bother with it (too stressed out to bother with stress management!) . but finally she has had a second to crack open the box, and here are her impressions:

“I have started using the Upliv products. I totally see what you mean about the overpowering scent. I have used the body wash and the body spray so far. I actually don’t find the spray too bad, but the body wash is so potent. But, hell, it was free, so I can stand it!”

not exactly the glowing endorsement i think johnson & johnson is probably looking for.  if they’re smart, i think that abandoning this sinking ship  now would be in their best interest. who wants to pay a premium for a crappy website and a bunch of overly-scented products?

p.s. tomorrow is your last day to make your guess!!!