Little lies by focus groupies are costly
Nice article about people that lie in order to qualify for market research studies
Researchers call these truth-stretchers focus groupies, a sneaky cadre that adopt multiple identities in order to secure paid seats on the dozens of focus groups that meet every week in the Bay Area.
Firms pay $50 to $100 cash for an hour or two of work that usually involves a moderated discussion about a new product or service with up to a dozen people gathered in a room equipped with a two-way mirror.
The allure of easy money leads hundreds of people every year to treat focus groups as a source of nearly work-free income. Get-rich-quick schemers even advertise focus groups as a source of cash.
And if it means telling a few lies along the way about your favorite brand of frozen pizza or the number of times you have already participated in a focus group, well, it’s no crime to fib to a marketing company.
Researchers go to great lengths to weed out groupies, including the use of exhaustive database cross-checks to ferret out the ‘cheaters’ and ‘repeaters,’ along with detailed screening interviews. Competing firms even share groupies’ names in the reverse form of a ‘do not call’ list.
‘It’s bad for the whole industry so we cooperate with each other,’ said Nichols Research Group Vice President Jane Rosen, whose Bay Area firm purges several hundred groupies a year from its database.
How far will people go?
They sign up with aliases, usually derivatives of their real names with different initials and middle names, Rosen said.
They may use a post office box address under one application and then a home address for the second response.
‘We had a woman sign up for two focus groups on the same day and after she finished the first session, she went out to her car and changed into a new set of clothes and put on a wig,’ Rosen said. ‘Fortunately, one of our people thought something looked wrong about her.’
Q&A Research in Walnut Creek recently foiled a woman who claimed to own a particular brand of luxury car, but the name on the automobile registration she provided did not match her own.
‘We had another man who used his first name for one group, then his middle name for a second group the next day and then a third one the following week,’ said Eric Tavizon, Q&A’s focus group project manager. ‘One of the clients caught him because he mistakenly signed up for events by the same sponsor and they recognized him.’
Of course I’ve encountered this on a much smaller scale; so much of what I do is predicated on a basic foundation of trust (and trust goes in two directions, of course) and it’s lurid and disturbing to consider how that trust can be violated (when do we read the piece about the rapist who posed as an ethnographer to gain access? yikes).
I’ve started a discussion thread on Discovery about this; we’ll see if anything develops.