LAUGHLINES: Going Tone Deaf to Golden Oldies

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I used to think market research made the world go ‘round, but not anymore. Don’t ask me what I think about your product, be it a widget, a lipstick, a fridge, or anything else.

Last month, I spent an evening learning all about market research, and my honest opinion (not that anyone asked me) is simple: I don’t care.

The “product” in this case was a local oldies radio station that wanted listeners’ opinions of their playlist. Being an “oldie” myself and an occasional listener, I got a call from a market research firm asking me to spend a Thursday night sharing my opinion and getting 75 bucks in the bargain.

I’ve done a lot worse for $75, so I showed up. As it happened, they didn’t choose me for my intelligence or knowledge of the music industry. Everyone was female, and about my age. We were women who apparently didn’t have anything to do on a weekday night, but were willing to put on lipstick and venture out for a little excitement and some spending money.

Boy, was there excitement! We sat in a big room, and a nice, tired-looking man gave us each a giant remote with 5 buttons on it, A through E. Our job was to listen to a song, and rank it.

The categories were pretty simple:

A – One of my all-time favorites.

B – Like it a lot.

C. – It’s okay.

D – Used to like it, but not anymore.

E –  Really dislike it.

Then the tape started, and we listened to songs. Actually, we listened to 8 seconds of a song and then had to choose a letter ranking. So that was easy, and kind of fun. Until the songs kept going – 8 seconds, listen, push button – 8 seconds, listen, push button.

After Song number 200 (yes, 200), we were allowed a 5-minute break to stretch and use the ladies room. Did they realize how long it takes women of a certain age to pee? Guess not.

After Song number 400, I admit my mind started to wander, and I thought how handy-dandy this little remote control would be at home. Am I in the mood for romance tonight, honey? That depends – can I rank you based on the criteria? Hmmm . . . like it a lot . . . but gee whiz, honey. That other thing you’re doing right now? Used to like it, but not anymore. And what woman doesn’t wish she had a “really dislike it” button?

By the 500th song, I was ready to lose my mind, and my thumb was cramping, since I had given up listening and was just pressing the C button non-stop. So on it went . . . 526 . . . 527 . . . 528 . . . Mercifully, we stopped at 550. It was over. We shuffled out of the room, took our envelope with the cash and headed into the night.

Did the radio station learn anything about its playlist? Did I care? And, more importantly, did I spend the ride home listening to the radio?

Uh . . . My answer would be D — Used to like it, but not anymore.

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.

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