Are Big-Name Companies Trying to Take Advantage of You?

My brain is weird. It automatically tries to view every. single. situation. from every angle humanly possible.

Which is great, just frustrating.

Case in point: I just kinda chewed out Office Max on twitter because I feel taken advantage of by their customer survey. Why?

I’ve been a part of multiple focus groups.

Focus groups are market research meetings. This means that a company, specifically designed for this purpose, will hire people in that area to provide feedback for a specific company.

In other words you get paid at least $20-$30 for the same survey companies ask their customers to do for free. On a regular basis.

“But they’re offering me a discount!”


The discount they just offered me was $10 off a $50 purchase.

I don’t tend to make $50 purchases without a good windfall and/or a lot of prior planning.

So in other news they just used you for market research purposes and you have to PAY THEM FOR IT. Because you’re not making any money, just spending a little less the next time you shop.

Yeah, a penny saved is a penny earned, but a discount =/= getting money for an activity

Maybe some companies offer better deals. I don’t now. I tend to ignore the surveys at the bottom of my receipts (partially because of the reasons I just mentioned). But I see companies do this a lot, and unless you’re offering me 50% you’re probably not worth my time.

For what it’s worth, I do understand the reason they do this.

They’re trying to save money.

See, companies have to pay the market research companies to conduct surveys for them, and it can be kinda hard to find people already doing focus groups who purchase the things from the places they’re trying to survey about, so it’s a lot easier for them to just stick a rote message at the bottom of all their receipts so that people will basically work for themfor free.

They’re BIG companies. The money they lose on your discount is probably practically negligible. I’ll bet they lose more on the extra ink they use to add the messages on the receipts. (I have nothing to back this up, but either way I would not be surprised at all.)

tl;dr: Big companies dangle fishbait in front of hapless customers like you and I in hopes of not having to pay for market research.

P.S. I would excuse this if the companies were, y’know, small. Not Wal-mart. Not Office Max. Not RadioShack.


How to Argue on the Internet

Step one: Evaluate yourself.

Are you emotionally stable? Do you have enough energy for this conversation? Is this topic really important enough that it merits a mini-essay on why the other person is mistaken? If so, you may think about proceeding. Have fun.

Step two: Evaluate the conversation thus far. 

Is this person open to reason, or are they dismissing anything and everything that does not fit with their worldview? Are they arguing rationally, or are they throwing around insults? Do they treat the opposing argument as though it were a dead animal rotting by the side of the road? Because if some of these these things are true, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Step three: Respond thoughtfully.

Watch your wording. Do not resort to insults or fallacies. Basically, be a decent human being–the kind you’d want someone else to be to you. The Golden Rule applies here, because every time the fight gets escalated, things become worse for you. And you probably don’t want that. 

Step four: Observe their response.

If they do not, at the very least, acknowledge that you might have a point, there’s probably not much point in arguing further. It will only make everyone angry and cling to their views even harder, and that’s pretty counterproductive when you’re trying to convince somebody that they’re wrong. 

Step five: Walk away.

Refusing to answer is not a defeat. It is an acknowledgement that there is no more point in wasting your time, your words, or your energy.  You can consider it a personal victory in deciding when and where to spend your resources.  Good job! Yay you. You’ve won. 


Alternate plan: Ignore arguments completely. Watch amusing videos. Continue on your merry way. You are better than many of us. Congratulations.