Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pretend Shopping

Today in between classes I went to the library to return some books and pick up a few other items at the nearby shopping center. On my way back to the car, a young man with one of those surveys on clipboards stopped me and asked if I had a few minutes. I did and so I stopped, thinking it would just be answering a few questions. That happened to me once in Carrefour last year, and since I got some interesting vocabulary out of that deal I thought, "Why not?"

This time, however, he said that he was going to take me to a nearby office that they had decked out like a pretend supermarket so he would watch me go pretend shopping. Seriously, like I was really going to go in some building with a stranger so he could watch me pretend shop. I totally didn't get it. He explained that those were office buildings (and presumably not apartments, where I would be tortured or something), that his company was into marketing research, and he knew it sounded a little strange to me but everyone else was used to seeing them, etc. At the end he said, "And we'll give you a small gift for participating," -- those are totally magic words to me. I'm such a sucker, I know, and I hope I don't pass along that tendency to my children. I am easily bribed.

So, we went into his office ,which was in fact decked out like a pretend supermarket. He gave me a tiny caddy and a shopping list, so I just went around and picked out the products on the list. Afterwards another young guy asked me questions about the design of a certain brand of snack cakes that were targeted towards young children, anyway. They knew beforehand that I never buy them and I don't have kids, so I guess I am supposed to be unbiased. I wasn't sure why they would want a foreigner... but I definitely don't have strong brand attachments here yet, so my choices are basically determined by packaging and price. It was a little hard for me because I was still weirded out a bit by the whole situation and also because I don't have strong personal reactions towards snack cakes unless they say "Little Debbie." And that's only out of nostalgia.

At the end I got a radio alarm clock for my trouble and was sent on my way. As soon as I had finished and realized I was safe and sound, I immediately thought of a dozen comments I should have made about the product design. It was actually pretty fun and I would do it again, even without the free gift. I wonder if I can somehow impress them enough to get them to hire me as a pretend shopper. After my first performance, I doubt this is likely to happen, but you never know. It's good to have goals.

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