Negative Won

Our Store has an online survey you can take to tell us how you think we’re doing. Like the surveys in most companies, this one offers you the chance to win a certain amount of money, be it in the form of actual cash or a store gift card. The amount of money is significant and would certainly help make more than a few ends meet, but like with any aspect of human existence, there are the people for whom a child’s lemonade stand clearly has a hidden agenda.

Yesterday I had a woman in my line. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe her kids were weighing her down emotionally, but whatever the case, she clearly felt the need to have a battle of wits with someone who couldn’t fight back (if he wanted to keep his job) and I was the recipient.

I gave her the spiel as I highlighted the pertinent information on the receipt and she responded with the vitriolic, “Yeah, a chance to win. But it probably won’t happen.”

“You never know,” I said, with as much professional cake eating as possible behind my smile. “But it helps everyone in the long run.”

“Have you ever heard of anyone winning this?” She retorted.

“No, but-”

“Thought so!” And she stormed off.

Why do people think they’ve won the argument if they shout “Thought so” and then storm off? If she, or any of the customers who rip into the “chance to win” surveys actually gave enough of a rat’s ass to hear my carefully thought out reply, the following argument is pretty much what I would have said.

Of course I haven’t heard of anyone winning the survey. But I live in a small part of the country that represents one percent of the corporation I work for. I’ve never personally met anyone who got a tax refund bigger than their annual income, but apparently it happens because those H&R Blockers know their stuff. Also, the company was not relevant to me two weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t going on. I don’t watch television but that doesn’t mean the first episode of How To Get Away With Murder doesn’t have people watching it because I haven’t heard of them.

Then there’s a fairly recent adage that is thrown in the faces of people who complain about other people winning the lottery. If you didn’t buy the ticket, you have no grounds to complain. You didn’t take the chance and therefore stop whining because you had the same chances as everyone else.

Here’s the thing, when I complain about something, or I choose not to do something, it’s because of two things.

One: I have already experienced that thing or have enough similar experience to make an educated response, whether anyone else agrees with me or not.

Two: It’s just not going to make a difference to me either way.

I take the survey for our Store’s competitor, not because I hate TheStore, or because I have an overwhelming sense of love for our competitor. But because taking the survey is not going to take any amount of time out of my day and if I did win, that would be great.

The woman who entered into the game of mental chess with me, was paying for her food with EBT. She’s obviously trying keep a family fed and take care of herself as well. The survey may very well be more time out of her day than she afford, but that does not make her correct in the assumption that she has no chance to win the survey. It doesn’t make me wrong for insisting that she at least give it a shot before she assumes that there is no chance.

She could obviously use the money. Even if it’s a gift card, that could help in putting a few meals on the table, or keeping a few sets of teeth brushed, or fighting off a headache or some other debilitating symptom for one more day. Just like the people who look at a thousand dollar prize in bingo and scoff, I tell her, “Well you wouldn’t be worst off with it either.”

Also, let’s look at this from a numbers perspective. Let’s say TheStore has only ten thousand customers in a region, per day. Ten thousand customers were offered the chance to take that survey, but 8,000 of those customers whined and complained about their chances of winning and refused to do the survey. That means you probably have a good statistical chance of winning because a fraction of customers actually bothered to take a minute or two out of their day of playing Angry Birds and watching cat videos.

Speaking also from a numbers perspective, unlike the lottery, bingo, and a tax assessment from H&R Block, taking those store surveys… is Free!


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