Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Community Service comes a'callin'

I’ve always wanted to be called for jury duty: to have the chance to observe the court system and serve my community. I have friends who’ve been called for jury duty three and four times. They sit in the courthouse all day and miss teaching classes. But not me, not even once.

Instead I nobly serve my community by being a “Nielsen” family. You know, those people who record their television viewing so that advertisers can get the most bang for their buck? Four times in the last eight years I have been ‘randomly’ selected to represent my community’s television viewing habits.

The first two times I served with enthusiasm, recording every last minute of my TV viewing. The third time I declined when asked. Just said, “no, can’t help you this time.” I figured, geez!, how many times do you come to this well for data?

From this I learned that the Nielsen Company does not have to report to the Institutional Review Board of any university. They don’t have to take ‘no’ for an answer as would any academic researcher who tried to recruit a human subject. They can call you back after you decline, to ask again. And again.

And when you decline for the third time, resisting the hard sell on the other end, do you know what they do? They send you the TV viewing diary anyhow, with two bucks in it. Since I had repeatedly declined, I threw the diary away and spent the two bucks. That was a couple of years ago.

Now I am a Nielsen family yet again. This time I didn’t decline, mostly because of how easy it will be to keep the diary. I don’t have cable anymore, nor do I have satellite TV. For a while I had rabbit ears for my TV, and I got five stations, sort of: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS. But even with the rabbit ears I mostly got snow on my TV. For example, I couldn’t watch tennis at home: I could see the players running around, but I could not see the ball they were chasing. So I tossed the rabbit ears and now I get PBS and CBS, loosely speaking. I hardly watch TV at all.

So being a Nielsen family will be easy this time around. And they now pay five bucks!

In case you are wondering, I don’t have a ‘modern’ television and I don’t plan to buy the converter box for the big change to digital broadcasting after the Super Bowl in February. The next time Nielsen comes a’callin’, I’ll be able to honestly say that I don’t get television at all.

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