Paid Study – $75

I’m looking for work so I spend a lot of time cruising Craigslist. And while I start with the Writing/Editing jobs, it doesn’t take me long to eliminate the interns and executive editors wanted posts. Then I go straight to Etc., where all manner of weird ways of making quick cash can be found. Seeing as I don’t have any eggs to donate, I usually wind up applying for the random paid research study or focus group. But I’ve never actually been chosen for one! Until today.

After responding to a few general questions — standard operating procedure for being considered — about whether anyone in my household is employed in advertising or research (easy answer, as no one in my household is employed, period) or if I’ve participated in any market research within the last six months (see above), I received a tantalizing email telling me I was a “qualifier.” Huzzah! The email asked a few more specific questions, specifically about whether I owned a printer, who makes the purchasing decisions in my home (that’d be me, as soon as I am employed and can afford to actually purchase something!), was I planning on buying a printer within the next six months, etc. I dutifully responded.

Within 24 hours I received a phone call scheduling my appointment and seconds after the phone call I had a confirmation email in my mailbox. It contained detailed instructions: DO NOT wear eye makeup, DO NOT drink more than two cups of caffeine an hour before the study, DO NOT consume any alcohol 24 hours before the study. I was curious about how caffeine might affect my ability to choose the right printer. But the company name made me think this wasn’t going to be a mere conversation about Canon vs. Epson. And the paragraph describing the EEG cap I’d be wearing during the study really drove that point home. Now I was really curious!

So I arrived spot on time to their anonymously professional-looking offices and munched a few Hershey’s Miniatures while I waited. The woman who fitted me with my EEG cap, squeezing hair conditioner into the little holes , was soothingly pleasant. I  was run through a few eye tracking exercises, followed by three commercials and three sets of what felt like a game: I was asked to press a button every time I saw a specific visual cue. Lastly, a series of pictures of frogs flashed on the screen. The frogs were the most painful part, not because they were frogs but because they were the same frogs, over and over and over.Except when the green frog was blue. I had been told to push the button when the frog was blue. That fucker wasn’t blue nearly enough to keep me from feeling as though I was being hypnotized. The soothingly pleasant woman told me that the flashing frogs were the closest thing to torture they’d ever subjected people to. I’d been through worse.

After my electrodes were unplugged I was told that I could use the restroom to “rub the conditioner into my hair,” something which didn’t necessarily require a restroom, and handed a check for $75. I’m still rubbing the damn conditioner into my hair. But hey, it was an easy 75 bucks!

Feedback? Should I include what the woman told me the study was about? Anything else?


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