Savvy womens Magazine


Confessions Of A Focus Group Whore

by Cathy Cassata

Him: 'How often do you drink beer?'
Me: 'How often do you want me to drink beer?'
Him: 'Five times a week? Great, you're in.'

And just like that $100 fat ones were coming my way. See, dishonest telephone conversations with my focus group pimp make me eligible to earn an honest buck. But, this time I'd have to work it during a lunch-time quickie.

I jumped in a cab and arrived at the Magnificent Mile just in time. As I rushed into the building where my opinion means money, I slipped into character and thought, 'I drink beer five times a week. I'm an administrative assistant. I've only participated in one focus group.' With all fibs in place, I entered the marketing research suite focused.

At check-in, I was directed to the refreshment area where I acted absolutely surprised and delighted that such a lavish free feast was offered. The truth, I skipped breakfast knowing that there'd be an unclaimed egg salad sandwich with my name on it. And, even better, chips and cookies galore. As I gorged down the free food, I hoped that my name wouldn't get called. This way, I'd still get paid, but skip out on participating--which I'm happy to admit has happened before. But luck wasn't on my side this day. When I heard my name, I stashed a cookie into my purse, followed the others into the room, and took the safest seat at the round table; dead center.

Damn! The study began with a beer commercial, which I'd seen just weeks before. How would I act my way through this one? Play it sick? Fess up? Nah, the Benjamins were in sight now. Plus, the commercial ended quickly.

Phew. I was in the clear until the mediator asked, 'Who does this beer represent in the family of beers displayed?'

Everyone looked puzzled. No one said a word, except me.

'The mom, of course,' I blurted, 'because it's more consistent than the rest.' I'd been asked this question about as many times as tourists ask for directions to the Sears Tower. Still, the others should have gotten it, right? Amateurs.

Focus groupAs the newbies followed my lead and chimed in, I kept my opinions to a minimum and coasted through the rest of the session. Occasionally, I bailed out the group when they got tongue-tied. As soon as the study ended, I hurried to the front desk for my cash. While I tucked away the stash, I envisioned myself donning a wig the next time. Note to self: dust off one of mom's old bee-hives the next time I visit. For sure they'd never catch onto me then.

I speed walked back to work, daydreaming of ways to spend my dough when my phone rang.

'Hey, it's me,' the pimp said. 'Do you eat pretzels? I need to fill a group next Tuesday night.'

'Crap,' I uttered. 'I have a ticket to the Cubs game. But, wait; sure I eat all kinds of pretzels.'

Ka-ching! I called my friend and declined her free ticket. She understood why.

About the Author:
Cathy Cassata
is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Ill. She is the Senior Editor and Staff Writer for the American Association of Medical Assistants, and has performed editorial services for the Massage Therapy Journal, and the American Dietetic Association.