I’m a member of an online survey panel and have lately noticed a disturbing practice by the panel’s operator.
On my home page on the panel’s site, included among the list of links to available surveys for which I’m urged to see if I qualify are links that seem to be survey links. But instead, as I’ve found when I’ve clicked on them over the past few weeks, they’ve taken me to various marketing come-ons for mortgage refinancing and other similar types of offers.
True, as promised, I have been (supposedly) given an entry into a sweepstakes in exchange for clicking on the link, so the panel company is delivering on its end there. But rather than taking an actual survey, I end up angrily clicking “no” multiple times to escape Bait and Switchland.
I’m sure the panel providers have affiliate relationships with these various e-marketers and earn a small cut for every consumer who signs up or says yes or otherwise agrees to participate. I get that part of it. But are those pittances worth the risk of forever linking the word “survey” to “sales pitch” in a panel member’s mind? How long will it take before a panel member grows tired of his or her click leading not to a survey but to a spam-like ad and decides to stop participating in the research process? And what happens when they start telling their friends and family about how they had joined a panel once but ended up quitting because it was just a bunch of ads?
Is that the lasting impression we want to make?