I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning, did my makeup and a crap job on my hair that I would regret all day, then hopped in the car and ...

Opining for Cash

Thursday, August 28, 2014


I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning, did my makeup and a crap job on my hair that I would regret all day, then hopped in the car and headed downtown for the Tabor Center. Justin greeted his mom at our home and she took the kids for the day. Seeing as the Sander says adieu to this Erickson still in bed every morning middle of the night these days, it felt good to be the one to leave first for once.

Sort of.

Not really.

Okay, I was so tired.

Just this past Tuesday, I'd been called for a research study for the following Thursday. {Two days notice!} It was to be held ALL day, first time that has ever happened.

I hurried down in my Volvo, making sure the gas tank was full because these days if it gets near 1/2 tank, the car thinks it's out of gas. I skipped Starbucks--which I would regret all day, even now, for the lack of caffeine--and made a beeline downtown. I-25 was already congested in places. I'm good enough at finding my way downtown, but did have to blinker-beg another driver to turn onto Larimer street at the last minute. I didn't want to be late, you see, or you lose your chance at the "early bird" drawing for another $50, which I wouldn't go on to win and that makes me regret skipping Starbucks even more. I entered the Lobby at 7:21, glanced at the elevators, then to the Ink! coffee shop in the lobby, then back to the elevators. Ink! would have to wait, the line was too long and I've been dropped from studies for being a minute or two late before.

7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., I was participating in a mock jury research study.

When I was done with the paperwork, I realized they weren't even going to start the study until 9 a.m., so I sneaked back down to the lobby and paid $5 for an iced mocha that is usually my favorite--from Ink!--but sadly the baristas made it gross and weak and I'll be calling them for my money back because I couldn't even finish it.

{$5 for slightly flavored milk?! This was the first time Ink! has ever let me down.}

Of course on the phone they said there would be a continental breakfast served. Although the lady pronounced it, "confidential breakfast", and that should have given me a clue. Because it ended up being a small cluster of grapes and some bagels so picked over and cream cheese so repeatedly dipped into by strangers that I couldn't. I just couldn't. {Look, I can't even pump gas without using a paper towel to handle the gas pump. Happy, mom? I'm not even a germaphobe. But...what if my eye itches when I get back into my car? 7/11 is for pink Slurpees, not pink eye.}

Now, I have participated with many focus groups over the years. I've taste tested new Hot Pocket ideas, helped NatureSweet make decisions on their new cherry tomato line, I've given my opinion on fracking by using a dial, talked about formula brands and packaging, and we even did a study where we had to collect and return our baby's used diapers for three weeks straight! Yes, used diapers. Justin has done a few also, as well as two in-home studies that pay very well {$300-500}, but they bring an entire camera crew and ask to see every room of your house while asking you all about your pets and what your smartphones could do to help you keep pets.

The studies are fun, because you're paid to give your opinion and opining is something I do well and frequently anyway. It's true, just ask my husband.

Today's study was different in that they didn't seat a group of 6-8 people around a conference table in comfy chairs for an hour or two like they usually do. Instead, it was a mock jury and we were crammed sardine-style into a small room, sitting in hard straight back chairs, shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh. Basically, they tried to make it realistic by torturing us, civil servant tax payer style. So you try and keep your arms crossed and your knees glued together so as not to impede on your neighbor's space, even though the guy next to me didn't bother and our thighs became well acquainted...for NINE HOURS.

Again, it was a mock jury study. I can't tell you what it was about--signed papers first thing saying I'd keep it a complete secret. {It wasn't that exciting, trust me.} I had to initial two pages worth of disclosures. I will tell you that if you live in America, then you've heard of the company involved in this lawsuit, and interestingly every single one of us in today's study sided with this company. I'll be keeping my eye on the news to see how the case pans out...

I'm so glad I thought to grab a Snickers bar at the store last night and tuck it into my purse, because the nice boxed lunch we were promised in order to get us to agree to a 7:30a-6:00p study--following a full breakfast of 8 grapes, you will remember--was a half sandwich and a bag of overly salty chips. My blood sugar was not in good shape for being read nearly 100 pages of legalese today, but we all suffered through it and had a few laughs before finally leaving the mock jury and collecting our checks in the office lobby.

$245 for a day of opining, even if it means 9 hours in a chair that reminds you that you broke your tailbone quite thoroughly years ago {I have x-rays to prove it} and it has never quite healed, is not bad.

I had parked about 10 miles underground in the Tabor Center parking garage and rushed to my car alone. I HATE parking garages. They scare me. I've seen too many movies. I sighed in relief when I was in my Volvo and hit the lock button. Do you know how many people work in the Tabor Center? It took forever to get out of the parking garage and had to pay for parking {covered by the research group} and I had to exit onto Lawrence street at a 45 degree angle in my car which worried me once again because when Volvo is on a steep hill sometimes it thinks it is out of gas then too and decides to stall. I gunned it out of there, after paying my ticket. {Sander promises to fix the car soon, but it's like, a 2-3 day deal of getting under the seats and into the gas tank and he amazes me that he can even do such things.}

Sander was already home with the kids by the time I ended up in two traffic jams {Broadway and also Speer near Cherry Creek are hellish}. I was well paid today, but also well reminded why I'm SO GLAD the rat race is a part of my past and no part of the foreseeable future for me. How people fight traffic jams every day is beyond me.

The taste tests, and heck even the diaper studies, are more fun than today, yes, but focus groups are a fun and easy way to make money in general. I'm on the calling list with both Fieldwork and Plaza Research in Denver and they call me regularly. I only get selected for, oh, 1 out of every 8 calls I get. But if you like giving opinions and doing something different, they are fun. Although I worry sometimes that I'm the awkward, talks too much participant. I've been embarrassed before in blurting out strange things like, "Red and yellow food packaging just makes me think McDonald's food, yuck." and "Tissue companies should not be exploiting Olympians to get more sales!"

As I wrap up this post, I realize I make focus groups sound pretty lousy, but in reality they are a lot of fun and easy money. You should do it. Register for your local companies who host focus groups. If you're opinionated like me, there is no better way to earn cash.

I've decided the money I made opining today is going to go toward our kitchen makeover. I'm excited to start, everything is planned out in my head and I'm ready to execute.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a weary tailbone to rest. {I'm butthurt.}

Cheers,
Heather

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