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Reward Programs Time Management

Review: National Consumer Panel – Pure Awesomeness or Waste of Time?


National Consumer Panel, participating in reward programs, participating in NCP

 About two years I applied to and was accepted into a program by National Consumer Panel lured by the prospect of earning great prizes in exchange for a little bit of my time each week.

Who doesn’t like great prizes?

I would use a scanner supplied by them to record my weekly purchases by scanning the UPC barcode of the things we purchased, and entering the prices.  Our data would be transmitted back to NCP from it’s charging base which was connected to my broadband service.   Participant’s shopping data,  as well as results from panel surveys completed online would be used to give customer opinion and shopping trend feedback to retailers.

Here’s where the great prizes come in.

Each transmittal of data, and each completed survey would earn points. The accumulated points can be traded for products in their gift catalog.  Although as a new member I didn’t have a feel for how fast I would accumulate points, there were some nice products in their gift catalog, and I was excited to get started.

After a few weeks, my wife and I fell into a routine of scanning the items each time we went grocery shopping. I would place the purchased items on the counter all around our kitchen. My wife would then read the items and their cost from the receipt as I entered each item into the scanner. I also spent about 20 minutes a week participating in online surveys.

For almost two years participating in the NCP program was part of our shopping routine.

Scanning all our groceries added about 10 minutes to the time it took to put groceries away, and even though life is very busy, it didn’t seem like much of a time hit. After all, we were going to earn some of those great prizes, right?  Unfortunately, our points total grew very slowly, and over time that 10 minutes seemed more and more inconvenient. My wife began grumbling that we had to take the time to scan everything and my survey participation began to decrease as well.

We were losing interest in the program.

Last week, as we were scanning our groceries, my wife put down the pen, looked at me and asked, “Is this really worth it?” I figured it was at least worth doing a little investigation to answer the question. I logged into NCP website, and looked at the gift catalog to see what we could get in exchange for our efforts over the last two years.

The best gift I could find for the points we had earned was a $50 iTunes gift card.

Estimating the time we had spent:

2 (years) x 52 (weeks per year) x 30 (minutes per week) = 3120 minutes or 52 hours spent on program activities.

That means we earned less than $1 an hour!!!!

I ordered the gift card, and immediately dug out the box and pre-paid return label to send the scanner back.  We’re not participating anymore. What seemed like a great opportunity at the time, turned out to be a really big waste of time.

Have any of you participated in the NCP program, or anything similar?  What was your experience?

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  • Anyone else have experience scanning as they shop? Any issues with this? I just signed up with NCP, and I’m getting scared after reading all the comments.

    • Some of the other commenters mentioned they scan as they walk through the store… only issue with that is, I have a habit of putting things back – and removing things from the list is error prone. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Kym!

    • the longer you belong the more points you get per week I get almost a thousand points a month without doing surveys i am getting ready to order my ipad for my points in a couple of weeks and i have won gifts cards as well

    • That would have been easier when I still was a member except I too also put LOTS of items back I’m worse than a kid lol, also my cellphone reception doesn’t work at the only stores in town I ever shop at. I live in a rural area where most cellphones can’t call in or out at all, are in roaming or have minimal reception, (I have one of the few providers that’s lucky enough to get 1 or 2 bars around town) and I can’t even call to ask a question when I’m shopping for someone else without leaving my cart and running outside to place a call.

  • Brock, thank you for writing this article and sharing your experience. It helped me understand better what I am dealing with. I just signed up to join NCP, but I don’t think it is a great idea participating after reading all the comments. Of course, they probably won’t accept my application right away anyway…… I also feel like I betrayed myself, because during the sign up process they asked a whole lot of information about my family, including birth month and year, and I regret going with it and giving them this valuable data. …. I am a mom of three and I like to coupon, as well, but my husband really thinks I am wasting my time with some of these companies, who promise a lot, and don’t give much. Time is really valuable!

    • I’m glad the article helped you with your decision…’re right, time is valuable. A person only has so much of it – use it wisely!

  • I am a long-time member and the only reason I participate is because you get a 25% discount on your AT&T bill. I have two teenagers and this saves me money every month. After you join NCP you just go to your online AT&T account and sign up for the discount. They verify that you are a member and you will start to see the discount each month on your bill. I have never redeemed any of my points and don’t bother with their surveys, I just scan in order to get the phone discount.

    • That’s a great discount, Anne….and might even be worth the hassle of scanning. I get a slightly larger discount from ATT&T (27%) through my employer, so I’m unable to take advantage of it. But that’s just my own personal situation….

  • I’ve been a member of the NCP for many years and have only missed maybe one, possibly two, weeks of transmitting my shops. I never redeemed my points because i wanted to save up for a high value prize. Well, about a year ago, I ordered the Kindle Fire I always wanted. Turns out I had lots of points left over and have quickly accumulated enough points to bring by balance back up to where it was before.
    I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. If I ever have to call because I have a problem with my scanner, the people in the office are as nice as can be.
    And in response to the person who was worried about giving out her personal info, it’s needed to make sure they have the right population sample that their clients are looking for. Sometimes they might need families with small kids and other times they want empty-nesters. I’ve done surveys for several companies and of them all I think this is the most legit and safest of them all.

    • Whether the effort is worth it is up to each individual person…..but in my opinion, if you’ve done this for several years and the only thing you’ve got out of it so far is a Kindle..well… I’d bet there are infinite ways to earn enough money to buy that kindle without having to scan your groceries for literally years. But, as long as you’re OK with it, keep on scanning! Thanks for your input!

  • I participated in the National Consumer Panel for many years. I accumulated over 200,000 points and recently decided it was just too time-consuming. Unfortunately, I notified them of my desire to end my participation before I used my points. I was immediately locked out of the site with a notice that until the equipment was returned I could not get back in. I went to my “Welcome” packet, found the return label they had provided and affixed it to the return package as instructed. The label was a USPS label, so I took it to the local post office and sent it off. Over two months later, I still can not redeem my points because they say they have not received the equipment. They are now telling me that was not the correct label and the equipment should have been returned by Fed-Ex. The label I used was the only one provided by NCP. I figure my package is either gathering dust on a shelf somewhere between me and them, or in their warehouse having been overlooked or mishandled. I am out over 200,000 points and am being threatened with collection for equipment I don’t have. There is no way I, or probably anyone else, would choose to keep equipment that is useless to them and forfeit points that should be used to purchase merchandise they could actually use. However, that seems to be the mindset at NCP……that I decided to keep their useless equipment for some unfathomable reason.

    • I sort of wondered if that sort of thing would happen, so I made sure I used my points first. THEN, when I did return the equipment, I opted to add tracking to the package so I could make sure it got there. I hope you get to use your points…200,000 points is HARD to accumulate. I think in the several years I did it, I might have gotten 75,000.

  • I was in the program for three months until I realized that it was too much of a hassle. Never even redeemed my measly 7,000 points. Frankly, the survey sites give me far better of a reward for my time, and for far less effort. One thing out of this is that I discovered Hopster and MyPoints, and they reward you much faster for your receipts!

  • I’m glad I read this. I was picked for the panel today. I don’t want to waste my time with the way many of you were treated.
    Thank you for putting this out there

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