Review: National Consumer Panel – A Total Waste of Time
About ten years ago 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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Brock is a software engineer by day and personal finance blogger at night. He is a fitness junkie and enjoys grilling and smoking meat. Married with two children, Brock strives to improve his skills as a husband and father, and is always on the lookout to stretch his family’s budget as far as he can.