Thursday, March 29, 2007

Something Different: A Focus Group

The entertainment for this evening was something a little out of the ordinary. A few days ago, my cell phone company gave me a call and asked me whether I would be willing to take part in a focus group. As I have never done this before and there was a rather nice honorarium, I agreed. That is where I went this evening.

There was an interesting mixture of people who showed up, as would be hoped with a random sample. There was a guy who drove trucks, a stay at home mother, a women who worked in insurance, an ER nurse and various others. I was the only philosophy professor. As we listened to questions and chatted, I learned several interesting things:

1) One person had 3,000 minutes a month on their plan and yet often ran over. That is fifty hours of talking a month! They said that they could not talk at work, between the hours of 8am and 5pm. Given all the various free minutes available with the plan, this is an incredible amount of time on the phone, over two full days a month of talking, without using the free minutes! This blew me away.

2) Apparently, after the hurricanes of 2005, our cell company was the only one that did not experience any serious service outages. The same story was told by everyone, even those who lived in relatively out of the way places. After Rita, one women explained they lost service for only twenty four hours. I would have never guessed.

3) Some people take their cell phones very seriously. One person had no less than three cell phone companies. For the life of me, I cannot figure why anybody would need that. A couple of other people had two cell phones with them, from two different companies. Once again, I cannot figure out why.

4) One fellow had been with the same cell phone company for twenty-two years! Another person had been with the company for fifteen years. I find this profoundly amazing.

5) It seems that of the group, I was the utter Luddite. I don't use my phone that much. I do not want a very fancy phone, just one that works. Others clearly were interested in having the very latest gadgets. I guess this means that I am uncool.

It was an interesting experience though. Everyone was amazingly articulate on the topic of their phones. I did not realise that the slightly useful gadget, that occasionally disrupt my classes, when students forget to turn them off, could cause such interest and passion. The best bit about the experience was undoubtedly getting the honorarium, though. It sure was a different way to spend an evening.

The CP


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