Wednesday, January 27, 2010

National Consumer Panel~Now Taking Applications

A few months ago I signed up to be considered for the National Consumer Panel. I'm sure you have heard of the Neilsen TV ratings. This is the same group. They also track what consumers are purchasing, where they shop, and how much they spend.

Every so often they accept more applications. And, they are accepting them right now. First, let me say that this is a commitment, and it is not for everyone. It does take a little bit of time. I would guess that I spend about 20 minutes per week scanning and transmitting. I have been surprised to find that it is not as complicated as I expected. I will explain the process and the rewards in a moment.

I began my application process in October (I believe). It all starts with your zip code. Some are eligible at a given time and some are not. I answered questions about shopping habits, family makeup, ethnicity, and my computer hardware and phone service. It took several surveys over a couple of weeks to get accepted. Some of the questions seemed redundant, but it wasn't too bad. Upon being accepted I was told that I was being put on a waiting list and when a spot in my area became available, they would send me the equipment necessary to participate.

My only complaint with the whole process is that they shipped my equipment (which requires a signature for delivery) a week and a half before Christmas, when we were out of town, without notifying me ahead of time. Thankfully, a friend was keeping an eye on my house and noticed the FedEx tag on the door. I was able to call FedEx and re-shcedule the delivery.

The equipment is easy to use. I simply scan the bar codes and provide purchase prices for everything that I buy. Once a week I call in and press my scanner to my phone. It transmits all of my purchases for the week. It is very simple. I have read about other bloggers' experiences with NCP and it appears that there are different methods of transmission, based on the equipment that you have at home already.

There is no time commitment for this program. They sent a prepaid return label with the equipment, which is the property of Nielsen and must be returned whenever I decide to stop participating. I don't see this happening any time soon.

Now, for the rewards. For each transmission, I receive points. If I am consistent in transmitting, I receive bonus points. There are also other ways to earn points such as online surveys. I started at the first of this month. I expect, by the end of the month, to have about 3,000 points. It is my understanding that the points add up more quickly as your time with the program lengthens. There is a catalog filled with a nice selection of items that are available for purchase with points. The cheapest item in the catalog is a Buxton leather wallet for 9,000 points, the most expensive is an XBOX 360 package for 315,000 points. I expect to get a free Christmas gift or two from this catalog at the end of the year.

If you think you might be interested in being a member of the National Consumer Panel, Click HERE to get started. If you are willing to make the commitment, I highly recommend it!

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