Free Money

Today I went for a research survey at an (undisclosed) airline. This was actually the second round of survey — last year in October/November they had organised a first round of phone interviews, followed by viewings of business class seats. During the first round, the selected research lab rats had to come in and try the proposed seats, and give their comments on the various designs. Having had more than my share of short flights in biz class, I had a thing or two to say about the existing seats, and the proposed designs.

So today I went in again to give my comments on the selected seat. I was pleased to see that it was the one I had preferred last time. The interviewer, same lady as last time, who works for a market research company, told me that usually with these surveys, the follow up round usually gets 20% participation from the pool of first-round interviewees. This time, their follow-up rate was 100%. Apparently, I am not the only airline seat geek. 🙂

I had to sign an NDA, so can’t talk about it, although I should mention that these seats will be much much better. Anyway, at the end of the interview, which lasted an hour, they offered me cash or mileage. Like last time, I chose the cash, thank you very much. The miles offered would cover for about 26% of a plane ticket to Shanghai, say, whereas the cash would cover half of the cost. Easy decision 😛

Which brings me to the title. Free Money. It does feel like it, right? I was toured around a mock airplane by a beautiful young lady, asked to park my ass in a seat and pick at all the flaws I could find. We had a grand time — I did find a couple of flaws, and I asked the lady for the engineers’ phone number (I have hers, already, thank you), the guys in charge of the central armrest. These guys, me, and my trusted cattle prod need a chat. They obviously never travel. But then again, that’s why they asked people like me in… So was it really free money? If I was self-employed, it would probably not be free — total time spent was around two hours, travel included. Or if I had had to take half a day off. But our working hours are flexible, so I just went there, and then off to work. This cost me like 6$ in bus fares. And for the airline? Probably money well spent. Between the fees of the market research company, the cost of organizing the viewings overs 10 days or so, and the cash incentive, it’s probably quite a chunk of $$, but still a good investment: they are getting feedback from people who spend a large part of their professional lives sitting in the gahdfershaken seats, who have a lot of empirical knowledge about them.

So I got my free money, which I am going to spend on a ticket to Shanghai… 🙂


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