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FOCUS GROUPS ARE POINTLESS

You’re a company selling a particular product. Let’s say high-end flatscreen plasma TVs. How would you go about gathering information on the type of consumers who might be interested in buying that product? Round up a bunch of broke, desperate people who don’t have jobs? Of course not. That is a stupid, brain dead, retarded 5th grader kind of idea. Yet that’s what most companies do, and people aren’t about to turn down their money just because companies are too dumb to realize its not helping them. The one thing all the deadbeats in focus groups have in common is that they lied about something to get in there and they will say anything to make sure they get paid. I should know. I’m one of them. Over the course of three years, I’ve told the following lies to qualify for focus groups I was most certainly unqualified for: I am in the market for a new car I am in the market for a new plasma TV I am in the market for a new ride-on lawnmower I go out to bars five times or more per week I go out to bars one time or less per month I am an avid fan of professional beach volleyball I am not in any way involved with the media or entertainment industries I have a child suffering from autism

Okay, I didn’t lie about that last thing. But only because I thought it was too easy to get caught. Another basic flaw in the entire focus group system is that the people who are desperate enough to drive all the way to Westwood at 11am for a $85 and a free sandwich are not the same people who are capable of buying the $5,000 home entertainment system being discussed. When the greasy guy in the cutoff jean shorts and a faded t-shirt celebrating the back-to-back World Series championships of the 1992-1993 Toronto Blue Jays explains how he’s willing to pay a little extra for true 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, somehow I don’t believe he’s ready to write a check anytime soon. Same goes for the woman at the laptop group, stuffing her purse with sugar packets from the coffee counter. On the rare occasion that everybody in the group is actually qualified to be there and the product is actually something we can afford to buy, it’s still a complete waste of time. I was recently in a group about liquor bottle styles which devolved into twelve people debating over whether a Grey Goose bottle looked more “elegant” or “dignified”. I’ve also had the pleasure of watching two grown men almost get into a fist fight over which beer made them think of summer more: Bud Light or Miller Lite?

In the end, I should just shut up and be grateful that easy money like this even exists. It’s not often I can turn my passion for professional beach volleyball into a couple slices of pizza and a crisp hundred dollar bill.

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