Home > culture/society > I Just Got a Dollar in the Mail (or, Do Not Sell Your Privacy to Scarborough Research)

I Just Got a Dollar in the Mail (or, Do Not Sell Your Privacy to Scarborough Research)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 15:48 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

No really, I got a dollar in the mail today.  Cash money.  A 2003 $1 United States Federal Reserve Note, legal tender across this great nation and on the black markets of several lesser nations whose own currencies are next to worthless.

$1 bill

Hi, George!

Now if you were raised like I was, your mama probably told you never to send cash through the mail. That’s because in the unlikely event that the envelope is lost or stolen, there is no way to stop payment or track it the way you can with a check. So naturally, I was curious about the sender whose own mama apparently didn’t care enough to give him/her the same wise advice.

The sender is some entity called Scarborough, and along with the $1 bill they sent a letter (English on one side, Spanish on the other, because evidently every other immigrant group that ever came to America doesn’t count, but don’t get me started on that), a short survey, and a postage-paid return envelope. The letter informed me that if I simply completed said survey and sent it back to them in said envelope, they would send me $5.

I’ll take scams for $1000, Alex.

A quick internet search reveals that Scarborough Research of Coral Springs, Florida, and business addresses, has been a complaint magnet for some time because of their aggressive telephone practices and refusal to honor people’s requests to stop calling. The Better Business Bureau of West Florida has handled 166 such complaints in the last 3 years, 74 of those in the last 12 months (yet it still manages to give the company an A+ rating, apparently because all those complaints were “closed,” i.e. resolved). Others have made their feelings known via web sites like Complaints.com, ReviewsTalk, and Complaints Board. A 2011 Chicago Tribune article addresses the company’s annoying practices. And that was just on the first page of search results.

Apparently, if I were to fill out this company’s survey (which includes giving them my home address and phone number), not only would I get $5, but I would also “agree that Scarborough may contact [me] about future surveys and other research opportunities.”

In other words, for the cost of a coffee and doughnut, I would be selling my right to be free of the persistent and intrusive rudeness described in all those links above.  So it isn’t a scam.  It’s just unethical business practice, which can feel just as bad to the victims.

Obviously, plenty of people take the bait, having no idea what they’re getting themselves into.  Why else would a company send thousands of dollar bills to complete strangers (mine was addressed to “Resident”) if it didn’t get the attention of enough people to make it worth their while?  And that’s not including the additional $5 for each sucker who signs up.  You would think that wouldn’t be enough compensation for someone to give up his or her privacy, but the truth is that all of us give it up all the time for nothing.

  • Have you ever used a web site that required you to agree to receive email solicitations as a condition of proceeding?
  • Have you ever installed a smartphone app that required permission to access your contacts, calendar, or other information stored on the device?
  • Have you ever signed up for a store rewards or frequent shopper program whose terms included collecting data about your shopping habits and purchase history?

Those are just three ways you forfeit your privacy, but there are many more. We go along with it because we want the benefits that come with that web site or app or rewards program. Those of us who are more careful and agree to such terms only if we believe the company to be reputable are deluding ourselves that our information is guaranteed never to be abused by them or someone else. If you don’t believe me, refresh your memory about the antics of the ironically named National Security Agency.

Is it possible to fully participate in today’s society without giving up our privacy? Probably not, unless tens of millions of people decide to stop availing themselves of 21st century conveniences that an entire generation has never lived without. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t avoid other intrusions. I’m willing to give up something for the safety and convenience of a GPS app when I’m far from home, but not for a lousy $5.

If you want to pay off my mortgage, then we’ll talk.

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Categories: culture/society
  1. Al Christensen
    Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 16:26 EDT at 16:26

    I got my $5.00 in the Mail Today…….It’s A Neilsen Survey

  2. no name
    Friday, June 5, 2015, 19:27 EDT at 19:27

    My letter did not have the reverse side in Spanish and it did not include a self addressed stamped envelope. I was sent a $1 with a promise of “an additional $10 as a thank you” when we receive your completed survey.”

  3. Rhonda
    Thursday, August 6, 2015, 18:55 EDT at 18:55

    I have a friend that does the Scarborough Surveys and gets paid so know they’re for real.

  4. Terry
    Monday, September 28, 2015, 22:00 EDT at 22:00

    They sent me $1 then 5 and up to $50 just by answering questions about what shows I watch. They stopped calling once it was all over. Its not a scam at all. I’d do it again..👍💸💸💸

  5. Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 12:07 EDT at 12:07

    So put the wrong phone number on the survey.

  6. Anthony
    Saturday, October 3, 2015, 12:01 EDT at 12:01

    you are ridiculous and ignorant, what a shame.

  7. Friday, November 6, 2015, 13:39 EDT at 13:39

    We got the same thing! My mother was over for a visit, and she told us to check out the site. Sure enough, we found this. Thanks a bunch for the info!

  8. Lisa
    Friday, November 20, 2015, 20:49 EDT at 20:49

    Well I recived the same letter with a Dollar. Thought scam…but took the survey……and today I got my $5…….

  9. Friday, December 4, 2015, 18:05 EDT at 18:05

    Ma’am, I know this is a late reply but I don’t want you to further mislead any viewers. No. Participating in a survey is NOT possible without giving up privacy. The reason for this is that it needs to be ensured that you are a real person, and that you were randomly selected. The data gathered by research companies changes the face of advertising across the country, and if it were not verifiable that you were indeed a real person at a real address who was really contacted, then there would be no way to prove companies liked Scarborough were not simply forging data and manipulating markets Jordan Belfort style. Another complaint you had was their random selection and persistence. There is a reason for this as well. In order to have statistically relevant data, it MUST be randomly selected. This means that if you choose to participate and contact them, that’s no good. That would insert a bias into their data, because perhaps a certain subset of people only would do this, and then they would be over represented in the data. As for their persistence, this is because they randomly select the called numbers through an SRS and the more of the numbers in the sample that are compliant, the more representative their survey is. If you need further explanation I suggest you to simply take even an entry level statistics course. You also note that they are call repeatedly. Although this goes with the previous point, let me just say that this is entirely your fault as well. If you simply listen to the caller, they always VERY CLEARLY state that they don’t have access to the database from which your number is pulled. This is true. You must call the number they give you and request yourself removed from a supervisor there. Really to me it’s clear that you are a rather poor, pandering amateur journalist who wishes to speak about things that she doesn’t understand. In the words of a wise man, “Git Gud Son”

  10. Cewatts
    Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 17:35 EDT at 17:35

    I just got this letter today, but they forgot to put my dollar in it. Times are hard in Florida these days.

    Anyway, they were kind enough to send me a pre-paid return envelope. So I bundled up their letter & survey (and a couple of random bits of other junk mail) & sent it back to them. Made sure nothing had my address on it of course.

    Imagine a world in which they send you a dollar and you cost them $.50-.75 to get their crap mailed back to them. Why if I were John Lennon, I might write a song about this.

  11. Linda
    Thursday, December 17, 2015, 18:10 EDT at 18:10

    Old reply

  12. Chris
    Friday, January 1, 2016, 22:25 EDT at 22:25

    Late but it might help someone. This isn’t a scam, its a sample survey for the Nielsen rating system. Basically you plug in what shows you watch and what time/days and taking from the national sample the company measures which does are well liked and which aren’t. Broadcast companies use this information to decide if they should renew, drop or change time slots for shows. As you can imagine there’s a lot of money involved so they can stand to lose 500 if the companies pay them in the tens of thousands. It made more sense before the computer age but its still a tool used to track info.

  13. Scarlett
    Monday, January 25, 2016, 13:07 EDT at 13:07

    I did it and about 4 surveys in and just received $50 in the mail. And a total of $66 since I got that first dollar in the mail. So in my opinion, you screwed up. Dummy

  14. Survey Researcher
    Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 15:39 EDT at 15:39

    Hi! I know this is really old, but the truth about this is that they’re affiliated with Nielsen, the well-known company that tracks TV ratings (and other information, too). I know this both because I’m in the Survey Research industry (I work for a nonprofit version of Nielsen) and because as of this afternoon I became a participant. Also, I googled Scarborough Research and Nielsen immediately came up all over their materials.

    It isn’t a scam or a bad business practice, it’s the best, most scientific way to recruit a random, representative sample of households within a certain population (look up addressed based sampling for more information). Opting out may get hard once you give them your phone number, true, but that is why they (we) offer money as an incentive.

    As you’re implying, there are many reasons why someone would refuse to participate. This is why Scarborough sends out so many letters. Depending on the study, the recruitment rate could be as low as 1-2% of people completing the initial screener survey.

  15. Marc
    Saturday, March 5, 2016, 21:28 EDT at 21:28

    Thank you

  16. Jim
    Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 17:38 EDT at 17:38

    Thanks ! I just got my dollar too !

  17. Company is still at it...
    Friday, March 18, 2016, 06:33 EDT at 06:33

    I too just received this letter with a $1. Now the company is asking that you complete an online survey for $10. The post from 2014 was very jelpful, in addition to other research about this company, i will not be taking any further action, they have have the dollar back!

  18. RACHEL KAHN
    Friday, March 25, 2016, 23:32 EDT at 23:32

    WE GOT THE SAME DOLLAR LOL

  19. CarShe
    Tuesday, March 29, 2016, 09:58 EDT at 09:58

    So many companies are relentless with the tactics used to pull you in. I am certain if an individual/company wants personal info they will find a way to get it. I don’t plan to knowingly give up my personal information, let them figure out what they want to know. Are deceptive practices are still unlawful & punishable?

  20. Larry Mansfield
    Friday, April 15, 2016, 17:45 EDT at 17:45

    I filled out an internet survey and they paid me $25, and filled out a couple survey booklets for $50. I guess if them calling you (which you can simply decline to answer) or sending you stuff in the mail is such a huge hassle that it’s not worth making 25 bucks for 20 minutes of your time, you probably have a much more comfortable lifestyle than I do.

    To date I have gotten 3 phone calls from them. 2 I didn’t answer and the 3rd I took their survey for 10 dollars.

    The money always comes in the form of cash so I’m not going to be surprised one day to find an empty envelope

  21. Dan
    Friday, May 13, 2016, 12:33 EDT at 12:33

    AhHH-yes.The research company that’s conducting studies about people’s interests and likes concerning their use of and attainability to either free speech media or paid media.Just so they may be able to structure your viewing,reading,and listening preferences to your liking.. Presented by people , such as you doing a job that’s very important to the nation’s interests,as prescribed as to not influence or make the study half baked and biased, therefore everyone is represented equally .The employees are paid a comparable rate as any other telecommunications operator doing a service . How the ratings are amassed are totally within your power as to their resultant outcome .Competition and the strive for the betterment of American’s lifestyles is the idea and concern being presented .Choose to participate or choose not to voice your preferences ,is all your choice alone and your right in this country..
    If it were not for capitalism ,we would not have the things you have and enjoy today,and and in all probability , at the prices you can afford.That is just a thought to consider, plain and simple as it may sound.

  22. Jillian J
    Wednesday, August 24, 2016, 06:46 EDT at 06:46

    The ones claiming how they received $50.00 and more are full of shizz. I don’t know you all think you’re fooling, but it’s only your own selves. SMH ☝👎😠
    As for Isaiaha, you were downright condescending and full of it. ☜👎😠

    To the author of this article- great job and you are spot on. ✌ 👏 😊

  23. Lyn M.
    Saturday, September 10, 2016, 01:07 EDT at 01:07

    I got a call from them one night around 10. I answered without checking the caller I.D because I thought nobody would call at that hour if it wasn’t an emergency (should have known better). When I protested the late hour the caller didn’t apologize but said she’d call back another time, so, hoping to get rid of her, I agreed to give her 5 minutes. She launched into an interrogation about my media (TV, radio & newspaper) habits that I couldn’t have answered intelligently even in the daytime with a full cup of coffee at hand. I had to spell out all the names & repeat call letters of stations several times. She couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of secondary channels (e.g. 8.2 or 47.3) or HD vs SD radio stations. Of course this was far beyond the 5 minutes I’d specified, but she kept saying “We’re almost done” & I was too groggy to call “Time’s up!” & hang up the phone.
    She finally said something about sending a (supposedly “brief”) follow-up survey in the mail & mentioned paying for my time; I mumbled something in reply, which must have included my mailing address, because I got a thick envelope a few days later, with $7.00 in cash (less than minimum wage, as the “5 minutes” had turned into over an hour–or maybe just seemed like it?) plus a thick booklet the size of those 4-hr college entrance exams & a smaller one where I’m expected to track my TV viewing for the next week. Looking more closely, I see that a serious effort to answer honestly & accurately would require more time & effort than the ACT, SAT, GRE, plus the long-form IRS 1040 form with all the schedules. Then I realized I DON’T HAVE TO DO IT!

  24. evilmalc
    Thursday, November 17, 2016, 16:14 EDT at 16:14

    The good news is that these people are willing to pay for your time. The bad news is that they appear to act as if that fact alone entitles them to your time. If you decide that they are not worth the risk, there’s nothing to stop you putting a fake number and the name/address of some good cause and returning the form. They’ll either spot the “error” and throw your mailing away, or not spot it and send $5 to some organization you care about. So neutral/win.

  25. Marina Torres
    Saturday, March 4, 2017, 12:28 EDT at 12:28

    I never thought I would get paid to do surveys! Send me a dollar and call me to get my opinions, Scarborough. How are we suppose to let them know what we like or dislike if we don’t give them our opinions.

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