I enjoy online customer satisfaction surveys. After all, my opinion is very important to them — except when it’s a case of me being too old to be important to them.
First question: What is your age?
The options: a series of age ranges you regard with brief sadness, because it’s like looking at a series of books you enjoyed but barely remember. The last range is usually 65+, as if to say everyone old enough to remember rotary phones can be lumped into a file labeled irrelevant.
“Sorry. Our marketing partners are interested only in young, firm, vibrant people whose enthusiasm for life is still starry-eyed and naive, not beaten into a seedy, unpalatable pulp by the repeated blows of life.”
Hrmph. Anyway, I want my opinion to count, so I always lie about my age.
The other day, I ate at a fast-food taco joint. Why? Because I have no shame or self-respect. But if anyone asked, I said I was running errands and hadn’t had supper.
I used the touch screen to order, then remembered, “Oh, right, they’re coated with germs” and used my knuckle to make all my choices. It looked like I was giving it gentle little mock punches. I’ll have extra tomatoes, ya big lug, you.
The server handed me my receipt and said I could take a survey. I might win $500! Aha! They wouldn’t turn me away. I represented crucial demographic information.
First you have to enter a 16-digit code, which weeds out the people who did weed before starting. Then, here’s what the survey wanted to know:
What is your age? Which sauce did you use — Wimpe, Caldo, Fuego, Demon, Slakeless Agony in the Godless Pit of Torment? Please describe your experience, as well as any prescriptions you are on now.
Was this takeout or dine-in? There was not a third option: “Consume in shame in your car in parking lot, lettuce falling on your lap.”
Next, describe your experience on a five-point scale from Highly Satisfied to Highly Dissatisfied. Here’s how the company interprets your responses:
5. So delirious with joy, I had to sit down and breathe into a bag.
4. As unutterably marvelous as the experience was, I cannot say it was the absolute summit of my mortal existence.
3. I’m as neutral as Switzerland; my indifference can be distilled and used as an antiseptic.
2. How do you sleep at night, knowing what you have done?
1. I recommend the store be razed and the ground salted, like Carthage, so that nothing ever grows there again and the stony field becomes a testament to your failure to provide an acceptable taco-related experience.
To the customer, the scale is:
5. They didn’t forget part of my order this time.
4. They forgot something, but it’s OK because my friend couldn’t finish his, so I still came away full.
3. Dude, it’s Taco Bell, I’m not expecting foie gras.
2. The rice was hard and got up in my gums. And I didn’t even order rice.
1. I don’t know what you put in those beans, but the next day I could have moved a wind-farm turbine blade.
The pressure is on once you start taking the survey. If you don’t state “highly satisfied,” then they’re concerned. It bothers them that you were merely satisfied. I didn’t want to be the cause of concern, but it seemed absurd — and somewhat pathetic — to say I had been highly satisfied by a taco.
Then I noticed that they had given me an out by listing some actual problems I might have encountered that impinged upon my satisfaction:
• Ingredients were not spread evenly. Nope, not going to click that; they’ll trace the order number back to the shift records, and someone will have to attend mandatory Spread Equity Class.
• Torn tortilla. Apparently there are people who throw down their burrito in disgust, adjust their cravat, reseat their monocle and march to the counter to declare, “Look at this. My tortilla is positively rended. Absolutely sheared. I’ve never been so insulted.”
• Cracked taco shell. To tell you the truth, in all the excitement of unwrapping my taco, adding hot sauce and chomping down, I can’t tell you if there was some fissure in the taco’s bulkhead that suffered catastrophic failure ahead of schedule.
• Food does not look like advertisement. This is for people who buy a new car and are disappointed that they’re not instantly transported to a mountain road where they are the only car around, driving into the sunset.
But that’s the one I chose, because I was presented with an option that just might define modern life:
• Was the taco visually full?
Yes, but it concealed inner doubts about its own satisfaction in life? Who cares? No, the cheese and lettuce did not crest the lip of the taco’s top, but that’s OK. I don’t want anyone fired for a taco that did not meet my standards for observable abundance. I clicked no.
In the end, they will never know why I was mostly satisfied instead of extremely satisfied. And it might haunt them. Marketing execs will wander the halls in a daze, preoccupied, muttering to themselves, “If not the torn tortilla or the visually insufficient taco, then what? WHAT?”
If only there were a choice of evaluating the survey and saying I was mostly dissatisfied with it. Because there wasn’t the question I wanted, which was: “Did you take unused sauce packets home?”
Yes. You could say my pockets were visually full.