This past Wednesday, my brother and I munched on a delicious lunch inside the Planet Hollywood Miracle Shops on the Las Vegas strip. We were eating at La Salsa Cantina, a Mexican restaurant toward the back of the mall. Serving a mean queso dip and large burritos, we filled up while eyeing from our indoor deck seats the scene taking place right across us.
We watched as two guys standing outside of the store space across from the restaurant emerged out into the mall walkway and started asking people passing by if they would like to view a television show in exchange for $15. Because the only thing separating our table from the general walkway was a two foot fence, we could easily hear these men pitching the offer to the Planet Hollywood patrons along with the responses. It seemed like half the people said “yes” and half the people said “no”. My brother and I looked at each other and conferenced for about thirty seconds and decided that this was something we wanted to do.
To make it look like we were not purposely trying to get selected, we paid our tab and ducked out of the restaurant with our heads hung low walking the opposite direction of the two men. When we reached a point where we no longer were in eye sight we turned back and walked toward the petitioners, trying to give off the best “PLEASE pick me” look that we could. Sure enough, the guys asked us if we wanted to participate and we said yes.
One of the guys took us into the actual store and for the first time I realized what it was called…Test America. It indeed was a research center! They led us to the upstairs of the center and asked us a few questions. We answered and then they told us to hold tight. We stood on the upstairs balcony that overlooked the Planet Hollywood shops, a very nice view. Within two minutes the guy came back and he offered us a new proposition: “Hey, how would you guys like to make $85 instead of $15? All you have to do is participate in a focus group after the show. It will take no more than 2 hours of your time.”
Under most circumstances we would have said yes in a heartbeat but as we were supposed to hang out with our two Vegas friends (Brandon and Madison) in an hour, Glen had to make a quick phone call. Brandon gave us his blessing and we told the Test America guy that we were in! Before we entered the viewing room, we were grilled with a more stringent round of questions from one more employee. He prefaced the questions by telling us that he had to make sure we were qualified. I knew exactly how to answer to make sure we were “qualified” and with Glen taking my lead, we quickly answered questions about how many hours of TV we watch a week, the type of shows we watch, our yearly income, etc. We passed!
We entered the viewing room, a roughly 25 foot by 25 foot space with one table, chairs, and a flat screen television. If I remember the number correctly, 27 people including my brother and myself filled the room. I am fairly certain that we were all tourists, hungry to get a little extra Vegas spending money. Again, another employee came in and gave a short introduction to the show telling us that we were about to watch an unnamed hospital drama pilot. He asked us to watch the show closely and then get ready to give thoughtful feedback afterwards.
The show started and it was definitely a hospital drama! The actors/actresses were all attractive, the show was fast paced, and the lines pretty cheesy. Although I was mildly entertained, by the time the show ended forty minutes later, I was ready for it to be done and ready to get back to Vegas.
The employee came back in and gave us all a survey to fill out about the show. As most surveys go, it contained several scaled questions (on a scale of 1-10) and a couple of open ended response ones at the end. After we finished he collected the surveys and another employee entered and made the following announcement:
“Could I please have these three people get up, leave the room, and follow me? Thanks: Can’t Remember His Name #1, Can’t Remember Her Name #2, and Brent Reser.”
A bit surprised at hearing my name, and yes, it was the last one called, I looked at Glen and walked outside the viewing room into a waiting area. The three of us sat in three available chairs and joked about why we were called out and what was going to happen. Five minutes passed and the same guy came back and handed us a piece of cardstock paper, said “thank you,” and showed us the way out. As we walked out I looked at the document…my $85 check.
It turned out that they had chosen more people than they needed for the focus group so we got randomly selected to bypass that portion of the research and still receive full funds. I waited an hour for my brother to come out and he gave me the low down of the focus group: Many specific/tedious questions, long winded answers, many follow up prompts from the person conducting the focus group, and too many people who thought they were professional critics. As our bank did not have an ATM anywhere near the premises we went to the restaurant right next door to the center and cashed our checks….at a cut of 20%.
After the deduction, we walked away with $68 each. Although not our biggest win in Vegas, that $68 multiplied for my brother that night and it lasted me a long time. Although this is by no means one of my more interesting posts, actually, it is by far one of my most boring ones, it provided my brother and I the affirmation that participating in a quick hour or two of research can be relaxing, interesting, and profitable. Just another good memory of our Vegas trip. Don’t Blink.