What You Should Understand About Survey Panels

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Before we get started I would like you to know a little about me.  I’m a businessman and engage in Survey taking just like you.  I have no allegiance to any Survey Panel nor am I receiving compensation from any Panel for this posting.  My years in the business world have taught me that it’s critically important to understand the risk/reward potential of any undertaking.  In order to make an informed decision one must understand the inner workings of any undertaking.  I seldom get involved in anything without a complete understanding and that philosophy has served me well throughout my survey taking history.  I began researching well prior to joining my first Panel and wish to offer you my findings in an attempt to save you time and quite a bit of unnecessary aggravation.  If you are a tenured Panel member perhaps this information will shed more light on the industry.  If you’re new to Survey taking or thinking about getting involved you may find this information quite valuable.

I began my research by reading literally hundreds of postings pertaining to just about every Survey Panel out there.  I found many to be positive but the vast majority were negative and somewhat repetitive in nature and can be summed up in the following ten categories:

  1. I never receive any surveys from this company!
  2. I don’t qualify for any surveys so this Panel is a waste of my time!
  3. I spend valuable time taking a survey and suddenly am screened out!
  4. The technical problems with this Panel are ridiculous!
  5. Don’t bother contacting Customer Support, as they will not respond!
  6. I have to wait forever to see a “Pending Survey” credited to my account!
  7. The “Minimum Cash-out Threshold” is just too darn high!
  8. It’s been weeks since cashing out and I have not received my money!
  9. This Panel doesn’t pay, so stay away from them!
  10. This Panel was a good one before they made all those changes!

I wish to make it perfectly clear, I consider every complaint to be valid and in no way will I attempt to convince you otherwise.  After all what kind of person would spend her or his time to create and have published a bogus posting?  So why are so many negative complaints?

Let’s pause a moment and put both blame and fault in perspective by using two common everyday events: You go to a restaurant and order a medium rare steak.  When served you find the steak to be well done and immediately begin to voice your dissatisfaction toward the server when in fact your beef (pun intended) should be with the chef.  Or how about this one: You go to a shop looking for a birthday gift for your boss.  You spot something very unusual and know it would be perfect but there is no price tag visible.  Since it’s apparently the only one left you pick it up, hunt down a clerk and ask the price.  The clerk gives you some outrageously high number and you go off on the spot, of course taking it out on the clerk.  While you are completely justified to verbalize your dissatisfaction, the blame was put on someone not at fault in the foregoing examples.

I feel further elaboration not necessary but do find it prudent to again state that one must understand the workings of any industry in order to flourish within that industry.  On the street this is called “learning the ropes”.

As an example, of learning the ropes, let’s take a look your favorite local automobile dealership and its customers: The dealer purchases vehicles from the manufacturer and displays them on their lot for sale.  The customer visits the lot to view, touch, smell, and drive the vehicle (and sometimes even kick a tire or two).  If the customer is in the market for a vehicle, and likes that “special deal”, he makes the purchase and the transaction is complete.  This is merely an example of a simple transaction that has become an everyday method in which we are accustomed to doing business across the board.  You go to the grocery store for a gallon of milk, find it, check the expiration date and then proceed to the check out counter to pay for it, and it’s over.  As we grew up we learned “how business is done” and continue to follow what we have learned every day of our lives.  These normal daily transactions are just as much a part of our makeup as skin and bones.  There’s nothing difficult and everyone knows and understands the drill.

Now let’s take a look at Survey Panels: These companies are a very unique business segment, as they must satisfy two very different customer bases at the same time.  And these customers hold them to higher standards, as both are extremely demanding.  Let’s examine these two customers a little closer:

The first customer is the firm that hires the Survey Panel to conduct the research.  The hiring firm tells the Survey Panel what they are looking for and what they are willing to pay for, thus the screening questions.  Some of these firms will pay the Survey Panel immediately upon receipt of the completed survey while others wish to review the received data prior to releasing the reward.  And my friends, that can take weeks if not months.  Since Survey Panels are no different than any other business when it comes to cash flow, you’re earned reward will more than likely be held up in the process.  And this is the sole facilitator of many negative reviews.  And it’s not the Survey Panels fault.

The second customer is you, the Panel Member.  You receive an invitation, launch the survey in good faith, and begin with the screening questions.  You may screen out immediately or be accepted only to find that you are screened out several minutes later.  You may even invest a fair amount of your time only to ultimately advance to a screen where you find those dreaded words indicating that a sufficient amount of input has been garnered from your demographic, hence you are screened out without earning a penny.  Also, and not that this happens often, you may complete a survey, in its entirety, to learn you have been disqualified at a later date.  And all of this is another driving force behind negative reviews.  Panel Members, who has invested valuable time, find the only available option to vent their frustration is to lash out by blaming their direct contact, the Survey Panel.

The Survey Panel finds itself in a daily “catch 22” scenario.  And while they do their best to satisfy both of their customers equally they often fall short of the Panel Members expectations through no fault of their own.  The firm hiring the Survey Panel is in control and the Panel is left to deal with the aftermath.  It’s just the nature of the beast, and to maintain sanity, something we must understand.

At the beginning of this posting I listed ten different groups that I feel the majority of negative reviews can be categorized under.  I’m going to briefly cover each, with my findings, in an attempt to allow you to draw your own conclusions:

I never get any Surveys from this company:

The only way a Panel can thrive is through the participation of its Panel Members.  With this in mind it would be counterproductive for any panel not to send survey invitations to any member.  No hiring firm will pay any Survey Panel for failing to reach the required number of completed surveys.  The quicker the Panel sends as many invitations as possible, the faster they will hit their target and be paid.  Some Panels email a great number of survey invitations every day while others may only send you one each month or two.  My common sense conclusion would be that they send what they have available and not that they “dislike” any given Panel Member for some unknown reason.  Also, I would advise you not wait for an email invitation but instead visit each of your Panels several times daily to see if a survey may be available.  Some Panels send out very few invitations while having Surveys available (SurveyHead and LightSpeed Panel).

I don’t qualify for any Surveys so this Panel is a waste of my time:

Please remember that the hiring firm sets the qualification standards, not the Survey Panel.  The larger the number of participants required the “looser” the qualifying may be.  Conversely, the fewer number needed the more rigid the qualifying process may become.  You must also understand there are a huge number of Panel Members therefore many surveys will not remain “open” long.  Therefore, when you come home from your workday and check your email and find several invitations many, if not all, may be closed.  Further, I cannot stress enough the importance of completing your personal profiles.  This in itself will give you a better chance of qualifying, as you will receive surveys that will be much more personally relevant.

I spend valuable time taking a Survey and suddenly am screened out:

Being “screened out” early isn’t a real problem, as most understand.  The rub comes when you spend several minutes answering questions only to have the hammer drop.  And the frustration sets in when you feel you have completed the vast majority of the Survey before you get the boot.  Even worse is “disqualification” where you complete the entire Survey but receive no compensation whatsoever.  Again, please understand that this is not the fault of the Survey Panel but instead the standards set by the hiring firm.  It is also important to note that just about every survey has qualifying styled questions throughout so you are likely to be screened out at any time.  Should you be screened out rest assured the hiring firm is not paying the Survey Panel for any incomplete Survey or one that is disqualified.

The technical problems with this Panel are ridiculous:

I couldn’t agree more but have learned that the Internet is not the most reliable thing on the planet.  And it’s not always the fault of the Internet.  The server the Panel uses could be overloaded or experiencing problems, which leads to glitches, or technical errors.  Your Internet provider or your computer could be having issues, and so on.  Should the problem be on the Survey Panel end they will get it straightened out as quickly as possible simply because it’s in their best interest to do so.  If you feel you must email a Panel regarding technical issues please do so but remember they are more than likely getting the same type query from thousands of their Members.

Don’t bother contacting Customer Support, as they will not respond:

Regrettably this is true.  If your query involves a technical issue, as outline above, it would be an unrealistic expectation to think you may receive a response based on the number of same subject queries submitted.  Other queries like “why don’t you send me more surveys”, “when will I get credit for a given survey”, “I’ve been waiting forever and I want my money now”, etc, etc, may get a response but more than likely not no matter how persistent you may be.  I can imagine the drudgery associated with answering the same type questions seven days a week.  But being a businessman I find ignoring the customer to be extremely distasteful and not acceptable.  Important Note: If your query is in reference to a given survey I strongly recommended that you include the Survey Number in the subject line.  I make it a point to write down the Survey Number just before starting each survey.  If I have a problem with the survey I have a number to communicate.  This will get you a response most of the time and is certainly something you should get in the habit of doing.

I have to wait forever to see a “Pending Survey” credited to my account:

Pending Surveys are generally credited to your account when the Survey Panel receives payment from the hiring firm, and not before.  Hence those negative reviews stating “I’ve had several Surveys pending for months and want them credited now” fall on deaf ears.  This is a part of what’s called “Business 101”.  No Company in the world can pay out money it has not collected on a sustained basis.

The “Minimum Cash-out Threshold” is just too darn high:

This is a matter of corporate preference and reasoning I will not attempt to question or explain.  It simply is what it is.  I am a member of a Panel having no minimum cash out threshold (Survey Saavy) and also a member of one with a hundred-dollar threshold (YouGov Polling Point) as well as several in between.  Many Panels pay by way of check, PayPal, gift cards and/or vouchers and it’s up to each potential member to read the awards section of any Panel prior to joining.  Should you join any panel without first finding out the amount of the cash out threshold, or type of rewards offered, this particular negative review would not at all be justified.

It’s been weeks since cashing out and I have not received my money:

I can understand and appreciate the concern behind this type of negative review.  One does expect to be paid for his labors on a regular basis in the real world but it simply does not always work that way in the survey world.  Again I must defer to the business preferences and practices of each individual Panel but will say those paying quickly are “preferred”.  Relying on first hand experience, I have found Panels that pay immediately upon cash out (Survey Spot), within 24 hours (PineCone Research), one to two weeks (LightSpeed, My Survey and Opinion Outpost) and others taking anywhere from 30 days and longer.  No one including myself enjoys waiting to be paid but the bottom line is to be paid in the end.  And I have been paid every dime earned by every Panel I have cashed out with…and that’s what really counts, isn’t it?

This Panel doesn’t pay, so stay away from them:

This is the type review that baffles as well as concerns me.  Understanding that Survey Panels are businesses it is possible for one (or more) to experience financial problems which could lead to non-payment.  If General Motors, AIG, and Bank of America, to name a few, found themselves in financial trouble it would be reasonable to assume that these same type problems could be festering within any Survey Panel.  Subsequently the unknown does concern me but what baffles me is the fact that the very same panels receiving such negative reviews are consistently paying me.  My suggestion would be to join a panel, cash out when able, and wait to see if you are paid.  If you are new to survey taking or would like to become a Panel Member I would suggest you begin with the Top Ten Panels which can be found right here, at Get Paid Surveys.  This would be the quickest and safest way to find out first hand.

This Panel was a good one before they made all those changes:

When I was a young boy my mother would give me a dollar and send me to the corner store (about 100 feet away) to get a loaf of bread and package of cheese.  And I remember her telling me I could get a piece of candy but to bring the change home.  As I grew a little older and learned to drive I could put 50 cents in my brother’s car and drive for miles (of course I learned how to disconnect the speedometer).  Today it’s difficult to find anything costing less than a dollar.  And 50 cents for gas?  You get the picture.  Things change and so do businesses, and if they don’t they won’t survive.  Today, and rightfully so, it’s always about the money and I get a chuckle (but understand) those negative reviews about Survey Panels going to point systems or reducing cash rewards to $3.00 from a prior high of $5.00.  Just look at it this way: Be content you can take 15-minutes sipping a $3.00 cup of coffee while earning 3 bucks taking a survey at the same time.  It’s a win-win situation.

I hope these findings lend to your successful survey taking future.  Thanks and good luck ‘til next time.

Jim A. from Tennessee

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Comments (1)

  • Joe the Admin October 28, 2010 Reply
    Lots of good points here Jim. I will definitely recommend this post to new visitors on our site that want to learn more about how survey panels work.