Funny story, in retrospect.
When I was very young (dunno, maybe 8 or 9?) I was approached by the good folks of Whatchamacallit for some market research. The Whatchamacallit is a really tasty peanut butter and chocolate based candy bar. There it is up above. They launched this candy bar in the late 70’s. Apparently, they wanted to know what kids thought about it. What do kids like about it, dislike about it, and what would make kids buy more. This is very common. On an unrelated thread, I have worked for several market research companies over the last 15 years. It is AWESOME. You sit in a conference room for an hour and look at various pitches and commercials and packaging ideas for products. After an hour or two, they pay you about $80 cash, under the table. Its about the best job ever.
This was like that, but I was ten (we’ll say ten to stay consistent through the narrative, though i have no idea how long ago it was.) So, who do you ask about marketing strategies with about candy bars? Well, the people who eat them > kids. Where do you find kids? You find kids at the mall, which is where they found me. I was alone at the mall. My mom worked there, so I would wander the mall for hours to kill time while she worked. I loved it! So, this guy with a clipboard literally asked if I wanted some free candy. If I would come with him to talk about candy bars for a couple hours, and I could have all the candy bars I wanted.
So, I said “sounds pretty great. Let me go run and ask my mom if that is cool.” Well, I should have said that. Instead, i said the 10 year old equivalent of ‘fuck yeah I do!’ So, I went off with this nice man to a conference room located in the mall and ate candy bars and talked about what we liked and didn’t like. I’m not a monster running off with strangers. I was carefully educated about all that stuff. But… this guy had a clipboard. I mean, that seemed pretty legit. I was sure he was vetted somewhere. It’s not like they just had out clipboards to any asshole with $10, right?
So, off we went to talk candy bars.They were oddly thorough, at least to my mind. I would say “it’s peanut-buttery” and they would ask “is it too peanut-buttery, or would you like more peanut-buttery-ness? How is the crunchability” etc etc. Now, my grown up mind understands these details are critical, but my ten year old mind thought he was being weird and pushy. I pushed my concerns aside, and kept working on the free candy bars. I should note, they never did anything bad or creepy with me. We didn’t take any pictures with our shirts off. They were legit, and just wanted a kids insight into their product. At least, I think they were.
When I emerged hours later, my mother was not remotely impressed with my adventure. in my eyes, I made friends and got free candy bars. Pretty great day. My mom saw it more as a ‘someone kidnapped my child, got him gooned on sugar, and then set him free. In closing, I should say I bear no ill will to my abductors. I still love candy and I still eat Whatchamacallits. Next time, though, maybe they should have some parents involved. Of course, what parent would have said “yes, strange man with no credentials besides that clipboard… please wander out of site with my child for a few hours.” What parent would do that? Wait, I can think of one.