The type of ratings Arbitron gets for $1

Two weeks ago Borderline got a letter from a company called Arbitron. The envelope contained a letter, and a crisp $1 bill.

Wow! People demand money from Borderline all the time -- I'm used to getting dunned for unpaid bills a few times a week! But getting free money, unsolicited? What's going on here?

From what Borderline understands, Arbitron produces "ratings" for radio programs, which stations and networks use to make programming decisions and adjust advertising rates. For instance, the data that Arbitron gathers help determine how much WBZ can charge Subaru of New frigging England for running 30 second radio spots during our drive-time commute. There is another company, Nielsen, which does the same thing for TV programming.

Anyway, Borderline pocketed the dollar bill and threw away the letter without reading it. Some people actually like to reveal their innermost radio habits to a bunch of statisticians. But not Borderline. I don't know how they got my name, but I sure didn't volunteer for help-out-the-advertisers duty. I feel no obligation to take part in whatever schemes this company uses to make u- I mean gather statistics upon which multi-million dollar PR decisions are made.

Then the calls started.

Every night at dinner. Early in the morning on weekends. Late at night on weekdays. Borderline never answered. There were hangups, recorded messages, and sometimes, breathing from a real live stats-gathering human. They used legitimate caller ID most of the time, but a few times they didn't. I could still tell it was Arbitron, because of the area 410 code. Later Borderline looked at the caller ID list for these numbers, and they all led back to the same number:

(410) 312-8222

If you Google it, this weird mashup appears, that seems to be charting telemarketers and the like who are breaking the federal "Do Not Call" list. Borderline signed up for this "Do not call" registry service several years ago, to stop the flood of unwanted solicitations at dinnertime, but Arbitron apparently feels they are above federal law because they have a "business relationship" (an exception to the Do Not Call rules) with me. Yeah, that's right. Arbitron thinks that by virtue of the $1 bill they sent me, they now own me and my time.

So, yeah, I feel used. It's almost as bad as when Patrick J Hynes and New Media Strategics tried to co-opt this blog for some corporate lobbying purpose.

Anyway, now Borderline is torn between doing nothing, or answering the phone and giving these jerks and piece of mind, or answering the phone and lying about all the fringe radio programs I listen to on WBRS, AM talk radio, and the like.

But I'll probably end up doing nothing.

Arbitron sucks!

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Blogger JJ said...

I had no idea! It does seem weird that they "require" you to give them your home phone number on the service agreement. It even says cell phones not allowed.

That sucks.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We got hit w/that survey letter also. Did just as you, kept the $1 and offer them nothing more. Heck, if you agree to take a phone survey these days, the going rate is $15. They must be playing the odds that 1 in 15 will respond.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please join me in complaining to the FTC about their violation of the Do Not Call registry:


That does not guarantee they will be dragged to court, but if enough of us complain I'm sure the FTC will investigate.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being an avid radio listener I was interested to give them my .02. With each letter I got a couple more bucks, I guess to encourage me to keep going. Total I probably made $10 just for telling them what radio station I listen to. Big Deal. I will always take free money especially for doing something so easy.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We found a very simple solution for all annoyance calls. We did some research on telephones and went to Best Buy and purchased a Panasonic phone Model KX-TG9333 DECT 6.0. This model has three handsets but you can get the same model with one, two or three. It allows you to block up to 20 phone numbers as long as you have Caller ID. It rings once or twice then disconnects the call. The caller never hears anything. The readout on the phone and the "missed call" list shows "Call Blocked". Just make sure you let the phone ring once or twice to see if it's a blocked call or someone you want to talk to. WE LOVE IT!!!!

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is an important call from Durham & Durham law offices"
Caller ID: 866-884-1000
Caller: Durham & Durham law offices
Caller Type: Collection Agency

Durham & Durham Law Firm is connected to the following phone number 410-312-8222, who claim to be Arbitron, a survey group. The calls come in tandem. The sham survey is only to get your information for the law firm. Don't fall for it, don't answer their calls, don't give them any information for your free $1.00, get a phone or software that will allow you to block annoyance calls.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arbitron has been around for 60 years, and they are as much of an institution as the Neilson ratings.

However -- if you really don't want to be a lackey for corporate America, one suggestion is to take the survey and fill the pages with obscure shows from public access or college radio stations.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They have been calling several times a day for well over a week now. They even called and left a message the other morning before 8am and then called after 9pm that same day! I know that's illegal so I'm contacting the FTC.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could've saved SO much time just answering the survey. I think I've made probably 20 bucks off these people. Yes they call but if telemarketers gave me money every time they wanted something we'd all be a little more giving.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funding to enforce the Do Not Call list has been dropped. You can write the FCC all you want, but they can't do anything about it anymore.

If that upsets you, then you should call your Congressman and demand they fully restore all funding to the FCC.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got a letter with the one dollar bill from Arbitron two days ago and they followed up with their phone calls today. So annoying.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've made an easy $20 so far. Nothing easier than answering a few simple questions....

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to recall several years ago companies sending people merchandise through the mail unsolisicited and then trying to charge them for the things they sent it they were not returned. The end result of the lawsuits that followed (if I recall correctly) was that the people that received the merchandise could keep the things that were received and were under no obligation to opt out of any implied agreement.
So a case can be made against Arbitron for Mail Fraud as well as violating the Do Not Call laws.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same people calling for about 6 months? Don't get the message with hangups and no responses from me. I have taken about 60.00 so far in ones, then 2 fives about many times. My question is why the FK am I so important? or maybe is this really arbiton? My tip, don't talk to them because something smells.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous SeaBlueSky said...

Wow, this post is a bit late to the game. I found this blog while googling the phone #. I never received a letter w/$1, but that might have something to do with not living in the US. Does that mean the Do Not Call list doesn't apply to me either? I have a US skype number so family n' friends can call me without international fees, not ridiculous telemarketers. FYI, they called me at 2:03 AM my time - that's enough to make me mad.

10:59 AM  

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