Did you ever wonder why your local fast-food restaurant or retail store is trying so hard to get you to fill out a survey?

You may have noticed that more and more businesses in the Hudson Valley are pressuring you to fill out an online survey. We've all experienced that moment when the cashier grabs your receipt out of the register and then circles a website address, explaining that if you fill out the survey you could win cash, get a free burger or maybe even win a lifetime supply of coffee.

This has happened to me countless times at stores all over the Hudson Valley. "Wow," I've said to myself, "These businesses REALLY want to know what I think about them." Well, it turns out that they don't necessarily care as much as you think they do. Instead, many businesses are more interested in what they can get out of you for filling out that survey.

We all know that businesses are getting more and more sneaky when it comes to grabbing your valuable personal information. Whether it's signing up for their "discount card," asking for your zip code or email when making a purchase or forcing you to sign up for their app in order to get special perks.

Many customers have become savvy to these tactics and are refusing to give out their zip code or phone number when making a purchase since that information can be paired with your credit card information to reveal a treasure trove of personal information. That's where online safety experts say the temptation of the customer survey comes in.

By visiting a company's website after making a purchase and entering their survey code, you're basically giving that business all of the personal information you were trying to keep private. Being enticed by the chance of winning a $500 gift card or getting a coupon for a free meal is usually enough to get customers to let down their guard and give up their valuable information.

Of course, some businesses do use survey information to help improve their store, but those surveys are usually conducted by third parties that seek out shoppers anonymously. The information gained from an anonymous survey is usually much more accurate than one that's soliciting people by giving out free cups of coffee. Also, if businesses really want to know what people think about their store all they need to do is go on Twitter. People today aren't necessarily shy about calling out businesses for even the smallest complaint on social media.

I'm skeptical that most businesses really care what you think anyway. For example, I once got my oil changed at a local car dealer. After being hounded to fill out the survey I finally relented, giving the repair shop four out of five stars. The service was fine, but their coffee machine was broken, the oil change took way longer than promised and they left some gunk on my car seat. I didn't complain about any of those things, but simply gave them the four stars, which I thought was generous.

For weeks afterward, I was chased down by their customer service department demanding to know why I didn't give them the five-star rating. They badgered me to rethink my rating and wouldn't stop calling until I finally answered and asked them to stop. What bothered me was that they didn't really care about my feedback, just that they got five stars so they could receive some sort of bonus or something. That was the last time I ever filled out a survey.

So, if you really do want the chance to win some free food or a hefty gift certificate, think twice before being tempered to fill out that customer survey. It may not be worth the actual price you'll wind up paying.

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