The Cult of Cheap

This morning I saw an advert for some writing that needed doing.

“I need six articles for my website.”

Ok, what about?

“Six different medical topics about how nutrition can prevent these six things.”

Go on.

“You’ll need to do the research yourself.’

Uhuh.

“In a week. For $20.”

I saw another ad, for help wanted to do a market research survey. I’ve done these for 20 years. I’ve worked on them all around the world. I sort of know what I’m talking about on this topic, on a good day. But not in web world I don’t.

Someone wanted to survey IT workers. Actually, they didn’t. they wanted to say they had done it. They wanted to survey one company and extrapolate the results for the entire industry. By email, obviously, as that sounds nice and cheap. Yes, I’d have to find 100 people’s email adresses. Didn’t we mention that? Well, that’s officially not a problem and if it is then you’re being negative.

The normal email response rate is well below 3%. To get 100 people that means the company would have to have at least 3000 IT workers. Given that a company is likely to have other workers as well that means the entire ‘survey’ would be skewed towards just the very biggest companies.

Then they wanted ‘inferences’ drawn from the quantitative research. Let’s think about this a minute. We’re measuring how many and using results that say things like 59% t ‘infer’ what people mean. That is what qualitative research is for.

I estimated if this job was done properly it would cost between £5,000 and £10,000, depending how much ‘inference’ you preferred to actually knowing what was going on. But most of all I recommended not even starting it this way, because this excuse for research was just going to produce nonsense. Give me a call, I said. I’ll talk you through it.

Difficult to work with, obviously. They didn’t call. They put the job out to someone else. For £158. Nice and cheap. And a total waste of every one of those pounds.

It is endemic. It is not about the recession. It is about a fundamental attitude shift commoditising life, where cost has to be inversely, perversely correlated with value; the message that cheap is good and more is better.  You cannot get something for nothing. Ask the Daily Mail, or any of the other market champions who use half their space to condemn ‘scroungers’ who want to ‘get something for nothing’ and the other half telling people that’s exactly what they can buy.

And maybe that’s the key word: buy. Better value equals lower price. And anyone who says otherwise is a cheat. Welcome to the brave new world.

 

 

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