After having my first child, my neighbor Jean introduced me to Innovative Consumer Research (ICR). She told me amazing tales of tasting baby foods, getting to bring home baby meals, sippy cups, spoons, and other baby accoutrements, and getting PAID for it!
I called the secret word-of-mouth-only number and left my name and address on the message line. A week later, a nondescript mailer arrived at my house. I colored in all the little circles on the MEEP-like form and mailed it back to the address per instructions.
A week later, a letter arrived wrapped around a little white card. The letter had an almost-hand-drawn map of a location near the Gerold R. Ford International Airport. The little card had some code numbers on it. It said that a recruitment system would call me and I would have to enter the codes on this card correctly in order to register for a session.
My phone rang. It was THEM! I typed in my numbers, listened to and answered the questions, and registered for a taste-test session.
Liam and I headed off to the mysterious place, waited in the sterile waiting room until we were assigned a judge number and escorted to a cubicle. Our cubicle housed a chair with a table topped by an antiquated laptop computer, two plastic cups of distilled water, a paper towel, a disposable plastic bib, 2 packages of unsalted Saltine crackers, and a handi-wipe packet.
A few minutes later a server delivered a tiny cup of baby food with a numbered label on the lid and two tiny plastic spoons–one for the parent and one for the child. After tasting the sample, we were to cleanse our palates by eating a bite of cracker and taking a sip of water. Then I was to use the computer to answer questions about the sample we had just tasted–whether or not I or my child liked/disliked it, our response to things like the sweetness, flavor, mouthfeel, texture, color, aftertaste, aroma, and propensity to purchase this product.
The same scenario repeated itself 6 times over–the only difference being the taste/color/texture of the samples.
Then my son and I got up, walked to the front desk where we were handed a $20 Meijer gift card, and we were on our way home again.
We got really fast and really good at this. We could do a taste test in 15 minutes or under (if we had a “fast” server), which meant we were earning more than a dollar a MINUTE for these tests! One week I remember having a test every single day–that meant more than $100 that week for a scant few hours of “work”.
For those of you who know me, you know I love all things food preparatory and wordiferous. So in these taste-testing sessions two of my passions collided. I enjoyed myself immensely–picking apart and criticizing to the high heavens each new concoction that was put before us. And I did my best to write very frank and very detailed reviews of each sample…unless we were in a hurry.
We did indeed get to sample some baby bottles, breast gel pads, kid meals, lotion scents, juices, and the infamous 30 different baby food spinach samples. It has been a blast. I miss the fun, the taste-test community camaraderie, and the gift cards. I don’t miss getting the pretentious sniff and evil-eye from the old ladies when we arrived a little late, though.
I pass this wonderful experience and gift on to you.
Just call 1-800-991-3388. In about a week, a nondescript mailer will arrive at your home…