“ Scan all your shopping and be rewarded for your efforts „
Imagine being rewarded for something most of us do at least once a week, I am of course, referring to shopping. Well this is what happens when you become a panel member of A C Nielson - Fact Finders.
I received an email invitation from Toluna at the beginning of November 2008, and after answering a few questions on my shopping habits, family members etc.. I was informed that I had qualified should I wish to do so, to become a panel member for fact finders, which would involve scanning the items I bought on each shopping trip. An email arrived a couple of days later from A C Nielson asking me to complete another short survey , mainly to confirm the details I had previously given, plus the names and addresses of the Supermarkets I frequented most. I was also asked to supply a landline number as a member of their customer service team would need to contact me to arrange delivery of the equipment required to become a member. They rang me the very next day and arrangements were made for everything to be delivered by courier the following week.
***WHAT IS INVOLVED ***
Well basically they want you to scan all the household items you buy from the Supermarket, any other shops like the Butchers, Chemist, Market, Internet, anywhere really, even things you buy whilst abroad. You scan the barcodes of the items as soon as possible after purchasing them and the information is sent to the Fact Finders Office via your telephone line once a week. It all seemed very simple and straight forward but there is a bit more to it than JUST SCANNING the barcodes, I will of course explain in more detail later. You are awarded points each month which can then be exchanged for goods.
***WHO ARE A C NIELSON ***
The company was established in America back in 1923 by Arthur C Nielson Snr. And are now one of the largest businesses involved in Market research with operations in over 100 Countries. Whilst their Headquarters are in New York, they have a Head Office in Oxford (UK) and their Fact Finders team are based in Newport, South Wales.
The idea behind Fact Finders is to gather information from a cross section of people so they can gain an insight into what us the consumer like and dislike. This information is then passed onto the Manufacturers and retailers so they can establish what is hot and what is not. It makes me wonder if manufacturers use such information when they decide to discontinue certain items.
***THE SCANNER ***
This actually reminds me of my very first mobile phone except it is a lot lighter. It sits in a base unit which is plugged into the mains as well as your telephone line. It needs to stay there when you are not busy scanning. Mine has to live in the bedroom as it was the only place where we had a permanently empty socket available next to a telephone. It is important that the scanner is stored in the base unit when not in use for two reasons.
1. It keeps the battery charged ready for scanning.
2. As the base unit is connected to the telephone network, the details of the scanning you have done are transferred to the Fact Finders team via your telephone line once a week (in the early hours of Sunday Morning) the base unit automatically telephones their computer to transfer your weekly data. You are not charged for these calls as the base unit is programmed to dial a freephone number.
Any other devices that may be connected to your telephone line such as Fax/answer machines, or digital satellite television should not be affected by the connection of the base unit and to date I confirm that we have not experienced any problems.
As well as the scanner, base unit and all the connection wires you require, you also receive sent a very handy instruction booklet, plus another which has printed barcodes for products you may well purchase that don't have a barcode, this covers things like dairy products (handy if you buy bottles of milk from the milkman), bakery items (bread, cakes etc. from the bakers), fruit and vegetables (loose from the market, supermarket etc.), meat and poultry (butchers, supermarket) , savouries ( pies & pasties etc), fish, tea and fresh cut flowers and house plants. You will find that when scanning certain items that do have barcodes you are directed by the scanner to scan the relevant code from the book. This happens to me when I buy bread from the in store bakery at Tesco as well as fish from the pre packed fresh counter.
I also received a copy of the Fact Finders monthly news letter. The instruction booklet also mentions a gift catalogue, but they no longer supply these as all the gifts can be viewed and ordered via their website.
You are awarded 75 activity points each week plus an extra 100 at the end of each month. An additional 750 points are also awarded 8 weeks after joining. In order to receive your weekly and monthly points you must use the scanner every week, either to scan your shopping or to inform them that you are away on holiday or just haven't bought anything. I think it is worth pointing out that you DO NOT receive any more points by scanning everyday than you would if you only scanned once a week. Once you start scanning it certainly makes you realise just how much you are buying each week.
You can earn extra points ranging from 500 to 1000 if your letter is published in the monthly news letter. The letters I have seen published are always related to some sort of scanning experience that someone has had or something similar. Every panel member is also entered automatically in to a monthly draw; prizes in the past have included BOSE Wave music systems, laptops, televisions, iPods, holidays and once a year a brand new car. My membership card was also included which shows details of my panel number and password for their website.
When you first switch the scanner on (after it has arrived) a simple download takes place, this updates the scanner with important files, whilst also checking that everything has connected properly.
You can now have a practice scanning session by following the instructions in the booklet provided. I would certainly advise doing this as not only does it familiarise you with the scanner and the functions of the keys, it also gives you an idea of the extra information required for when you start scanning for real. (Things like the exact weight and price of the sausages you bought from the butchers etc...).
You will find that you use the yellow, green and red keys the most.
The scanner holds information of most (if not all) of the major stores as well as shops like butcher, baker, newsagent, farm shop, the list goes on, they do have basically everything covered even to the fact there is a store not listed option.
The first time I scanned for real I felt both nervous and excited, even though I had a practice run, I still was not sure what to expect.
I will now try to give you an idea now of what a typical scanning session involves; this should help you decide if it is something you want to do, should you get the chance to become a fact finders panel member, as there is a bit more to it than just simply scanning the bar codes of the items you have bought.
After removing the scanner from the base unit and switching it on you are met with a number of options on the screen from which to choose.
2. No Purchases
6. Manual Send ( use if the automatic send fails)
As I am going to be scanning my shopping I use the arrow keys to highlight Purchases and then press the Green key.
Another list of options appears.
3. 2 days ago
4. 3 days ago
5. 4 days ago
6. 5 days ago.
Again using the arrow keys select today and then press the green key to confirm.
The next screen will contain the names of all your family members.
Press the green key after selecting me. You will then be asked to select who accompanied the main purchaser. All the names appear again (apart from the main purchaser).
In my case it is usually Himself, so I would use the number pad and press number 1, followed by the green key.
The next screen asks you to select a store.
2. Other stores.
You will find that the favourites option is used most of the time. About a month after using the scanner this list not only contains a list of your most frequented stores but also has the addresses of them too.
Using the arrow key select the store followed by the green button.
All the above need to be carried out before you even start to scan your purchases.
Hold the scanner about 5cms away from the bar code, press the yellow key and you will see a red beam covers the bar code followed by a beep sound. (If for some reason it doesn't beep, you may have to type in the numbers of the bar code followed by the green key)
The barcode of the item appears on the screen and you are asked what quantity. Key in how many you bought followed by the green key.
The next screen asks if it was on offer or promotion, this is answered by either pressing the green key (yes) or the red one (no), assuming you press green (yes) the following options appear on the screen.
1. Extra Quantity
3. Price Reduced
4. Any Other Offer.
Using the arrow keys again, select the one that applies followed by the green key.
Then you can scan your next item and so it goes on. When you have scanned all your purchases from that store press the ESC key, the screen will then ask if you have any more items to scan, answer this again with either a Yes (green) or No (red). This is normally a no (red key)
The next screen will display the name of the store and ask for the receipt total. Key in the total amount you paid followed by the green button. You are then asked if a loyalty card was used, again this is a yes or no answer. The scanner now requires you to select a method of payment.
1. Credit Card
2. Debit Card
5. Loyalty card
6. Voucher/ Coupon.
Select the appropriate method followed by the green key.
The scanner then asks if you need to scan another store, Yes or No answers required. Assuming you have selected no, then simply turn the scanner off and place it back in the base unit. If you have selected yes, then the whole process starts again, beginning with the VERY first screen.
My first scanning session took over 20 minutes but now it only takes 5 to 10 depending on how much I have bought.
Things can get a bit complicated if you buy something without a barcode or are asked to use a code from the book, as there tends to be more questions to answer. For example, the bread rolls from the in store bakery in Tesco have a bar code, but when you scan it you are asked to use a code in the book, there are a choice of 7 bar codes to chose from, so scan the one that applies, you are then asked if they were loose or pre packed, granary, soft grain, standard, wholemeal etc.. followed by the size, whether they were baked in store, how many you bought, although in this case if they are pre packed you would enter the number of rolls in the pack.
I have found it is easier for the person who does the shopping, to do the scanning too. Things were rather hectic at home after a recent shopping trip and 17 year old son volunteered to do the scanning for me. He knew what it all involved as he has scanned items previously, usually chocolate & and sweets that he has bought and brought into the house, there has even been the occasional bunch of Tulips for me.
As he started to scan the weekly shop, I had to answer his constant questions, was such and such on offer, is this organic etc. So don't think you can become a member and leave the scanning just to the kids as they may well need assistance. The information put into the scanner needs to be as accurate as possible otherwise it's a waste of time doing it. I have found the best way my son can help is by putting the shopping away once I have scanned it. (a little like working on a production line)
It may appear to sound more trouble than it is worth but once you get the hang of it, it is very easy. If you do experience any problems you can always phone the help desk on the freephone number, who will advise you what to do, I have only had occasion to contact them once and that was in the beginning. I found them to be very helpful, polite and extremely efficient.
***POINTS MAKE PRIZES ***
As I previously mentioned they no longer produce a paper gift catalogue as everything is now done online. (you do of course need your membership number and password to access this)
In my humble opinion the website is not that well laid out, so finding out just what your points will get you is difficult. Instead of gifts being listed by points value, they are in fact under the categories, discover, play, exhilaration, relax, entertainment, indulgence, living and share. These then have sub categories to choose from too. Even when you select a category, the prizes are not listed by points value and several gifts appear in more than one category, which I find all a bit confusing.
I have obviously browsed the online catalogue out of curiosity, to see what is available. I have selected a few items shown below to give you an idea of the kind of things that are on offer. There are a multitude of items for you to choose from, ranging from essential household items to the more luxurious.
De Longie toaster 6500 points
Braun electric tooth brush 2870 points
CD 1800 points
Salsa lesson 2300 points
(1 hour lesson at various locations throughout the UK)
Golf lesson 4600 points
(30 minutes tuition at various clubs around the country)
Theatre tickets 42850 points
(Tickets to a west end show, an overnight stay in a 5 star Marriott or Renaissance hotel with dinner and breakfast for 2 on a Friday or Saturday night).
There are numerous things to choose from the above is just an example, some will however take forever to save up for, considering you only earn 4800 each year just for scanning. I have decided to let my points mount up and haven't really thought about what I would exchange them for. There are new gifts added at regular intervals, so maybe something will catch my eye in the future.
You receive a statement every month detailing your points together with a copy of the newsletter.
I am not exactly sure whether you can apply to become a member or if it's by selection through surveys but if you fancy becoming a fact finders panel member , you could always send them an email to see if they have any vacancies in your area.
Previously posted by me on ciao.uk with pictures.