man doing a survey on his tablet

Earning doesn’t always have to be a challenging and difficult activity. Sometimes, you can get a buck or ten without breaking a sweat, and that will probably be the sweetest money you’ve ever made. Paid surveys can be one way of doing that, and they can be fun or not so fun. If I could choose the topics on which to take surveys, it would probably be media, either digital or traditional. And that’s exactly what Scarborough Surveys are about.

With a twist, though. Not everyone can join. In fact, nobody can join of their own initiative. The only way to get into this exclusive club is to get invited. More on that later. First, let’s see who they are.

Who Are They?

The company’s full name is Nielsen Scarborough. According to their own introduction, they are a “national media research company.” Their main goal is to gather info about their users’ leisure activities and use of traditional media such as TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, as well as shopping. They are conducting over 200 thousand surveys per year, are headquartered in New York, and have been in the business for over four decades. There’s even a Wikipedia article about them.

They are accredited with Better Business Bureau and have an A+ rating. However, the customers’ reviews are less impressive – but later on that.

I Got an Invitation to Join. What’s Next?

Much as it feels good to become a member of an exclusive group of people, I have to emphasize this (for better or worse): the fact that you got the invitation doesn’t mean you’re special in any way. Their method of picking people to invite is totally random, and there’s no way around that. You can’t hack a system whose only rule when choosing members is that there are no rules.

Or at least, that’s what they claim. Machines are the ones that generate those random numbers. And they better be, since we would have much reason for concern if it happened any other way. Anyhow, this member/household should represent an entire category of people who either live in the same neighborhood, or belong to a particular demographic group.

So, let’s cut to the chase. If they chose you, there’s literally nothing you need to do – no signing up anywhere. Just wait for them to reach out with a survey, which is most probably gonna happen via phone – yeah, landline. Or maybe you will get a product to review and keep it for free. Those are the only two ways you can earn with Scarborough, and both pay in between $1 and $10 per successful survey/review.

Some users report they received a $1 bill in their mailbox with a survey that they were supposed to fill out, send back, and earn another $5. Sounds like a bait, doesn’t it? But let’s not come to hasty conclusions before weighing out the pros and cons.

nielsen local homepage

Advantages

  • They are most definitely legit. Nielsen is a market research giant, and if nothing else, that fact alone would vouch for Scarborough’s legitimacy. When you pick up the phone, you can never mix them with a scammy telemarketing company. And that’s simply because they will start the conversation by telling you who they are and why they are calling you.
  • You get cash in exchange for your opinions. Most market research systems will offer you an abstract currency such as points or gift cards. I like it when I’m able to actually earn cash and decide what to do with it. Your cash will arrive in the form of checks. The payments are prompt and don’t take more than a week.
  • Apart from surveys, there’s also product testing and TV diary. Product testing doesn’t pay much – anywhere from $1 to $10 per product, plus you get to keep it. But even though it isn’t a sum to die for, it’s nice to have multiple ways of earning from a single system.
  • No cashout threshold. In fact, there’s no cashout at all. You will simply get what you earn, as soon as you earn it.

Disadvantages

  • You can’t join – you will either get invited or not. To be honest, most likely not. 200 thousand surveys per year might sound like a significant number, but the surveys are local, which means Scarborough Surveys conduct their research on behalf of (mostly local) media companies. And who knows where, when and if that happens.
  • It’s a bit tricky to sign off. If you’re not interested, you can’t just ask the interviewer to stop calling you. I mean you can, but they aren’t authorized to do so since they don’t have access to the list of interviewees. So, you need to either call 1-800-753-6043, or email them to scarbanswers@nielsen.com Even if you belong to the National Do Not Call Registry, you will still get the calls since they are not a telemarketing agency and are exempt from those rules. Putting an end to those phone calls is quite a hassle, but that’s just how they work. I have to be completely honest here: I don’t like the fact that they make you work on unsubscribing from something that you had never even voluntarily subscribed to.
  • Wasting your time? Some users report spending 15-20 minutes on a call just to find out they are ineligible for the compensation. That’s annoying even when it happens with online surveys, not to mention the additional effort you need to put into a phone call without results.
  • Their website serves no purpose at all. What’s the point of a professional and sleek looking website if it doesn’t have enough information and doesn’t offer you an option to join? Sure, you can get to know who they are. But all that info (and much more) is available elsewhere, as soon as you google them.

Verdict

I don’t think Scarborough Surveys are scam, but I don’t think they are a particularly good system either. But maybe that’s just me, since I dislike long phone calls (especially if it’s hard to make them stop). If you got the invitation and are curious to try it out, I won’t tell you not to do it. From what I learned, there is only one reason why you may regret it. And that’s the fact that you’ll get quite a few phone calls every week and get very little cash in return.

If you want a really efficient platform, try Inbox Dollars, Swagbucks, or Prize Rebel.