And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
THE INFERNAL REALM OF
PAID SURVEYS
by: Wes

So with me having been out of work for the past few weeks and using the off time to more/less plan my future, I've also been looking for small ways to make money to support Scary-Crayon related ventures during this unemployed interim. After all, it takes money to keep the site running, not to mention time -- and while it wasn't a You buy now, yes?big deal when I was working, with no incoming funds the site could easily start to eat into my life's savings... which would totally suck. So to that end, friends, we've begun selling wacky Scary-Crayon apparel! The Feaster thong makes a great gift for yourself or a friend, depending upon the recipient's sex and/or how good that person looks in a thong. The shirts are pretty cool too, so you should totally buy one for your mom! I wouldn't buy her a thong, though.

At any rate, the point of this article isn't to hock our wares (psst, buy something already!); it's to review another of our funding schemes -- the so-called paid survey. Of course, I'd seen them mentioned in stupid Internet ads and popups before, but I've always resisted the temptation to give them a go -- mostly because the ads annoy the shit out of me -- but then I sent my sister a Gmail message about a Kill Bill homebrew game I came across and somehow or another Google decided that paid survey ads were relevant to the message because it posted them alongside the message. And seeing as how I'm presently jobless and could use the money for Scary-Crayon, I finally caved.

I mean, how hard could it be? Answer a few questions about a product, get a check for $10. Sounds simple. Granted, I figured there would be a catch, and I knew that I probably wouldn't be earning AS MUCH AS $50 PER SURVEY!!! like the ads promised, but I wasn't looking to make a living wage here -- just a little money to help out with the site's hosting costs and the crap I buy for reviews. I was just a young, optimistic webmaster, hoping to make a buck or two to finance his wacky online shenanigans -- totally unprepared for the seedy truths about the deceptive world of paid surveys that would soon be revealed to me. Now, I share these horrors with you.

REPENT-AH, SINNERS, OR BE CAST INTO EVERLASTING FIRE-AH!!!

So I went to the link in the Google ad -- I believe it was this one, though I've since been bombarded with so many links that I could easily be mistaken -- put in my information, and awaited the e-mail invitations that were to direct me to the surveys. And indeed, they came within the hour -- e-mails with lists of tasks that supposedly resulted in the acquisition of various bonuses upon their completion. Some promised sums of $10 and upwards for answering questions about hamburgers; some boasted of home makeover contests and free gym memberships; some offered free Bibles, as if there isn't some screaming nutjob handing those out on some street corner within a 30 mile radius from your present location at this very moment. And in addition to these fantabulous prizes, I was promised A SHINY QUARTER! I found it odd that this paltry sum should be at all highlighted -- let alone with an exclamation point! -- when the rewards that preceded its mention were so great and worthy! O, poor fool that was young Wesley -- little did he know that that quarter was the only prize he would ever see.

TELL US WHERE TO SEND YOUR... EXTREME DISAPPOINTMENT!

Alas, unknowing, set out he did. The task was simple, or so he thought -- fill out a brief questionnaire about ice cream, said the e-mail, and win $10. "Verily!" replied he, "for I do enjoy ice cream -- this trial shall be a piece of cake! Or rather," added Wesley, "a piece of ice cream cake!" And he followed this remark with a laugh.

His confidence was bolstered when he saw the page itself. "TELL US WHERE TO SEND YOUR... $10!" it appeared to shriek in bold orange letters, and above the text hung the image of a vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate syrup, nuts, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. Young Wesley nearly licked the monitor, but then he narrowed his eyes and focused on the task at hand. He filled in his information deftly and prepared to answer questions about that most delectable of frozen treats... but something was wrong. "Aha!" he exclaimed, "this is only Step One. Step Two must be on the next page." And he scrolled down to click the button that would take him to the ice cream survey that would earn him a $10 prize. Sadly, he would find none of these things.

RE-JECTED!!!

Yet this is not to say that he did not find a button. On the contrary, a button he did find -- but to an ice cream survey it did not lead. Nor did it easily lead to anything! You see, above the button was a list of various offers of which, as young Wesley had read above, he had been invited to select as many as he wished. "But I don't want any of them!" he said to himself. "Ah well, I suppose they were just offering me some bonuses before I answered their ice cream questions. Quite generous of them, really -- but on to the survey!" And so he clicked "No" for each of the offers and clicked the button below in hopes of continuing his quest.

No free laptop awaits you -- but batshit insanity does!BUT CONTINUE HE COULD NOT! At that very moment sounded the harsh and unpleasant beep that signifies an alert of some sort -- often a memory error; yes, he knew that sound well -- and a message appeared onscreen: "In order to proceed, please check 'YES' to receive information from at least one of our partners."

"But I don't want any of them!" he repeated -- but there was nothing he could do. The survey site was oblivious to his pleas; he could go to the Start Menu and open up Sound Recorder and record himself saying "But I don't want any of them!" and e-mail the sound file to the support address -- but young Wesley knew this would likely have little effect. Sighing in defeat, he reluctantly marked "Yes" for one of the offers he didn't want and then clicked "Let's Go!"

"Hopefully," he said as he waited, "this will satisfy whatever beast guards the ice cream survey and the $10 reward and requires that would-be survey takers and recipients agree to accept the unwanted solicitations of one of its partners in crime in order to have a shot at the prize." In later quests he would discover that selecting "Yes" for certain offers resulted in popup windows featuring insane, screaming women -- terrifying, yes, but one could simply close the popup without submitting any information and thereby pass the unknown beast's test without adding to his daily spam onslaught. But these offers are not always present, and, if one wishes to continue, spam attacks are sadly unavoidable.

WHERE IS THE SURVEY?!?!?!?

Young Wesley continued -- and Step Two yielded no ice cream survey. It did, however, yield more offers that he did not want. "WHERE?!?!" he cried aloud, shaking his fist at the monitor. "WHERE, BY THE GODS, ARE YOU HIDING THE FABLED ICE CREAM SURVEY?!?!? WHY DO YOU MOCK ME, O MALEVOLENT KEEPER OF THE TEN-SPOT?!?!?! YOU DURST, DURST YOU?!?!? VILE TORMENTOR -- THY NAME BE FRED!!!!!!" And with these words and curses far worse young Wesley cursed the wicked survey beast, but he did not give up hope that -- if he only persevered! -- he might yet reach the long sought after ice cream survey.

O, unlucky boy,
how canst thou do
what cannot be done?
'Tis simple -- thou cannot.

But I'm not balding, damnit!!!

Alternately clicking the "Skip" button and selecting "No" for the various offers, young Wesley traversed page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page of offers -- when suddenly a most unpleasant thought struck him. He thought back to days of yore, when he had placed a The Neverending Game.shareware game disk he had purchased for $0.99 in an outlet bookstore into the floppy drive of his ancient IBM PS/2 and had deftly navigated the levels of a clone of the original Mario Bros. game. How triumphantly he had leapt through those archaic levels, headbutting the rubbery platforms from beneath and skillfully flipping the enemies onto their backs! But the levels stretched on -- and, as the hours passed, young Wesley's elation waned. At length -- and yet at once! -- he realized that no matter how many turtles and crabs and pink turtles and flashing crabs with super-speed he purged from the plumbing, those golden pipes would never be cleansed -- and, unlike other games featuring Nintendo's iconic mascots, this adventure had no beautiful princess whose freedom was at stake. Young Wesley reached Level 121 before finally giving Mario over to a suicidal end.

Similarly, as he braved wave after wave of unwanted offers, young Wesley sadly considered the possibility that all he knew was a lie. There was no ice cream survey. No $10 check awaited him. "You must complete the survey to be eligible..." the page had read -- but it had been a cruel trick! Just as there was no Dana, only Zool, THERE WAS NO SURVEY -- ONLY ADS! As the survey beast laughed at him from its distant location, young Wesley sadly closed the browser window and returned to the e-mail that had prompted him to begin this journey.

Non-refundable fees and automatic charges. SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD DEAL!

And there, he saw, all hope was not lost -- for in addition to these surveys and free offers and quarter rewards, there were apparently greater prizes to be won. "AHA!" young Wesley cried, throwing his hands into the air in anticipation of victory. "The great survey beast has tested my resolve, but here lie the true treasures -- and perhaps this time the guardian will permit them to pass into my worthy hands unimpeded!" But it was not to be.

You see, where before the survey beast had only sought to confuse and bedevil would-be prize winners with a neverending labyrinth of product offers and contest notifications and advertisements for subscriptions to various services, its modus operandi this time around was far more sinister. The monster spoke of monetary rewards in Always read the fine print.excess of $10 for simply signing up for various "free" offers -- offers which themselves often resulted in cash benefits. Who could refuse such a deal? But like a wary adventurer navigating a vast dungeon known to be riddled with all manner of traps, young Wesley treaded carefully in the foul trickster's domain -- and his vigilance was not shown to be in vain. The fine print on these services, for example, spoke of non-refundable fees and automatic charges of hefty amounts that far eclipsed the financial benefits offered by the wicked survey beast! "But not to worry," an unsuspecting wight might have said, "for if I cancel the offer within the trial period, I will avoid the more damaging of these charges and still receive my tribute from the foul demon!" And the poor fool would have been swallowed in darkness.

Survey beasts are tricky creatures -- they don't tell you everything. They promise great rewards, yes -- but so great is their greed that they never want to bequeath more than a quarter to even the worthiest of warriors. They will set up impossible tasks in order to keep adventurers from the prizes and laugh as the poor slobs jump through the manifold hoops to no avail. And though sometimes the vile monsters place the rewards within reach, they never fail to demand something far more costly in order to attain them.

Easy like escaping from Alcatraz!

"Easy to signup and you earn easy cash!" they say. "Simple, quick and easy cash!" they say! So they say. Of course, they fail to note that AOL is not a free service -- and here the advertisement says nothing about signing up for a free trial. Granted, there are offers advertised on their website in which money is supposedly awarded for signing up for the free trial, but this would require you to call in and cancel your AOL membership -- which, as anyone who has tried can attest, is no easy feat. How many of the survey beast's "free trial" offers were riddled with similar hidden difficulties? If one signed up for all of them, would one even remember to cancel them all on time? And given that many of the offers require one to stay on past the trial period in order to be eligible for the attendant rewards, what is the point? And with such concerns and fears traversing the fleshy pink labyrinth within his skull, young Wesley declined to accept the wicked survey beast's more attractive proposals.

Psst... note the date of birth...
There is no Idol Survey.

And yea though his time within the shadowy wilderness of so-called online surveys was fraught with deception and dashed hopes, young Wesley learned from his dealings with the survey beast. It is true that he came with intent to take surveys -- yet though he ventured out on many such quests that claimed to be such, to this day he has not answered a single question regarding his preference for fast food hamburgers or his favorite American Idol judge. And verily so, for he has never been asked any such question! He has, however, been offered many things that he did not want, and oftentimes he was forced to accept them in order to proceed. And great has been his suffering -- the contents of his spam folder have tripled within the last hour alone.

Nor has he seen any of the $10 rewards and free merchandise he has been promised, for he has never been able to complete Step Two of the survey beast's mad trial. Is there an end to the offers presented? Perhaps -- like the number of licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop -- the world may never know. But what is known is that for all of its cunning, the survey beast does make good on its promises of quarters -- and quarters add up over time. Within two weeks of beginning his neverending journeys in the world of paid surveys, $11 had accumulated in Scary-Crayon's Paypal account. "It isn't much," said young Wesley, "but every little bit helps -- and since I've given up trying to complete Step Two, each quarter takes but seconds to make." And in this way he attempted to console himself even as the foul demon continued to taunt him with its lies.

Incorrect details will disqualify you from receiving the love of Jesus Christ.

But there is little consolation to be found in the dark and deceptive world of paid surveys. In the midst of numerous traps that speak of great rewards but in reality would come to naught but ruin, how can one find comfort? With each passing moment spam rains down like gushing torrents of arterial blood; in this blackest of realms, lost souls grasp wildly for the fleeting light afforded by shiny quarters while the survey beasts watch and laugh from their vantage points on the rocky cliffs. Though they claim that those who brave their challenges will be rewarded with t-shirts that proclaim "Where ever I go, JESUS is with me" it is a testament to their evil that no God-fearing survey taker will ever wear this fabled garment. But this is fitting, for Jesus -- if he is anywhere at all -- is clearly not with the poor soul who finds himself alone in the infernal wasteland of paid surveys.

FOOD FOR THE SOUL OF THE SURVEY BEAST.

Ye came for great prizes,
but with mere quarters ye shall leave --
and still shall the demon beast profit.
Unbeknownst to miserable wights,
even as they enter personal information
and select offers they dinnae desire,
the creature gluts its wicked soul
on their sad compromises.

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