The popular War Stories column, which presents humorous tales of life in the research trenches, is compiled by Art Shulman, president of Shulman Research in Van Nuys, Calif. If you want to share your own outlandish or otherwise entertaining experiences of research gone just-slightly awry, submit your own War Story today!  

Market researchers can also be anthropologists!

About 40 years ago, when Cory Schwartz, who went on to found ConsumerQuest, was beginning his market research career, he worked for Mattel on Intellivision, one of the first video game systems. He prepared many primary reports on the system, as the company pioneered the emerging category.

Out of the blue he was recently contacted by two anthropology professors from the University of California regarding a book they were writing on Intellivision. The professors were searching for reports from the first years of the video game industry and asked if he had any old reports on the game.

Schwartz, perhaps a market research hoarder, went to his garage and pulled out a bin containing a stack of Intellivision reports from 1982-1983. He passed them along to the professors. He assumed the statute of limitation on handing over client data was past, or the material became in the public domain after a certain period, especially since the game met its demise a few years later. 

The research reports were anthropological artifacts! Who knew?

In recounting this story, Schwartz advises that in no way does he condone the hoarding of 40-year-old research reports.

The responses supplied by respondents are so often very useful in helping to direct marketers. And then there are the head-scratchers – responses where it’s hard to decide whether the respondent is truly paranoid, a spy planted by a competitor or someone looking to troll the researcher.

Ellen Lady, of E.M. Lady & Associates, was recently going through old files when...