Editor's note: Art Shulman is president of Shulman Research, Van Nuys, Calif. Send your tales of research-related wackiness to him at artshulman@aol.com. Contributors may remain anonymous.

Susan Fader of Fader & Associates tells about falling asleep in her hotel room after a long day of research and being woken up by a baby’s muffled cries of, “Mama, mama.” The room was pitch black. At first, she didn’t know where she was or where the sound was coming from. She felt like she was in a scene from a horror movie.

Finally she realized what had happened. Her research project involved talking dolls and it seems that in transporting the prototypes from one market to the next, one doll’s switch had been turned on.

From then on Fader took the batteries out of the prototypes when they bunked with her for the night.

Jim Nelems of The Marketing Workshop tells about a focus group he moderated where one participant looked very distressed. When the hostess asked what was wrong, the man said, “My wife just died this morning, but I promised to come in so I did.”

The man was paid his incentive and excused for the day.

In another focus group Nelems was involved with, respondents were screened for recent or current employment in restaurants. Nelems did not think to screen for “people who applied for a job at restaurant and were turned down” but that's just what had happened to one participant shortly before coming to the group. During the group, somewhat drunk, he began shouting out the name of the restaurant and the person who turned him down.

The person who turned him down was, in fact, behind the mirror in the observation room.

The hostess was instructed to tell the participant he had a phone call. Because he was drunk, he did not stop to wonder how someone had the phone number of the group facility to call him there. Once removed from the group he was given his incentive and excused, n...