Survey advice from my trip to Kensington Palace #MRX

Kensington PalaceWhile in London to give at talk at the IJMR Research Methods Forum, I managed to take in a few of the local historic sites. Having already seen Buckingham Palace, the next palace on my must-see list was Kensington Palace. I even bought my ticket ahead of time on the internet. I made sure to arrive at the Palace early so I’d have plenty of time to see every little thing. The signs said that the Palace had just finished a major renovation so I was darn excited! Until I got inside.

Stairwell at kensington palace
Yes, the palace had undergone a renovation. I’d have to call the result the Modern Craft Style. Paper cut-outs hung from the ceiling, small movies were being shown on the white painted walls, and drywall had been put up to create brand new hallways. Given that I was expecting gold gilded crown molding, centuries old wall paintings, and original three hundred year old well-worn furniture, to say that I was disappointed was a major understatement. You can see the most exciting rooms in the photos here. I imaged filling out one of those restaurant review cards and having to check the “Strongly Disagree” box five times.

Inside Kensington palace
I guessed that one right! On my way out of the building, I was asked to answer a survey. I begrudgingly agreed and was handed a clipboard and a pen. Would you believe it? For a building that took me 45 minutes to wander through, for I went slowly as I tried to get my moneys worth, I was asked to fill out a 3 page, double-sided survey full of grids and self-skip patterns. I always answer surveys as honestly as I can and so I went through and checked “disagree” to most of the questions (it was unfortunately not designed to discourage straight-lining). It was so terribly depressing to have to give negative answers to so many questions.

Even worse, though, was the fact that when I tried to slip my completed survey back onto the desk, the oh so kind lady picked it right up and blocked my exit. She explained to me that she just wanted to make sure I had answered the survey correctly. She carefully reviewed all the answers to make sure I had followed the skip patterns correctly. I was so embarrassed by my negative answers about her beloved palace that I wanted to run out of the room as fast as I could. But nope, I stood there in shame until she dismissed me. She made no hints that she approved or disapproved of my answers, but that didn’t matter. I was completely embarrassed. If  had known she was going to review my answers, I probably wouldn’t have given such negative answers.

What did I learn from this?

  1. If you’re going to give people a survey to answer on their own, let them answer it completely on their own from beginning to end.
  2. If you’re going to review their answers in front of them, tell them that up front. And know that the answers they give probably won’t reflect reality.

PS Don’t pay to visit Kensington Palace

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