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Likert or Not

I should preface this blog post by admitting that I am fully aware that this post outs me as a complete nerd. Now that we’ve established my nerdiness, I’ll get on with the story.

Last week, I was fortunate to escape cold, wintry Boston for a relaxing girls’ getaway week on a tropical island with my mom and sister. Psyched to decompress and not think about reality for a week, I packed an arsenal of magazines and books to digest between mid-morning and mid-afternoon naps.

We arrived at the picturesque all-inclusive resort, which will remain nameless, with flamingos wandering the property and a beautiful beach, featuring thatched huts should you want to escape from the Caribbean sun.

The first few nights, we were dazzled by the options at dinner: California rolls, melon and prosciutto, grilled whole fish, mussels, avocados at the salad bar. … I could go on and on.

And then, it happened. One night, as we were walking to the dining room, we were approached by two members of the hotel’s entertainment staff:

“Tonight at dinner, there’s a survey. Say everything is very good!” they exclaimed.

 “Okay, thanks,” we replied. While we have been asked to fill out questionnaires at other hotels, staff have never tried to skew our answers. Hint #1 that something was up.

Sure enough, there was someone handing out surveys when we got to dinner. We opted to wait until after the meal to complete the survey. As I walked around the buffet, different chefs and waiters would ask:

“How are you?”

“Good,” I answered.

“No! Excellent! So, how are you?”

“Excellent,” I replied to appease them. Hint #2.

As we ate, the survey lady came around the dining room to distribute the survey. I took one look at it and was visibly annoyed.

“Elisa, what’s wrong?” my mom asked.

“It’s a skewed three-point scale … the options are ‘excellent,’ ‘good’ and ‘poor.’ “

 “Now we know why every chef and waiter is correcting us to say we’re ‘excellent,’ ” my sister observed.

I begrudgingly completed my survey, wishing for a non-skewed five-point Likert Scale. I should also mention that it wasn’t clear whether the parent company or an external reviewer was conducting the survey. I submitted my survey and got over my longing for Likert.

The rest of our vacation was great; we relaxed, read, swam, etc. But, there was a change – the food wasn’t as good. They put out the best food prior to the survey, and afterwards the food quality noticeably dropped. I never saw California rolls or melon and prosciutto again. Not only did the survey skew the survey results positively, but so did the hotel staff. I felt duped.

But then I realized I wasn’t the only one who was duped. The survey-sponsor was the ultimate dupee. (Yep, I just made that word up.)

In an age of TripAdvisor.com and other travel sites, a survey like the one I took is a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole story. Like(rt) it or not, travelers give their opinions unaided – sharing their enthusiastic satisfaction and/or horror stories. So, I sat back with my cocktail, smiled and forgot about Likert … until I got back to work on Monday morning.

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