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Screw You, Nielsen. And Your Little Scanner, Too.

Beware! Some of the easy ways to make money from home can blow up in your face. This is a warning for the Nielson grocery scanner program, I'm glad I read it because I've thought about doing some of the consumer habits things before and now I know some red flags.

Back in July, I read a post at The Penny Hoarder about a new program from Nielsen. Instead of letting them spy on my TV viewing habits (which would be funny since I only watch one hour of TV a week), I learned that I could let them spy on my eating habits. All I had to do is let them send me a handheld scanner, which I would use to scan the barcodes on my food items every time I bought groceries.

Why would anyone want to participate? Because you earn points that you can redeem for gift cards and other stuff. And it doesn’t take much effort. So I was pretty excited to sign up. Little did I know I was signing up to be called a liar, accused of theft, and stalked.

Once Nielsen had my information, I started getting emails every five minutes. “Take this survey!” “We need your opinions!” It really got on my nerves. I didn’t realize that I was consenting to random survey opportunities on top of the grocery scanning. A few weeks later, the emails became frantic. “YOU HAVEN’T SCANNED ANY GROCERIES YET!!!!” Um, no I haven’t. Because I never received the scanner in the mail.

I kept waiting and waiting, but my scanner never arrived. I tried to unsubscribe from the emails, which were becoming stalkerish at this point, mentioning that I had not received the scanner and had changed my mind about participating in the program.

They Get Indignant

I got a response to my unsubscribe request – a real email, not an OMG SURVEY!!!!! one. Basically, the person stated that I had, in fact, received my scanner. And I replied that I hadn’t.

The person emailed again, saying that I did get my scanner because FedEx delivered it and I signed for it. And I’m like, “Oh, really? Because I work during the day and no one else lives here. How did I sign for it?” It kind of pissed me off that they acted like I was lying. I mean, what the hell? If I had the stupid scanner, I’d be scanning things and trying to earn points. It’s not like they have a high street value or anything (as far as I know; I’ve never really looked into it).

I didn’t hear anything else from Nielsen so I thought the matter was settled.

They Get Even More Annoying

Yesterday I got a letter in the mail. “WE KNOW YOU HAVE THE SCANNER. HERE IS PROOF. STEALER.” (Edit: apparently I need to clarify that the letter did NOT actually say that verbatim. I was just being my ranty, sarcastic self.) They attached a fuzzy FedEx delivery confirmation with an unfamiliar signature – an initial (not mine) with my last name. I was LIVID.

I don’t know what happened in this situation. Maybe some random bum was hanging out on my porch while I was at work and decided to sign for the package. One of my dogs might have answered the door, signed for the package, and hidden it in the attic. Maybe one of my neighbors is addicted to drugs and thought the bag/box might contain something of value. Or perhaps the Nielsen people are crazy and invented a signature to convince me that I signed for a package that I never received.

I don’t know what they want me to do. I can’t produce something I don’t have. After the way they’ve treated me, there’s no way in hell I’d use the stupid scanner even if they sent another one tomorrow.

So What’s Next?

I have no idea where to go from here. I’m sick of being harassed and accused of having something that I DO NOT have. I’m starting to wonder if they’re going to sue me in an attempt to recover the nonexistent scanner.

I thought about putting up LOST SCANNER posters in my neighborhood, but I realized I don’t know what to write.


DESCRIPTION: I don’t really know because I’ve never seen it. I can google a picture if you want. Apparently it was a FedEx package with a handheld scanner in it.

Yeah, that just doesn’t work too well.

Two Things to Take Away

If you ever decide to participate in Nielsen’s grocery barcode stalking program, do me a favor and make sure you receive the scanner. Quit your job if it prevents you from being home to sign for the package. Sit outside day and night looking for a FedEx truck. Because apparently once you’ve given Nielsen your information, they will stop at NOTHING to make sure they get the info they want.

Also, if I don’t post for awhile, you guys will know that the Nielsen people are holding me hostage. If you are the person who signed for my scanner, please come forward and save me while there’s still time.

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!


  1. Erin Branscom says:

    I have seen them on this survey site that they want to be able to see what you view online and then they "pay" you for your surveys. Whatever, I always get out of that program. I had a bad feeling that company was a scammer and now I am glad you confirmed it! 🙁

    • I used to get those on Opinion Outpost. "Nielsen wants to embed tracking software in your browser so they can see EVERYTHING you do online!" Um, no thanks.

      I thought the grocery thing was fairly harmless, and maybe it would have been if I had ever gotten the stupid scanner. I will never deal with that company again – so not worth it!

      • I get those too, as I'm also on Opinion Outpost, and I will never, ever agree to let anyone snoop on my buying habits, browsing habits, or anything of the sort. I know participating in surveys gives up some info, but at least I choose what I want to participate in, or not. I am a privacy nut, otherwise. I clear cookies and such regularly. I turn off geographic tracking on the iPhone and iPad that I have to have for work, and the IT staff who work for me have disabled anything of the sort on everything I have. I don't own a car, so no GPS or anything like that … If I want privacy on a search, I use Anonymouse. For some things (not blogging, which I don't care if people see), I have set up private, personal emails using services that don't snoop – I won't use Gmail – and even so, I won't give anyone my real birthdate. I use the birthdate of my long deceased best friend – I'm not likely to forget it, and if anyone tries identity theft and needs my birthdate, what they get won't work when they try to use my bank or credit cards. I work in IT, and knowing more just makes me more paranoid. Before discarding a computer, I take everything off, then reformat the hard drive, then physically destroy it. MInd your own business, Nielsen.

  2. Sorry to hear about this situation… but FedEx isnt new to messing up their package deliveries. Call FedEx with the conf. number that they gave you and they will trace which driver delivered your package, when, and they can even have them describe who signed for it (if ANYBODY!). It has happened to me twice (once as the legitimate receiver of the package which was being delivered 3 houses down, and once as the wrong receiver, which was for a package 7 houses up and we signed for it without noticing, then went ahead and delivered it to our neighbor). Hope you can get this resolved. But really, check with FedEx to make sure it is a legitimate claim.

  3. Wow! That's insane. I always have packages delivered to the office, since I know I'll be here and don't have to worry about Fedex or UPS leaving it on my doorstep in the sketchy-ish neighborhood we live in. Like Tanner said, call Fedex. This once happened to my parents, and it turned out that the driver had put the package in the bed of one of their pick-up trucks because he was too afraid to walk up to the porch with our German Shepherd in the yard. Hopefully this gets sorted out soon!

  4. Haha sorry to hear about this but let me tell you in the end, if you had received the scanner, it's not worth it! I've actually done the scanning (years ago) and I was excited b/c I thought I would get cool prizes. I guess I didn't have enough groceries or something b/c I only remember scanning it like 2 times (I forgot several times) and then they wanted the scanner back, same thing, several harassing emails of WHERE IS OUR SCANNER! The funny thing was somehow my name was on their list as Rev. Jenny Kerr (I'm not a Reverend) so every time they would email me they would use the Dear Rev. Jenny Kerr… LOL!!!! 

  5. Debtprincess says:

    Be thankful. I had a scanner and used it for a couple of months but it got be a HUGE pain in the ass. They want to know which coupon you used for each item you used it on plus all sales involved. Then they want to know the price of EACH item. Add in all restaurants gas and other shopping you do, it becomes a 5hr a week job.

  6. Ew. Gross. Sorry about all the trouble Andrea! 

    For what it's worth, I sent an email to one of their reps with a link back to your article. I asked them to kindly fix the issue or I'd have to end my affiliation. Good luck Andrea!


  7. I just can't believe the letter actually said STEALER.  Companies that treat people like this are the reason Big Businesses get such a bad rap nowadays.  Who thinks they have the audacity to treat someone like that?  You'd think they would have learned not to name call in kindergarten. 

  8. CommmonCents says:

    I signed up for a TV survey but like you I only watch maybe 5h a week and often bc i watch the same show 1.5 times when i come in part way and then watch it again the next hour. But if they start become as aggressive I will deff tell them to F*** off! I think you  need to go back to FedEx and start with them to see who signed for it.  

  9. This is totally unrelated but it reminded me of when my cable company said I didn't return my box when I moved out of state and tried to charge me like $500.  Why on earth would I want their cable box when I moved 2400 miles away?!  Of course, i didn't have a receipt anymore since it was six months later and, did I mention, I had moved cross country. So my things hadn't been exactly orderly in the meantime.   

    I refused to pay and fought them on the charge.  they dropped it.  Maybe they actually did find my box and wouldn't admit it. 

  10. Oh God…now I have the wicked witch theme from the Wizard of Oz stuck in my head.  I just don't get why they'd scam in this way- like, really? Causing a fuss over a damn scanner?  So stupid.

  11. Crap, I just signed up for this….and I just got an email saying my scanner has been shipped.  I guess we'll see what happens…

  12. Loooooooooool hilarious

  13. I had directv, whom I had contacted directly regarding my service, tell me I had to return their equipment.
    I had fled my abusive ex who had almost beat me to death, leaving their precious boxes at the previous residence.
    This was something I called and told them about proactively and advised they weren’t going to get me to go back and get the boxes and I needed to cancel my service.
    They never canceled the account, ran up charges on it, then disco’d for nonpayment and proceeded to harass me nonstop from collections. Their reps told me repeatedly that I should go back into the residence and retrieve the equipment. To which I always told them “Are you seriously suggesting that I endanger my life for 2 of your cable boxes? Please let me speak to your supervisor. ” That usually ended the call with “No m’am I am sorry I will note the account” but they kept calling me. Bastards turned me over to collections for over $1000 in charges for those two boxes. I’m still fighting this a year later.

  14. Literally laughing so hard from your humor! It was me I have your scanner 😉

  15. spanishgirl says:

    A couple months ago I received a survey on the mail with two one dollar bills, I didn’t fill it righ away since I procrastinate a lot so then i received a letter asking reminding me to fill the survey, i did, then sent it. (I don’t have cable, don’t watch much tv) Not so long after i get another survey from them, two crisp one dollar bills (i research them and thought it was legitimate so this time i have my number)
    I sent the survey and now they are calling me, first time I answered and this woman started to asked me the same questions on the survey that was sent on the mail, so i started to get suspicious that the were scamming me somehow so i hang up, they called back so i l put them on my reject call list, they called like three or four more times (i checked the rejected calls) then I putted a “this phone had been disconnected” message as my voicemail (so that someone else believe it was disconnected) so it was good because Nielsen too got the message. They stopped calling but i kept seeing an unknown number on the rejected calls.. today I replaced the “disconnect message” for the regular one because I been applying for jobs… So the unknown (private) called again (all this time i thought it was my ex or one of my friends) I guess i was wrong because this time they left me a voicemail (they didn’t left one before i guess because they thought it was disconnected…still they kept calling -_- )and it was the Nielsen people telling me i would get a survey thingy.. they wanted to record my daily tv watching for a week in like a dairy thingy and that i would receive a little money (the usual two $1 crisp bills i guess)…. Anywho they are being stalkerish, they resort to block they number to get to me.. That’s why I find your blog, i was looking up on the internet if they had stalk others…… I keep they crispy singles alright… thinking of a clever annoying way to get back at them.

  16. So glad I read this. I read the same thing about saving money with the Penny Hoarder and was considering getting the scanner. But after reading your blog and everyone’s comments about it, I’m def going to pass!!!

    Scanner prison really changes a person.. Lol good luck!!

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