I don’t remember exactly how long ago it was, maybe three or four years ago, but I used to be a member of the Nielsen HomeScan consumer panel. This panel has surveys you can take just like you get with paid surveys, but another thing they do is actually mail you a handheld scanner to use for scanning your grocery purchases at home. The Nielsen company has been around for a long time and gathering consumer data is what they do. For instance, I know there are some people who monitor their TV watching habits for Nielsen. They have another program where you let them track your internet surfing habits. So this grocery thing is something else they are behind.
Is the handheld scanner they send free?
Yes, it’s completely free, but you have to send it back to them if you decide at any point you don’t want to participate. If you decide you no longer want to be a panel member, they will send you a prepaid shipping label to use for sending it back. Be sure and keep the original box it comes in too so you won’t have to worry about coming up with a box.
What do you get in return for scanning your grocery purchases?
Nielsen gives you redeemable points for scanning your stuff. They have a catalog of rewards, and you can use your points for things in the catalog. In addition to the points, you also get sweepstakes entries.
How does the scanning process work?
Once you have it, you turn it on and scan the barcodes on your grocery items when you bring them in. Sometimes this isn’t as easy as it looks. For each item, they want to know the quantity and also whether or not you used a coupon for the item. If you shop at certain stores, the price will automatically come up, but at other stores it won’t and you may have to enter it manually. For that reason you need to be sure to have your receipt on hand while you’re doing the scanning. You get points in your Nielsen account for everything you scan.
At the end of each week, you have to transmit your data through to Nielsen. To do this, I had to hook the scanner into my computer and then press a few buttons on the scanner to get everything to send through to them. This only took a few minutes to do if I’m recalling correctly.
My Experience With the Panel
At first, I really wanted to do this because I liked the idea of getting my own little scanner to use. I thought it would be fun to scan my groceries at home and then get points to use for rewards for doing so. For me, scanning my groceries was fun for several weeks but then it kind of got old and it became sort of a chore — something I dreaded to do when I got home from the grocery store. Most days I was just rushed and wanted to get my groceries put up as quickly as possible without taking the time to scan them. Also, I felt like that for the time I was spending doing this, the rewards in the catalog were a little bit limited. Most of what they had were toys, things for the house, etc. I didn’t see any gift cards or anything like that. So I eventually just stopped doing it. Keep in mind though that it’s been three or four years back since I did this and the rewards they’ve offered may have changed. The website won’t let you browse the catalog without being a member and since I’m no longer a member, I can’t see what they have now.
Who can sign up?
The Nielsen HomeScan panel is open to the U.S. and Canada.
Experiences of Others
A lot of people have had experiences similar to mine where they did this for a while and then kind of got tired of it, but there are others who have enjoyed it. Here are two very informative threads on the HomeScan panel:
- Forum thread on WAHM.com
- Forum thread on Volition.com (This thread has posts dating from 2004 to 2010 — go to the last page to see the most recent remarks)
These threads are a little old and have not been updated recently, but I do not think that the way this works has changed that drastically so they should still be pretty relevant.
How do you sign up for the HomeScan panel?
Signing up is free and easy, but there may be a waiting list. Apparently a lot of people want to do this and get the little scanner like I did at one time. For what it’s worth, I do not think that I had to wait that long to get in.
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