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Did Anyone Else Get This Bonkers Xcel Survey?

Is my electricity provider a piece of cake? Or a gun with bullets?

6:22 AM CST on November 15, 2023

I came of age during the internet survey era. I’m talking about pre-Buzzfeed era surveys. I spent hours procrastinating on school papers by taking OKCupid quizzes, those 50-100 question tests that would analyze your personality, Myers-Briggs-style, to tell you about your most toxic traits, what astrological sign you should date, and if you could become a serial killer one day. (I will not.)

So when a customer survey from Xcel arrived in my personal inbox this weekend, I was pumped to answer some Qs. I still love taking dumb tests where there are no wrong answers. I’m a child of boomers; I love participation trophies. 

“Your answers to this survey will help us understand your opinions about your utility," the intro explained. "To thank you for your participation we will offer those who complete the survey a chance at winning a $100 gift card.”

Do I have strong opinions about my utility provider? No! Was I all in on this survey! Fuck yes!

Things started out smoothly; I was asked to rank my opinion of Xcel Energy on a scale of "very favorable" to "very unfavorable" alongside seemingly unrelated mega corporations like Amazon, Verizon, and Google. I was asked if I felt informed about various services offered by Xcel, and whether or not I use their app on my phone. 

But then, things got weird. Real weird. I was asked to scroll through a variety of auto-generated stock images, and select the one I felt best captured my “thoughts and feelings about Xcel Energy.”

As you can see, my first few options were a wild ride. Was my utility provider luxurious, like a piece of chocolate cake? Thrilling like skydiving in formation with a crew? Dangerous, like a gun with bullets? Or, like thumbtacks, something I’ll need a tetanus shot for if I step on it with bare feet?

A few more options included a turtle, a secluded beach, and someone... overdosing?

If I had my way, I would have gone with this meme:

But Jon Hamm never showed up in my feed. Ultimately, I chose a shirtless man struggling to open a jar of pickles. I was asked to describe my choice as if I was explaining my utility emotions to a blind person.

Next came the heaviest question of the survey. I was asked to explain how this image represented my thoughts and feelings (bolding theirs) about Xcel Energy. I answered as best I could, though I also made a typo.

And then, like nothing weird had happened, it went back to normal survey questions. 

WTF, man? (Also, I cannot imagine a social situation where I would say good things about my utility provider.)

I have SO MANY QUESTIONS, so I fired off an email to Xcel Energy’s media people. A few days later, I got this response from media relations:

Hey Jessica – thanks for reaching out! Surveys like this can help us get more detailed insights into customer views. We appreciate you pointing out those questionable images, and our survey vendor is in the process of removing them.

Aw, but I liked the image chaos! I still want to see what other people selected. And I want to meet the genius in marketing who trolled me and other clients with this masterpiece. I also want that $100 Amazon gift card.

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