Craziest thing you’ve done for user research?

~ 23 April 2008 ~

Me? I signed up as a full-fledged Tupperware rep for two months.

At a former company, we delivered web-based marketing tools to distributors and consultants of network marketing companies. One of our biggest (and best) clients was Tupperware, purveyor of all things plastic. We were in the midst of a major upgrade to the software they licensed from us, and I figured the best way to understand our/their users was to become one of them.

So, with the permission of the company, I became a part-time Tupperware rep. I sold product online, I attended a really wacky rally with women screaming wildly about Tupperware as adrenaline-infusing tunes such as “We Will Rock You” boomed loudly from on-stage speakers, and I even handled a return from a mildly disgruntled customer who found me merely because I was the nearest rep in town.

In the end, I can honestly say I understood the user much better than before — even as embarrassing as it may have been for me. (Though I happily admit I safely escaped holding any Tupperware parties at home.)

You? Can you top that?



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1   matias ~ 23 April 2008

LOL! There’s no way I can top that!

2   J Phillips ~ 23 April 2008

Can’t say that I can top that, but I was once working on website whos target audience was teen girls. So I spent about a week watching a bunch of teeny-bopper tv shows and soaking up all of the commercials/advertising aimed at that age group. It was painful, but good research.

3   sam ~ 23 April 2008

At my very first job (1993) we built computer-based training for grocery stores. I spent a week at each station in the store (6-8 weeks total) working to identify the gaps between their existing training materials and the real world. A pain, but priceless research gained. And our end-product was much better because of it.

So, can’t say I can top your experience, but probably come close to matching it.

If you can, literally, walk in your customer’s shoes for awhile you become invaluable. Anyone can provide products and services, but it’s much harder to get switched out for a new vendor when you already live and breathe the customer’s world.

That and I learned how to slice meat.

4   Matt Kirkland ~ 23 April 2008

My first job out of college was designing storage solutions for the craft market. I made my own prototypes and took them directly to users for evaluation … so for several months, I was part of three different scrapbooking clubs, a knitting class, and a quilter’s circle.

It was a little awkward for a 24-year-old guy, (at first), but the feedback was great: brutal and effective. Also, the craft ladies started bringing me baked goods.

5   Marcus ~ 23 April 2008

The closest I’ve come is being a teacher. :-/ I’ve never been daring enough to lose my hearing so I can test out an audiology website or that kind of thing. :)

But as a part-time (computer graphics) teacher, I spend 6 hours a week with the same people who use the class website and who answer to all my class policies and assignments. Very quickly the class gets whittled down into a smoother, efficient version of what I originally had in mind. :-)

I’ve had some *very* good feedback on the class website come from students who absolutely hate doing anything that takes longer than it should.

6   Jessica ~ 23 April 2008

I got a spray-on tan as research for an article once. Was very odd.

7   TFoo ~ 23 April 2008

Ok, I’ll admit I didn’t do any resarch…
I got to play a Power Ranger, walking around a retail store location, namely “wallie werld”, as a 30-something without a clue what the hell a power ranger was. I’m not ashamed to admit I donned the tights over my regular pants, lol!! And maybe did a few robot dance moves, straight out of the 80’s… :)
It was a beam me up moment, and an insufferable hour or two.

8   Russell Lephew ~ 23 April 2008

I can’t top that, but your story just made my day!

9   Jeff White ~ 23 April 2008

I think this *could* top it. Probably not the rally part though. That’s just fantastic.

A colleague and I were had been shortlisted for a local Community College Viewbook/calendar design project. In order to develop a better understanding of the audience and why/how they choose post-secondary instituitions, he and I attended a “Parents as Career Coaches” session, where we thought we would just sit in the back and, glean some tasty tidbits to use in our presentation and sneak out at half time.

Unfortunately, we were the last ones to arrive, and as it turned out, this was a very participatory session, set up for small groups of parents to confer with one another about the challenges and tribulations of helping their 17 year olds make life goals and such. This is all well and good, but my colleague’s oldest child is just 6, and my oldest is only 4.

Thinking quickly, we realized that we each had nephews who were closer to high school age, and pretended to be there for them. Our tablemates looked at us strangely, but we fibbed and interacted with them and asked the right questions. We quickly settled into the flow of the night, filling out questionnaires, played role-playing games and raised our hands on questions from the instructor.

At first I thought we were going to be exposed as frauds and tossed out, but it turned out to be quite a bit of fun.

We wove the knowledge gained from the class into our presentation to the client and quickly won them over and got the project. We kicked it off yesterday.

Honestly, going above and beyond for research into a project is one of the best ways to truly understand your client’s audience.

10   Philip Renich ~ 23 April 2008

Ah, that’s brilliant Cameron! I had no idea Tupperware ladies were so… so… I don’t know, mosh-pit adrenalin junkies! :)

@Matt Kirkland - that’s a pretty good story as well, not many 24 y/o guys would go for that. Score on the baked goodies! Job perks!

11   Timothy Uhl ~ 23 April 2008

One of my clients is a wilderness therapy company. I hung out up there for 2 days and hung out with messed up teenagers and parents. Some of the most inspired work I’ve done to date.

12   Gilbert ~ 24 April 2008

Whenever it’s possible, I try and spend at least one day just working in a client’s office. I’m talking about after you’ve had all the meetings with management to discuss the project.

Just go into their office with your laptop and hang out for a day working on anything. You’ll start to soak in the real situation in the company not just the story of how things ought to be. That’ll help you avoid potential blockages further down the line.

The client is usually impressed that you want to find out more about their business and it doesn’t come accross as an extra cost to them.

I’m not sure you can call your research complete though until you’ve had at least one Tupperware party. Go on, you know you want to.

13   Josh Franco ~ 24 April 2008

I definitely can’t top that! …And It is indeed a funny, but I see (especially as a young designer) what great lengths one can (or even should?) go to punch out a product that will really hit the mark and make everyone happy. Nice thanks for sharing!!

14   Tim ~ 25 April 2008

This one time I dressed up as a gorilla and walked around my neighborhood going house to house asking for candy. It was pretty great.

15   Jason Reed ~ 25 April 2008

Very nice Cameron. Way to take one for the team! I myself have had a similar run in with my feminine side. A while back I was unvoluntaraly volunteered to come up with lipstick/chapstick packaging for a cosemtology class at our local community college. I went in to get feedback as to what they wanted for their designs and each group insisted that I try on the lipstick to taste for myself what the final design should portray.

I left that day a little less of a man, with a little more glitter in places I wish couldn’t be seen by the public eye. But man, those finals packages were pretty kick ass!

16   Josh Walsh ~ 25 April 2008

I have a friend who worked as an “Undercover Martini Tester” for one of the major vodka brands. That’s a pretty interesting user experience surveying job if you ask me.

17   Daniel Hillesheim ~ 28 April 2008

Well, I definitely can’t top that!

However, I worked for a big scrapbooking company many years ago and had just released my first product. I was given the opportunity to develop a new line of paper and was curious to know how it was being received. So, I decided to sign up as my wife (sorry, babe) on a popular forum. Since I didn’t have the time to sit down and create a real scrapbook page I did it all in Photoshop. I then posted my “newbie” page and waited.

In the office the next time I was blown away to find that almost 70 people had found and commented on my post - most of which were gushing over it. I had never scrapbooked a day in my life and I just wanted to get a reaction to the papers I had created, but instead got a bunch of creative mommies telling me I had “real” talent and that I should really try and get into a magazine.

I have to admit that I was very flattered. It was way more than I expected and was very pleased with the outcome. I did get a few people comment on the paper, but the majority were most impressed by the page I put together. And, not one person asked if it was digital (thanks to some cool dirty scanner glass effects!).

All in all, a memorable experience, but I still haven’t attend any plastic-thumping, tupperware rallies…Most impressive Cameron.

18   Deuce ~ 29 April 2008

That is a funny story! I had an aunt that sold Tupperware. I remember when she would come back from those rallies all excited and filled with tons of energy. I never knew what was actually making her so filled with unwavering joy. Now I know.

I don’t have any stories to top this. This is the best!

19   DJ ~ 29 April 2008

Oh, man this one time, I had to do a site for a retirement community, so I lived in an apartment filled with prunes and Matlock VHS tapes, went to bingo, and wore adult diapers.

Ok so, I didn’t really have to do all that. But a buddy of mine, he had to do all that plus only eat applesauce for a solid year.

Alright, he didn’t really have to do that, but you can imagine what it’d be like huh? HUH?!

20   Shane ~ 30 April 2008

I just want to know, did you ever have them try to rip it apart with their hands to demonstrate the durability, more so did you run over it with your pimped out van?

Did you ever offer a sweet model boat as a special treat for buying a set?

21   Half Nut ~ 30 April 2008

Okay, I think I’m a contender for this one. I’m currently working on some new ads for a vitamin company who’s site I designed. They target new mothers who need prenatal vitamins.

So when I get the copy for their latest ads the grab you line says, “Sore Nipples? Help is on the way!”.

They have a product to help breast feeding women (
called Nursing Cups. Well their latest ad was for site, so I had to go research their site and typical banner ads. Never in my life did I think I’d be making a banner ad that asked if you had sore nipples.

22   Cameron Moll ~ 01 May 2008

I just want to know, did you ever have them try to rip it apart with their hands to demonstrate the durability, more so did you run over it with your pimped out van?

Um, no. :)

Tupperware won’t hold up *that* well. In fact, the return I handled was for a product that had broken twice (plastic cracked).

23   Ben ~ 02 May 2008

Great story Cameron :)

We’ve personally…

1. Set-up a store at a ‘Car Boot Sale’ ( to sell SIM Cards for cell phones.

2. Spent weekends hanging around US, UK & Japanese airport lounges asking travelers to carry out usability tests.

3. Rented out space in Hudsons & Altitunes stores to personally sell an online travel product face-to-face.

4. Worked the ‘night shift’ in a clients call center, answering customer service calls.

Oh… and we’ve recently asked a client to join a local ‘slimming group’ - to understand his visitors better (fortunately he didn’t take offense).

It’s all part of the job in my view :)

24   Graham ~ 08 May 2008

I just got back from Guatemala. I understand my Latino patients *so* much better now—speak their language—and finally have a clue as to why many have no primary preventive care and only come to the doctor after they’ve become very sick. And having experienced their GI infections personally, I understand why many want to live and work in the United States.

25   Matthias ~ 13 May 2008

I’ve spend many years working in a market research company…;-)

26   lin zhi hong ~ 26 May 2008

Hi,Mr Cameronmoll, I’m a student from China.Your website is so cool.

27   Lee ~ 30 May 2008

Nothing like as impressive as some that went before, but when doing some UX work for a retailer here in the UK I got to spend a full week selling womens underwear in one of their stores.

It was really insightful to spend time with the staff, as I was responsible for a new staff intranet at the time.

Not sure re-arranging womens underwear added much to my knowledge though (nothing project-related anyway)….

28   Hochzeitsfotos ~ 10 September 2008

I done what they wanted me to do.

29   Frank ~ 14 September 2008

Hi Cameron. It´s very difficult to top that, but I can say, that your site is great.

30   Ferienwohnung Deutschland ~ 02 October 2008

I’ve worked to long in a market research company.

31   Immobilien Hürth ~ 03 October 2008

I don’t have any stories to top this. This is the best!

32   Ferienwohnunf Sizilien ~ 07 October 2008

Hi,Mr Cameronmoll, I’m a student from Italy.Your website is so cool.


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