2016 Villain of the Year

2016 Villain of the Year

By Greig Burnside

As 2016 comes to an end we choose our Villain of the Year. In a particularly crowded category there can be only one winner: train delays!

Group discussions depend on many things; well-organised product management, a clear briefing and fantastic recruitment amongst others. However, train delays can derail everything if consumers can’t get to the groups on time and this year has been particularly shocking.

Southern Rail has been the culprit more often than not as it continues to be plagued by strike action, signal failure and random cancellations. Likewise South Eastern Trains. On numerous occasions this year we have had respondents call the viewing facility panicking because their train is running particularly late – more than half an hour in some cases – or has been unexpectedly cancelled. Luckily in most cases respondents have been able to get to the facility in the nick of time, as we always advise respondents arrive fifteen minutes before the start but even still a rushed and stressed respondent often needs a couple of minutes to settle themselves, grab a drink and… breathe!

And it’s not just respondents who suffer. Because we like to try and ensure fieldwork isn’t necessarily Londoncentric we find ourselves taking trains around the country and this year both Greig and Tom experienced train trouble.

Back in July Greig got to Kings Cross to discover the entire Virgin East Coast line to Leeds was down and would be down for the next few hours. With group discussions that afternoon Greig had to hotfoot it to Sheffield – via alternative means – and then take a taxi to Leeds. He arrived at the facility with just five minutes to spare.

But Tom’s travails take 1st place. Having spent the day interviewing respondents in and around Staffordshire Tom boarded the 20.15 Virgin West Coast train from Stoke on Trent to London that only travelled 17 miles before stopping dead in its tracks. After a five hour wait in the broken down train and Tom and the other passengers had to be rescued by an emergency train, put on a coach and taken back to London, then catch a cab home. Tom arrived home a mere ten (!) hours later.

Getting too and from ethnographies isn't always simple

Getting to and from ethnographies isn’t always that simple!

So for 2017 we wish for the sake of all our respondents – and ourselves – a delay-free New Year.

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