Diary Helpline Staff Has Heard it All

May 9, 2005  •  Post A Comment

For the turkey-challenged, there is the Butterball hotline.

For users uncertain how to use Nielsen Media Research diaries, there is a toll-free helpline that’s open up to 16 hours a day, 365 days a year (messages can be left during the off hours). The hotline number is clearly printed on the front page of the diary.

While not nearly as many people will receive Nielsen diaries as will attempt to roast a turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas, those who answer calls to Nielsen’s hotline can be kept quite busy and quite amused.

The diary helpline received about 19,000 calls during the February sweeps ratings period, said Nielsen spokeswoman Karen Gyimesi. (In addition, some 1,900 people turned to Nielsen’s diary Web site for help.)

There are frequently asked questions. One is “Do I have to write in all the stations that I receive from my satellite?” The answer is: No, you don’t have to write in all 700, 800 or more channels. You can attach a listing from your local TV listings guide or, as the diary instructions provide: “If you do not know all of the information, please fill in what you do know.”

Ms. Gyimesi said that about 75 percent of the 1.5 million diaries returned to Nielsen each year include a written or published listing of all channels received. The 25 percent that do not include such information are not automatically rejected by Nielsen.

Then there are the questions that sound as if they were crafted by a late-night comedy writer with time to kill. Ms. Gyimesi supplied these recent examples, which were paraphrased by operators who answered the hotline.

  • A lady from Louisiana called to tell Nielsen she was unable to get her diary because her street was flooded and she could not find her mailbox.
  • A diary family asked if it should log all the shows that were on one channel during the day, since that was the channel they left on for their pets.
  • One diary keeper claimed she couldn’t fill out the diary because she had broken her leg. Nielsen asked her to get someone else in her home to help her fill it out.
  • A woman called to tell Nielsen she could not finish the diary because her dog ate it. She mentioned that she was a schoolteacher and would henceforth believe her students when they said their dogs ate their homework.