Recently, there has been a busy buzz around PineCone Research, the subject of this review. It invariably pops up in conversations, news, and editorial pieces when the subject involves online survey panels.
I am not exactly sure what is driving this obsession on PineCone Research but I thought it would be good to shed a light or two on this hot survey panel when the noise just refuses to go away.
Now enjoy reading …
PineCone is part of the umbrella group of the Nielsen Company.
This parent company is, of course, the giant in the market research study, which counts AC Nielsen Bases among its many subsidiaries.
A look into the website of the Better Business Bureau shows that the rating agency thinks that this particular website only deserves a D rating, which is bad when you consider these ratings operate on a range from A+ to F. It also shows the opinions on the web and official rating site depart quite significantly.
There is a reason to explain this discrepancy. The company tends not to use that profile on BBB. The actual profile is tied to that of its holding company, Nielsen. Now you read that Nielsen has been a BBB Accredited Business from November 2010, and BBB actually awarded its highest A+ rating.
How to Join PineCone? Where is the Sign Up Link?
So long you are a resident of the US or Canada, you are eligible to sign up as a member. There is an age restriction imposed on membership, the qualifying age should be at least 13 years old.
But you don’t find any signup link on their website!
That is an indication that this panel in never in any hurry to recruit members.
Unlike other sites, like Survey Synovate, Pinecone Research does not have a habit to open up a membership on a 24 x 7 basis. Indeed, it is tricky to become a member here.
What you can do is to scourge the web for that elusive PineCone banner. Before you say this is not fair, I can confirm that this shows the only way available to become a new member there.
Thankfully it is not all madness.
They seem to have a penchant for sticking this banner link onto many popular personal financial or frugality blogs.
if you wish, you can bookmark this page and come back regularly because I regularly embed this sign up link here when they are in the mood on taking up new members.
PineCone Research Review
Assuming you ultimately get to sign up, you will also need to do a personal profile creation. The idea is to assess your suitability for their available surveys, and of course to notify you via e-mail when they think you represent a good match.
Take note that the surveys are not hosted on their website, but a separate website, and you will need to get a password in order to access this secured website.
I enjoy almost all aspects of my experience with this panel, but I especially love it when I am invited to do a product trial at home.
Be warned that the site does not have a habit to sound you out before the said trial. It is more likely to happen after you have just completed a survey, and within the next days, you find yourself with a box that comes through the mail, with detailed instructions inside.
Not long after I signed up, the company decided I could make an ideal candidate to conduct such in-home product testing. What I am saying is that there is certainly an opportunity to do this sort of product testing, but it does not happen regularly and the timing is just anybody’s guess.
Now, this is like getting two paychecks.
The first one is obviously related to the survey that you have just completed, and the second paycheck is almost a certainty now (I like to stress that the second paycheck is going to be significantly more than the first).
In fact, for the same amount of time and effort you dedicate to survey work, the payout is a lot more generous when you turn your attention to product testing!
This is How Support Should be!
One other thing I want to say about this company is that despite the many years I spent on the survey panel market, I never find such fine professionalism and user-friendliness on display in this industry.
I sometimes do need to communicate with the company, not just technical support issues but also on other stuff like clarifications. And every time my query or request is met with positive and polite responses. And they are also efficient as most matters were resolved in a fairly short turnaround.
Then there is this dedication to the job, which I can’t help but admire. Once the transfer between my PineCone account and the PayPal side was just not going right, and I contacted the customer service officer.
I was really amazed at the length she went to help resolve this issue.
We survey takers tend to have little time for support folks, unless absolutely necessary. But my interactions with their support staff have really opened up my eyes to what professional and dedicated support service is.
I never thought of any reward system that can be so enriching before I joined PineCone, now I am a complete convert.
In the survey industry, most of not all survey panels tend to request regular updates from members, which are usually done in the form of profile survey questionnaires.
It is in their interest to do so as they could match surveys to panelists in a more efficient manner. But this is often done without any compensation for your time spent to fill out such surveys.
Well, PineCone does not do it differently!
But the site seems to give you that impression they take these updates more seriously than others. With the others, I don’t see any change in the nature or payout rate of the subsequent surveys. But with them, I notice they start to send in surveys that are more in tune with my updates, and often with a slightly improved payout rate.
For a quick turnaround, I suggest you cash out using the PayPal option provided. Indeed, the payment from your last survey work can be credited into your PayPal account with just 24 hours turnaround.
If you prefer to check, it is also doable here, but expect significantly more time to take care of the many processes involving check payment.
It pays to stay loyal to PineCone as your pay scale is going to be calibrated according to the time (and amount of surveys done) with them.
When the panel first emerged online, the standard practice was to compensate every panelist $5 for every survey done. Now, they have capped the starting rate at $2 for a newbie for every survey done. This rate is to become progressively more as newbie takes on more and more surveys.
But it does not take long to move up the ladder. I have heard that new members being put on a fast track and they can hit the $3 /survey bracket after they have done just 2 surveys.
What Others are Saying on the Web?
I have imagined that it is hard for anybody to pick a bone with PineCone as the site is so well run.
And I am proven right…
Generally, people only have nice feedback because of the various feel-good factors. But one common factor that wins over the crowd is its ability and commitment to paying promptly.
- There is no pre-imposed threshold on cash out. Once you have completed a survey, you have every right to request a PayPal credit or a Check payment.
- The support structure is competent and friendly at the same time.
- A real helpful FAQ section. It is so comprehensive that makes you think if there is any question/scenario that the site did not anticipate.
- Most still can’t get a grip on why the company does not place any urgency in recruiting new members when an online survey panel is such a hot thing in the industry nowadays. Unsurprisingly, most who expressed this exasperation are those waiting to sign up with this fabulous company.
Pinecone Scam Alert
It is difficult to imagine PineCone Research being linked to any kind of scam. It has a wonderfully fun operation, a network of clients that are established and international brands, and not to mention the very fine heritage embedded within its parent company, Nielsen.
But the BBB website indicates otherwise, as there is a registered case of scam in August 2012.
Some careful reading would reveal that it was the work of some fake company that pretended to be PineCone and declared itself to be commissioning a survey.
It was a daring and outrageous operation, new members were asked of their bank and credit card accounts and later convinced to carry out illicit activities.
The total financial loss arose from this scam was hard to quantify, but some went on record to say that they lost well over $3000 individually.
Another case recorded was related to a “mystery shopping” assignment.
Here, new members were fooled to think that they were checking the authenticity of the Western Union operation.
They were first handed a fake check, supposedly as part payment and part remittance to be sent through Western Union. They were told to use cash to wire transfer via Western Union first, and the check would be cashed out at a later date. They were told to keep whatever remains of the check, after the remittance.
Of course, the wire service worked perfectly but the check bounced, which they only managed to learn after a few days. And the victims ended up kicking themselves!
The impact of this “mystery shopping” or “Western Union Check” scam was so great that it even caught the attention of FTC, which subsequently warned the public about this scam.
Thankfully, Pinecone did not shield from its responsibility. A Security Notice page was put up to warn people of this scam and what they could do to protect themselves.
I extracted the following from the Security Notice page, which effectively set the engagement rule with PineCone is no ambiguity…
…Furthermore, all communications with us will always be with the email address “email@example.com” — be wary of any email that asks you to respond to a different address or asks you to respond by clicking on a link within the email. (Please be aware that email sending addresses can be faked, and so it’s possible for a fake email to appear to have come from this address.)…
Even as the company and regulators close the loophole, it is prudent for us to stay vigilant and not get sucked into any scam.
Look and relook the address bar in your IE, chrome, or whatever, so that you only proceed if you are sure that it is the official site.
They never use mirror sites, and whenever there is even an iota of hint to suggest that web page or address does not look right, stop right there and get out of there.
And always guard your financial information like a true miser with his money.
When even the best prevention still cannot stop you from falling prey to such scams, you can report your incidence to local law enforcement agencies, or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “econsumer.gov” reporting system in the United States or the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre in Canada.
Should You Signup?
PineCone would definitely worth your while if you are looking to the web to derive some income.
Obviously, it is not the only decent paying survey panel on the Internet. But if you are interested in that extra bit in service providers, like dedication to professionalism and commitment to payment, you can always count on PineCone.
The net result is that you can earn decent money here in a well-run professional outfit.