I was recently flying back from Costa Rica when I stopped in a newsstand at the airport in San Jose to purchase a souvenir magnet (for those familiar with our office, you’ll know how we love our refrigerator magnets).  When paying the clerk asked me one additional, simple question, “What airline are you flying on today?”  It was sort of an odd question, but I saw him write it down on a tally sheet along with my sale.

Now, the San Jose airport isn’t exactly “large” by American standards for international airports. By asking that one question, the clerk would have been able to easily derive where I was flying (most airlines only flew to one city from there), how long before our flight we were shopping (there weren’t that many flights), and several other details. Maybe he was assessing his location, determining staffing needs, or deciding which product selection to highlight at different times.  With that one question “survey” and a simple tally, a large amount of information would be at hand.

When large studies, database analytics, and new research tools are ever present, sometimes it’s the simplest market research method that gets the job done best.