We Were Fired as a Nielsen Family Because We Had COVID-19

We wanted to be a Nielsen Family because we know accurate ratings are important for the survival of quality programming. We are avid consumers of media and grieve the closure of stations and outlets and publications. We wanted to do our bit to help.

This is the sort of blog post you just never see coming. Strange, but true.

Back in July, I received a mailer inviting me to become a Nielsen Family. I said “Why not?” and promptly forgot about it after I clicked yes. A few weeks later, a woman came to our house on a Saturday afternoon with paperwork and a bag of free stuff. If we completed the paperwork with her, we received a $50 Visa gift card. And the goodies.

She sat in her car and called me. I put her on speakerphone and we both answer many, many questions. So many questions. After that, she told us to expect the equipment in the mail – they use a little electronic device to pick up your tv/radio/streaming service signals. She also explained this incredibly complicated thing about points and money and gifts and such.

What she didn’t know is that none of that mattered to us. We wanted to be a Nielsen Family because we know accurate ratings are important for the survival of quality programming. We are avid consumers of media and grieve the closure of stations and outlets and publications. We wanted to do our bit to help.

We also grew up hearing about the Nielsen ratings. They were mysterious. Why were some months sweeps months and others not? How did they measure what was viewed inside private homes? Perhaps we could find answers to these questions from our childhoods.

Nielsen is a global, independent measurement and data company for fast-moving consumer goods, consumer behavior, and media. With a presence in more than 100 countries and services covering more than 90% of the globe’s GDP and population, Nielsen provides clients with data about what consumers watch (programming, advertising) and what they buy (categories, brands, products) on a global and local basis and how those choices intersect.

What?

Yes we were interested in becoming a consumer marketing family. So off went our paperwork with our seemingly very nice and enthusiastic Nielsen contact, Daniella.

The equipment arrived – a base unit to plug into the wall, some sort of extender thing, and two personal meters, a little oblong device with a chip. We had the option of wearing it on a wristband, dangling from our neck on a lanyard, or looping it onto our belts. The idea is that the meters have to keep moving so you can’t click it on and set it on your table for 14 hours. That didn’t seem too hard.

The devices arrived in early August. I was sick so I plugged in the main thing and set up the chargers for each meter and decided to register when I felt better. Then Laura got sick and then I officially got COVID. While not horribly sick, we were in bad enough shape that navigating a registration process of any type was not viable.

Important to note – there was no written information stating a deadline to register. The nice lady Daniella didn’t nicely check on why we hadn’t registered our devices. We had no reason to expect there was a problem. Plus, pandemic.

I didn’t monitor my phone very well when I was sick so I was shocked to realize I had been called by Nielsen 2 or 3 times daily plus texts. The trick is – they never said anything about a deadline or even asked why we hadn’t returned their calls. Never heard from Daniella. So after we deleted the 800 million messages, I texted back explaining we had COVID and to please stop filling out voicemail – we would call as soon as we were well enough.

So a few weeks later, we both feel better and I decide to do the activation bit. It doesn’t work. So I call the company and that’s when I learned the shocking truth

We were fired. The very nice and anxious young man on the phone kept reading from a script about testing in our area coming to an end and inviting us to reapply. I was nice to this poor young man whose entire vibe screamed “run run run.” Poor guy. It was total bs and we both knew it. They fired us.

He promised to have a supervisor call me as they were all busy. Still waiting on that.

Then I contacted Daniella who had pledged her troth to our tenure as a Nielsen family. She replied, promising to look into the matter, expressing great concern about our health.

I completely understand your frustration in the matter of how this all happened and how it was handled. I am sorry that this became an issue and even more while you were sick and dealing with COVID-19 and I do recall our conversation and everything we spoke about. This is a matter that I will bring up to management as I know these are absurd times and there’s just unimaginable situations happening. As soon as I have some answers I will reach back to you. 

Daniella did not get back to me. Two weeks later, I texted her because I had this equipment lurking around.

She told me she has no authority in the matter and simply waiting for someone to respond to her. Then this little tidbit

“Panel relations is simply following protocol as you were taken out of the panel for inactivity over a course of 23 days and we haven’t received any other updates.”

So here we go with the customer relations bait and switch. No one EVER told us we had 23 days to do anything. We never got activated so how did we get inactive? Why didn’t any of the million phone calls MENTION this in the voice mail? Why didn’t Daniella tell us this when we started? When I reached out to her? Why didn’t Nielsen put this in the box? Send a reminder email?

And why did the poor little man we originally spoke to told us something different?

I mean really. This is a silly little incident that is a annoying blip for us, but it does make me have significantly less value of ratings. The fear in that young man’s voice as he lied to me and the switch & bait tactics used by Daniella make me suspect of their decency as an employer. And their cavalier attitude about firing a lesbian household because COVID-19 prevented us from getting active in a 23 day period speaks volumes about their bias and disregard for the people actually providing the ratings.

This could have been avoided if they simply had told us “get up and running in 23 days” – we’d be rating away and not writing this post. If when I called to ask, I was given accurate information or a truthful explanation, I probably wouldn’t write this.

But when I went to the Nielsen website, I saw this

A note from Nielsen on COVID-19

As we closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on communities across the globe, our hearts go out to all those who have been affected. In these uncertain times, all of us at Nielsen are reminded of our responsibility to do what we can to help prevent the spread of the virus. Our number one priority is protecting the health and well-being of you, of your loved ones, and of our employees. We will return to in-person visits to homes based on local governmental and medical guidance, taking appropriate social distancing and PPE measures.

We are so very thankful for your partnership with us as you take part in the ratings. As a Nielsen Family, your contribution to the ratings is especially important in challenging times like these.

As always, your Nielsen team is here for you if you have any questions.

So I counted the days between receiving the devices and my phone call – it was 24 days (I think, I was sick at the time) I told them on what I think is about Day 19 that I had COVID and to please stop calling relentlessly. So they knew I had COVID within their magic 23-day-window and took no action.

I told them about the COVID and they did this as part of their hearts going out to all, of their priority to protect our health and well-being, and they are here for me?

Ledcat is convinced they fired us in part because they realized we are lesbians. Who knows?

They also expect me to pack up this equipment, take it to UPS, and in return be entered in a drawing for a gift card. Wow, that’s not reasonable.

I’m not doing that. I suggested Daniella swing by and I’ll leave the equipment on my stoop for her to pick up. She did not respond. So if they don’t come get it, i’ll take it to the next Electronics Recycling event.

Obviously, we’ll never be considered to be a Nielsen Family again. That’s a shame. For them and their paying clients. We watch quite a bit of network television – we are watching 60 Minutes right now after watching the local and national news. We watch the news every single day of the week, local and national. We watch a little primetime, we watch a lot of cable. We stream. We always have the radio on. We know how to use electronics. We are familiar with how ratings impact our lives.

But now we know – those ratings are part of a greedy corporate monolith that has zero respect for human employees or humans collecting the ratings. I don’t care about earning $10 every 9 months or whatever shellgame they have going on, but I do care about being treated with respect and courtesy. And at least truthiness.

Nielsen has taken some hits to its credibility with regard to how it reports ratings. They lost their accreditation a year ago September and hope to regain it this year (I vote NOPE if anyone cares)


This is a silly little incident that is a annoying blip for us, but it does make me have significantly less value of ratings. The fear in that young man’s voice as he lied to me and the switch & bait tactics used by Daniella make me suspect of their decency as an employer. And their cavalier attitude about firing a lesbian household because COVID-19 prevented us from getting active in a 23 day period speaks volumes about their bias and disregard for the people actually providing the ratings.


Clearly, I should have looked up that information before I agreed to join the ranks. I can admit I was enamored of being an old-school influencer in some small way. So now that I have learned my lesson about their cold and heartless ways, I can share my experience with you – don’t agree to be a Nielsen Family.

If you are ever contacted by Nielsen with their pathetic crisp $10 bill to entire you into signing up, DON’T DO IT. These are not good people. They are greedy, lying bastards whose heart is much smaller than any Grinch. Can you imagine what it must be like to work there? If they couldn’t recalibrate their system to adjust for COVID-19 (or include the proper instructions in the first place), what does that say about their business model? It says “not deserving of accreditation.”

As for the lesbian bit, so Daniella was aware that we are two women married to each other. It didn’t seem to be an issue. But in the current political and social environment, anything is possible once paperwork moves from frontline to corporate . Our “anti-LGBTQ bias” antenna are always at full alert because you never know. You have inklings, vibes, and feelings. Ledcat has that feeling here and I will not discredit her. Nielsen never called or emailed her. We both thought that was a bit odd. They certainly make a lot of money tabulating LGBTQ ratings.

Regardless, the Nielsen Company gets an “F” in my opinion. Just their lackluster communication alone, but it is critical to factor in their failure to live up to their own COVID-19 policy or just be a decent corporate neighbor.

This isn’t how you treat any family.

Photo via Wired and modified by me

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