That’s for me to know

Virgin trains screenshot

I booked a rail ticket on the Virgin Trains website recently, and this dialogue box cropped up just before I finished. Two things strike me about this kind of intrusive questioning. First, why on earth does Virgin need to know my reason for travel, and exactly how do they intend to “tailor” my journey? I am going to be on a train, for God’s sake, which is scheduled to arrive in London Euston at a specific time. If they were able to tailor my journey, then would they drop me directly at my final destination? I think not.
Secondly, please stop this twee, down-with-the-kids type of questioning. “Hanging with Friends”, “Retail Therapy”, “Working 9-5”. I’m sure the copywriter found these very amusing when s/he thought them up, but it’s the kind of infantile approach to market research that gives market research a bad name. Ugh.
This kind of intrusive questioning is closely related to the stupid security question phenomenon. “Who was your best friend in primary school?” “What is your least favorite nickname.”
Rob Waller’s information design blog has a number of examples of these, plus his own thoughts on intrusive market research. I particularly liked the link I found there to Soheil Rezayazdi’s Nihilistic Password Questions:
“At what age did your childhood pet run away?”
“What is your ex-wife’s newest last name?”
“What sports team do you fetishize to avoid meaningful discussion with others?”