Americana: A Marketing Squeeze

Christopher Harris, 40, a curly-haired Californian with tinted glasses, has an odd occupation. He steps out of a rented Cadillac limousine, approaches unwary pedestrians and asks: "Do you mind if I give you a hug?"

The purpose of these impertinent propositions is supposed to be market research. An Ohio firm that sells animal-shaped plastic planters wondered whether sales would increase if its clerks hugged every customer.

Harris, a professional street pollster, has been seeking the answer to that momentous question for the past two months in Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. "I've been slapped and spit on and threatened with...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!