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Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

Sugging, also spelled SUGGing, is an acronym that stands for "selling under the guise” of research. This practice occurs when individuals or companies pretend to be market researchers who are conducting a study when, in fact, they are simply looking for sales leads.

In the United States, research firms are allowed to offer a gift to survey respondents as thanks for their participation in a study. If a research company tries to sell something under the pretense of conducting a study, however, it is in violation of standards established by the Insights Association, a non-profit membership trade organization for companies that specialize in market research, as well as federal laws that distinguish survey, opinion and marketing research from commercial activities.

Sugging is similar to frugging (fundraising under the guise of research) and pugging (politicking under the guise of research).  When a survey about pets ends with a PayPal button and a request for a donation to an animal rescue organization, the participant has been frugged. Pugging often takes the form of a push poll. When a research poll asks questions that are obviously skewed to one side of an issue or favor one candidate, the participant has been pugged.

Sugging, as well as frugging and pugging, undermine the efforts of ethical researchers by attempting to take advantage of those who want to participate in legitimate research. To avoid being sugged, study participants should ask the researcher if they are selling anything, including the data gathered in the study, and inquire who the research is working for. If a survey participant feels they have been sugged, the participant is advised to submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

This was last updated in October 2017

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