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Do-It-Yourself Market Research

If you observe the law and mind your manners, you may be able to mine the public for information, but sometimes it pays to hire professionals

I wanted to hand out a brief business survey at an industry conference, but the organizer turned me down. I also got a negative response from the hotel where the conference is being held. How does an individual trying to start a business legally conduct market research in a public area? —M.D., Bethesda, Md.

Your question isn't one so much of legality as of etiquette. Hotel lobbies and conference centers are owned and operated by businesses, and most of them do not want their customers exposed to solicitations from an individual or company that provides no benefit to their organization. In addition, managers at industry events try hard to get attendees focused on their objectives, and your research would probably be seen as a distraction.