As most anyone living on the East Coast can attest, the winter of 2013-2014 was, to put it nicely, crappy. Storms, outages, freezing temperatures…. We had a winter the likes of which we haven’t experienced in a while. And it wasn’t limited to the East Coast – much of the US had harsher conditions than normal.

Here in the office we did a lot of complaining. I mean a lot. Every day somebody would remark about how cold it was, how their kids were missing too much school, how potholes were killing their car’s suspension… if there was a problem we could whine about, we did.

Now that it’s spring and we’re celebrating the return of normalcy to our lives, we wonder… just what was it about this past winter that was the absolute worst part of it? Sure, taken as a whole it was pretty awful, but what was the one thing that was the most heinous?

Fortunately for us, we have a cool tool that we could use to answer this question. We enlisted the aid of our consumer panel and our agile and rigorous product Message Test Express™ to find the answer. MTE™ uses our proprietary Bracket™ tool which takes a tournament approach to prioritizing lists. Our goal; find out which item associated with winter was the most egregious.

Our 200 participants had to live in an area that experiences winter weather conditions, believe that this winter was worse or the same as previous winters, and have hated, disliked or tolerated it (no ski bums allowed).

We then administered the Bracket in which 13 items were pitted against each other in a tournament-style competition. Results were calculated at the respondent level, then aggregated and normalized on a 100-point scale in which a higher score means it was more likely to make participants “curse Old Man Winter and wish for Spring”.

I hypothesized that the thing that was the most galling about this past winter was that it hit us in our wallets through high heating bills. And I also hypothesized that the calendar impact (either trouble scheduling or children missing school) would be in second place.

Well, I was right on the first point, but not on the second. “High heating bills” is the clear “winner” as far as impact goes. But “Driving in snow or icy conditions” was second and “Feeling the cold temperatures” was a close third. Schedule-related items ranked pretty low on the list. So while my social life may have suffered, the rest of the country didn’t care nearly as much about that as other impacts on their lives.

2013 14 winter impact

I can understand why “missing school” ranked low overall since not everyone is affected. But even among people with school-age children (yes, because Bracket™ create individual level utilities, we can calculate based on sub groups), “missing school” only moved up one position, from #11 to #10.

Winter is over for now and my memory of just how awful it was is starting to fade. But I know I’ll be looking back at these results next fall as I’m getting my snow blower ready and crossing my fingers that we’re spared the same conditions that we endured this past winter.