May 7, 2010
Retail Spies
IconRetail Spies By Julie Fichtner Associate Consumer Evaluations, LLC Staff Writer The customer looks innocent enough as she is browsing down the aisles, but she is a highly trained retail spy! She is an under cover agent in the business world. Observing the staff as if she is a regular customer, she#146;s taking everything in, from hospitality and cleanliness to knowledge of job. And that's not all! After her shopping experience, she will write a detailed narrative report that gets sent to the boss! The scenario is a longtime practice of mystery shopping or secret shopping, in which business owners hire shoppers to anonymously evaluate employees to monitor their customer service skills. #147;Mystery Shopping is a powerful tool,#148; says Tiffany Stewart, of Associate Consumer Evaluations, LLC. #147;Mystery Shopping can be used in a variety of ways, such as to train employees where more training is needed or to reward employees for a job well done.#148; Mystery shopping companies pay shoppers an average of $10.00 to $30.00 for completing an assignment. Sometimes they are reimbursed for services, such as oil changes or meals at restaurants. It#146;s an excellent opportunity for stay at home moms! Many assignments allow you to bring your children in tow. After all, the average customer has children too! #147;Mystery Shopping takes lots of practice#148;, Stewart says. #147;You must learn to be objective and observant at the same time, while keeping your cover. You need excellent writing skills, as well as a good memory.#148; After the visit, the mystery shopper goes online to transmit the report to the mystery shopping company, who then edits the report and verifies it for authenticity. Once the editors give the report the final review, results are available via the internet to the managers. With today#146;s technology of the internet, reports are often delivered to the company within 24 hours of the evaluation. No more snail mail, faxes or annoying e-mail attachments to open. Since everything is web based, businesses are able to view all their reports in one place, without having to shuffle through a stack of papers to see results. Patty Carter, owner of Clinton Quick Lube, Clinton, Missouri, said she is a firm believer of mystery shopping. "I get a lot more information than I would with customer comment cards," she said. "I get to see my business from the customer point of view. With comment cards, it seems that only very satisfied or very dissatisfied customers take the time to fill them out." Lexington, KY resident, Jacqueline Kelley, 32 and a mother of a three, said she likes the flexible hours of being a mystery shopper. "It#146;s so much fun to shop and eat out and get paid for it," she said. "I've done restaurants, hotels and retail stores and it's really fun! I love all the freebies I get doing this! It's unusual." Shoppers need to use caution when applying to mystery shopping companies. There are several services that charge shoppers for a list of companies #150; information they can find for free on the internet. The more companies a shopper signs up with, the more likely they are to get regular assignments. For more information on mystery shopping, go to Julie Fichtner, . Permission granted for use on

Posted by Staff at 1:43 AM