|Me in my Star Market smock--1987|
Oooh. Just the name "Mystery Shopper" has always intrigued me. I mean, who ARE these people? Coming into different businesses, unannounced, judging everyone and everything in the immediate surroundings. Oooh. Scary.
From the time I was little, the mystery shopper was a source of intrigue. I wanted to be one of these mystery shoppers. For once, I wanted to be the one doing all the judging and in such a passive way. I could eyeball, critique, observe and absolutely no one would know.
I remember my first "real" job (not counting the much hated, child labor, illegal act of detasseling corn in good ole' Wisconsin) at Star Market in Olneyville--the project, ghetto, just yuck part of Providence. Dressed in my bright blue smock and this god awful green and blue hat thing. Just horrific. I was told there'd be these mystery shopper coming through my line--and could be there at any time. It was always this looming threat that I'd better not screw up or the mystery shopper might just catch me. Star Market--just saying the name makes me shake my head and smile just a bit. I was a junior in high school and had no choice but to work. Most of the "monies" I handled were in the form of food stamps--back then it was like Monopoly money--different tenders for the poor. People were constantly trying to steal diapers, formula, and cigarettes. I would be the "bad guy" when I gave them a gentle reminder of the diapers under their cart, under the jackets, away from sight. I think I got cursed out every day I worked for "catching" the merchandise before it left the store unannounced.
|Melanie at BK--1988|
From there it was Burger King--this time I was a senior in high school. We moved from the hood on up to North Providence. Oh yeah. I was big time. This time I donned these magnificent polyester maroon pants, maroon smock, and maroon visor. Boy I looked good. There was nothing like the "rich" kids in their Irocs from school coming through the drive-thru to see this wonder--yeah, that was me. I was told all about the ever impending mystery shopper that could come on in and order a whopper. I'd best be prepared or else. Of course this didn't stop me from jumping the counter one afternoon and almost strangling a customer. Totally not my fault. See my little sister worked there too. I worked the 6 am - 2 pm shift on the weekends (both days) and Melanie worked the 2 pm - 10 pm shift. It was about 10 minutes before I got off of my shift, and Melanie had just arrived. I was working the counter that frightful day, and was counting my drawer before getting ready to leave. Melanie was just getting started when this bear of a woman came up to her register. "Can I help you?" she asked with a voice of innocence and hard work. "Yeah, get me a shake and make it strawberry." Melanie rang up the shake and went to make the shake. Maybe it was because she was just getting onto her shift; maybe she was tired from a late night before. Whatever the issue, she mistakingly poured a vanilla shake instead of a strawberry. The woman grabbed a straw, took a sip, realized it was vanilla, wrapped her claws around the cup and proceeded to whip it straight at my sister. With horror in my eyes, I turned to see my poor little sister covered in vanilla shake. AT THE BEGINNING OF HER SHIFT! Oh, HELL no! was my first thought before my body took over. I leaped over the counter in one move, pushed the woman toward the wall, and enclosed her witch-like neck with my hands. I don't recall the exact words I used at this moment, but I can tell you that a) she apologized before she left and b) I didn't get fired, thankfully. When all was said and done, my sister and I traded clothes and I wore her vanilla-soaked uniform home. Yeah.
And from there I worked at Pawtucket Mutual Insurance, First Community Industrial Bank--both the Denver and Colorado Springs office, ran my own daycare, Dave and Buster's, and Land Title before I became a teacher. And at each of these jobs there was some form of the mystery shopper. I wanted the role. I wanted the POWER. Hmmm.
So with these memories in mind, I decided to give it a go. 2012 is going to be a trip. I find myself trying new things--weird things. Things that I never thought I'd actually do. I did my first mystery shop during Christmas break. It was fun. I was observant. I wrote this amazing report and got paid for doing things I'd be doing anyway. The funniest part was when my daughter saw me writing the report--"What are you doing mom?" she asked, confused with my notes about the car wash. As I explained this "job" that I was doing, her eyes just lit up. "Can I go next time, mom? I want to do this!" I couldn't help but chuckle just a bit. The mystery shopper just might be hereditary...