Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mystery Shopper.

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...


  1. I remember being on the receiving end of a mystery shopper's visit when I worked at a sporting goods store as a teen. Luckily, our report came out very positive! Whew!
    Ever since then I've always wondered about 'Mystery Shoppers'. I've gotten emails about it, but have ignored them - worrying that they are scams. But... it is intriguing. I think it would be tons of fun!

  2. Glad it was good! The majority of them are scams--the ones you know aren't are when you have to go through a lengthy writing "test" to see if you're able to qualify for the position. I've only done one assignment so far--don't plan on doing any more until I see the first pay day--just to be sure! =)