Friday, July 4, 2008

Considerations Part Two: Betcha didn't think about that!

As you progress through your mystery shopping life, gathering experience and learning, you will come upon some surprising "aha!" moments. (We old-folks call them "epiphanies." It's a $10 word—look it up!)

Here are some of mine:

Internet maps are not infallible. I mapped an address for a shop, but it didn't look right to me. I called the establishment and sure enough, both Mapquest and Google Maps had me more than 20 miles off the mark. If you are going somewhere and you aren't 100% sure of where it is, don't just search an internet map, call and get a cross-street!

Dining out carries risks. In addition the the larger-pant-size risk that frequent dining shops carry, there is another danger: food-borne disease. After approximately 20% (that's one in five) of food shops I perform, I am stricken with a case of food poisoning that lasts about three days. And don't assume you can feel safe by avoiding fast food shops: my worst case so far was after an upscale dining assignment. If your immune system or digestive tracts are weak, you might need to steer clear of jobs requiring prepared food consumption.

Complacency is income-threatening. I have one batch of shops I perform very frequently. After filling out the form two dozen times, I figured I knew the requirements like the back of my hand. I didn't review my shop form beforehand, did the shop and didn't discover until I was at home filing my report that I had completely missed a newly-added shop point. Lucky for me, it was a point I could drive past the location and answer, because the shop had been closed for several hours by the time I discovered my error, and the shop was due NOW, not tomorrow. The scheduler cut me slack and allowed the correction even though it was performed separately from the shop, but that's the kind of dumb mistake that often results in not getting paid. I learned my lesson: read every shop form every time.

Procrastination is bad juju. In another "stupid" moment, I accepted an assignment that was a week away. I was in a hurry and didn't print out and review my shop right away, as is my habit, but jotted down the assigning company and date of the shop on the scratch pad by the phone. When I uncovered the hastily-written note three days later and printed out the required materials from the website, I learned that there was a pre-shop phone call which had to be made five days in advance. I had missed the deadline by hours. Very few things are more embarrassing than calling a scheduler and 'fessing up to bonehead moves like that. I hope I never, ever have to do that again, but I learned: do the whole prep immediately, don't put anything off!

Editors are people, too. My husband is also registered shopper, and has performed a handful of shops in his interest areas. But his 9-5 involves editing written work for a publishing company. He is degreed in journalism and, um, shall we say, knows English rather well? He is also a perfectionist, and a 10-question survey with a 200-word narration can take him an hour to complete because he edits himself so completely. When he received an 8/10 grade based on "poor word choices and inconsistent grammar," he nearly hit the roof. But hey, that editor probably has a background in shopping, not editing, so he cut her a huge chunk of grace and didn't fire off a nasty email to her boss. Wise move. Angering editors and schedulers at shopping companies will put a very quick end to your shopping career. Word gets around if you're a "flake" (a shopper who cancels assignments) a "texter" (using internet-speak, chat-speak or text-speak on survey forms) or a "nag" (writing schedulers repeatedly asking, "Did I get the job? Why didn't I get the job? and other annoying issues) and your job market will shrink.

I hope you'll join me next Friday as I take you with me to apply at a mystery shopping company.

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