Friday, August 15, 2008

Other Things to Do

Many mystery shopping companies offer other types of assignments besides mystery shopping. Here's a brief menu of some alternative shopping options.

Reveal shops: Sometimes called reward shops, these assignments start out like mystery shops, but end differently. If, for example, the parent company is pushing a certain promotion in their stores, you might be asked to go and make sure the proper signs are up, the correct buttons are worn on the aprons of the employees and the right catch phrases are being used. If the store meets the company's requirements, you will reveal yourself to the manager as the shopper and give them a certificate or other reward. If the store doesn't meet the requirements, you'll be asked to reveal yourself to the manager and point out what was deficient in your assessment. The upside to this kind of shop is a very exciting moment when you present gifts for a job well done. The downsides include revealing yourself—which means no more mystery shopping at that location; possible angry or belligerent reaction by a not-rewarded manager and his staff; and an additional step to the paperwork as you must return rewards and certificates to the mystery shopping company if not used.

I have performed a handful of reveal shops and will probably not do many more. The ones I have chosen are about 30 miles from my standard shopping area, so I don't expect to be recognized locally. But that 60 mile round-trip was very expensive at the gas pump, and my shop fee barely covered it. Most of the managers didn't seem to care one way or the other that they didn't meet the requirements, but one gentleman was heartbroken. He didn't get angry, he got very sad, realizing that his employees would not receive $10 gift cards because he hadn't put up the correct posters. I felt so bad for him.

Audits: Audits are an interesting group of shops. You print out your paperwork, call to make an appointment with the store manager, and present him a letter of authorization from the corporate office that authorizes you to audit the merchandise at his store. It's usually a small part of a larger store, prepaid cell phones in a discount store, for instance. You'll get specific instructions about what signs need to be up, what brochures need to be where, and what merchandise to count. You can take your instruction sheet with you and make notes while you work. Some audits require photographs, and the instructions will give you specific directions on what to photograph, file size and how to upload your photos. When your audit is complete, the manager signs off on your form and you enter your results online like a regular mystery shop. Blind (manager-unaware) and open (manager-aware) checking of movie theaters falls into the auditing category, as does checking to be sure the proper film trailers (those "coming soon" ads) are attached to movies.

I don't mind doing audits, and they generally pay better than a mystery shop. Because I am at a store "officially," I don't try to blend in with the customer base, but dress in business casual attire with hair and makeup done.

Merchandising: This type of assignment varies widely and can include refilling gift cards on a rack, setting up a floor display, changing the prices on a certain item, and many more possibilities. There are merchandising divisions in larger mystery shopping companies, and other companies specialize in merchandising jobs. Some jobs require heavy lifting or mechanical ability, you'll need to be sure you are capable of meeting the requirements before accepting a merchandising job. Many merchandising assignments are ongoing and provide a reliable, if small, income. You might, for example, spend two hours setting up a jewelry display at a department store, then visit your display once a week to refill sold out merchandise or do other maintenance tasks taking only 15-20 minutes of your time.

As of this writing I have only performed two merchandising assignments. I wanted to give it a shot, but it's really not my kind of work. But, that's the great thing about mystery shopping, there's something for every taste and talent!

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