Friday, November 7, 2008

The Guesswork of Reporting

A mystery shopper is asked to give "just the facts" when reporting shops. There are certain parts of the form, however, that require some good old-fashioned guesswork combined with intense observation and a bit of education.

Name Let's say your report requires the name of the salesperson helping you. That's an easy one if the person is wearing a nametag. But what are other ways you can determine their name other than a nametag. Did the salesperson introduce himself to you? Did another employee call to her and she turned to answer? If not, what then?

In some instances you can ask for a business card. In an electronics store, for example, or a high-end clothing store where the salespersons work on commission, asking for a business card won't give you away if you ask near the end of the shop couched in an excuse. "I'm starving. I'm going to go grab some lunch and come back to make my final decision. Can I ask for you when I come back?"

If you know the person's starting initial (from a ring, necklace or earrings) and have a pretty good description, you can leave the store and phone them. "Hi, I was there about 20 minutes ago and there was a girl in the TV section who was just a great help. I think her name started with an "S". She has short blonde hair. Can you tell me her name? I wanted to drop a line to the manager about what great service she gave me." Of course, you won't drop a line to anyone, but if you are calling to praise you're more likely to get the name than if you call with a complaint.

Height I find "estimate the height" a fun game. I know how tall I am in each of my pairs of shoes and as I enter a store or browse a certain department, I'll notice where things "hit" me. So, for example, in a clothes store, the rack hits me two inches below my shoulder. My salesperson looks about an inch taller than me, and the same rack hits three inches below her shoulder, so that is a good confirmation. At a fast food outlet, the counter hits right at my hip bone. It hits the employee right at their waist. In a restaurant, calculating height from a sitting position might be harder and I rely more on my landmarks. Where did the table hit me when I stood next to it? The top of the chair? The bottom of the frame of the painting on the wall?

Age This one can be really tough. For the most part you're going to have to rely on educated guesses. When I was studying for this area, I found training manuals for private investigators to be helpful. Here are some of the extremely general guidelines they provided: Teens generally have shinier skin than twenties, not just on their faces, but on their arms and legs as well. Their conversation tends toward school, friends and hobbies like music. Early-twenties are more likely to have more vibrantly-colored hair (magenta, blue, green, etc.) than other age groups. Friends will still dominate their conversation, but hobbies and interests will be more dominant. Mid-twenties are more likely to have tattoos and multiple piercings, men in this age group are more likely to have goatees or a "soul patch." Work and home, perhaps a pet, is the focus of the conversation at this age.

Upper-twenties to mid-thirties is the newlywed/pregnant/new dad era. In their upper thirties, men begin to soften around the middle and women usually gain one neck crease. (I avoid using facial lines as determiners as sun exposure, dry skin, allergies, smoking and makeup can alter these lines dramatically.) In their early forties, men will usually start to go gray and women might begin coloring their hair (colored hair has a more uniform color where natural hair has individual strands of color.) Women will also start showing thinning of the skin on their hands at this age, allowing the blue veins just under the surface to "pop" a little.

In their upper forties, men are more uniformly gray and the back of women's hands are more wrinkled. Often by their late forties women have gained a second or even third crease in their necks (although carrying extra weight can hide these creases). By the time most men hit their fifties, a definite "spare tire" graces their middle. The skin on the back of women's hands become thinner and more transparent. By their late fifties, women will often have liver spots on their hands that look like large freckles. At about this age, men and women both can develop horizontal lines on their teeth, although this can happen much earlier in smokers.

Again, there are so many variables that guessing age is very tricky. Fortunately, most of the reports I have completed ask for an age range, usually by decade, which is easier for me to estimate than an exact year.

In closing, please do NOT estimate measurements which need to be specific. Elapsed time, the time your shop begins and ends, the temperature or weight of an item, these measurements need to be exact. If you aren't sure, check the information provided with the assignment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi.. the age thing is the most horrible one to enter.(but I don't think that is shown to the person that was shopped). I try to make an ERROR on putting a little younger than older.

If someone looks to me around 65 to 69.. I put 65 if I can't use a whole range. I don't want to put 69 and the person is really 63 or 64 in actuality. Some people that are long time smokers look a bit older than their real age.

Your blog is terrific.