Friday, November 21, 2008

Recording Information: The Tip Sheet

Tip sheets are very valuable tools in the mystery shopping arsenal. When you receive an assignment, your report form could run from two to twenty pages or more. Since you are not permitted to bring the forms with you into the store, how will you remember all the data you need to collect? And once you know what you need to know, how will you remember it all?

I like using my home computer to cut and paste single words or phrases from a downloaded reporting form into a second document. I try to get it down to one single-sided page with just enough room to write some sketchy notes. By making it one-sided, I can fold the sheet in fourths and always have it blank on the outside. This leaves room for a for-show list on the front. If someone spots the paper in my hand, all they will see is the list of things appropriate for that store. Paper clips, Bic pens, Post-It notes; or brown sweater, white pumps, half slip. Hidden inside are the clues that keep me on track.

I try to write my tip sheet in the order the observations will be made. Time in, parking lot observations, enter store, cash wrap observations, greeted by employees on the sales floor, clothing displays, price check, name of employee at dressing room. I can jot down information while I'm in the dressing room and refold my paper so the next set of items is easy to see. Many times the reporting form doesn't use the same order and I'd rather my tip sheet be easy to use on the spot. I can reformat my answers later as long as I have the data I need.

I'll often use "native paper" for my tip sheet. If I have a grocery shop, I'll make some coded notes in the margins of the sale paper. If I need to get the name of the employee at the meat department, I'll write "Angus" in the meat section. Then when I see his name, I'll put that on my paper next to Angus, with a coded physical description 6 pounds 2 ounces for chili, 24 ounces for burgers (6'2" tall, age between 20 and 25.) White chili would mean blonde or gray hair, BBQ burgers is red hair (BBQ sauce is red), burgers with gravy is brown hair, that sort of hint. If the store is very crowded, I'll make an anagram of a person's name rather than writing the whole name. Beans, Rice, Ice cream, Angel food cake, Nestles morsels. B-R-I-A-N.

Writing and using a tip sheet will assist your memory, especially on complicated shops. I love thinking up ways to use tip sheets to stay anonymous and still gather all the information I need. For me, it's an artistic pursuit.

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