Overview: Dixie Whiskey resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two children. She began mystery shopping July 22, 2013 and, in the middle of October of this year, accepted a full time field coordinator position with Service Metrics, Inc. (SMI) in Toronto. In her new role, she does both scheduling and editing, while continuing to mystery shop.
In addition, DixieWhiskey is an accomplished photojournalist, specializing in photographing and interviewing concert musicians. She also describes herself as a “hardcore couponer and deal finder”.
DixieWhiskey’s posts on the Mystery Shop Forum tell the story of how she was employed as a full time social worker, until her older child was suddenly diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Unable to maintain a regular work schedule and properly care for her child, she gave up her career and turned to photojournalism and eventually added mystery shopping to her repertoire.
MSM talks with DixieWhiskey:
MSM: From reading your posts, you still appear to be actively mystery shopping, along with your full time field coordinator position, which is in addition to being a wife and full time mom and a photojournalist. How do you manage to do it all and what is your motivation?
DixieWhiskey: I am not sure how I do it! I shop during the day, work nights and weekends at Service Metrics, Inc. and photograph musicians, live in concert, after I’m done at SMI. I definitely take advantage of times when my children are in school and daycare. My husband recently changed work shifts to accommodate my new full time position as field coordinator, so that helps a great deal.
My biggest motivation is my family and our future. I remember what it was like growing up in a two-parent, immigrant household. My parents left their respective homelands with nothing but their savings and an unrelenting work ethic. When they arrived in Canada in the 1980’s, they both held two to three jobs, in order to support themselves and me, their only daughter. As I matured, I became inspired by all that they had accomplished and when I began a family of my own, the inspiration grew even stronger.
MSM: You have only been in your new job for close to a month and I understand we shoppers already have you yelling, “Full sentences!” in your sleep. When you are wearing your editor’s hat, what, specifically, could shoppers do to enable you to have a more restful sleep?
DixieWhiskey: My sleep is pretty sound, even when I talk in my sleep, but there are many simple things shoppers can do to help editors. First and foremost, as I say in my sleep, write in full sentences. Writing one or two words for a question that requires a minimum one-sentence response is not acceptable and heightens the likelihood that your shop will get rejected.
At SMI, each month editors have thousands of reports to edit and when they have to e-mail or phone a shopper multiple times to get a clarification on a report, it not only causes aggravation for the editor, but aggravation for the shopper as well.
Another thing shoppers can do is to thoroughly read the “Frequently Asked Questions” and shop guidelines. If after doing so, you are not sure about something, ask questions!
MSM: In your role of scheduler, you told us that you scheduled over 1,100 shops in two weeks and had to deal with 250 flakes on those same shops. Essentially, that translates to 23 out of every 100 shoppers, who did not complete their assignments as agreed. To what do you attribute this and what do you think is the solution?
DixieWhiskey: There are many factors. Shoppers sometimes take shops without being absolutely certain they can commit to doing it. Unexpected things can arise, such as illness, other work commitments and personal emergencies. Sometimes the shop fee offered by the client is no longer appealing to a shopper. Other times, shoppers have questions about shops, but do not reach out for assistance and deem the shop as “too hard”.
I will say though that in the short time I’ve been at Service Metrics, I’ve developed a little solution of my own. I reach out to shoppers with a track record of being reliable, while, at the same time, allowing newer shoppers to get their feet wet. I make myself available and encourage the newer shoppers as much as I can, since, at first, the process can seem overwhelming. My goal is to reduce the amount of flakes and have done pretty well in the last week or so by implementing this strategy. At the end of the day, things do happen and when it does, I’ll be prepared.
MSM: I think we all agree that getting paid is the number one priority for shoppers. When we were talking earlier, you said you would like to explain how shop fees are paid to shoppers, why there is a waiting period and the factors, which contribute to a payment being delayed. Please do so.
DixieWhiskey: Speaking mainly for SMI, although my answer could apply to any mystery shopping company (MSC), we pay shoppers by cheque around or after the 15th of the month, following shop acceptance. Depending on the shop date, the wait period could range anywhere from 15 to 30 days or more.
If a shopper does not follow shop guidelines or makes numerous spelling and/or grammatical errors in their report or if the editor has to contact them for clarification, it can prolong submission of the report to the client for approval and, in turn, can delay the disbursement of any funds. In addition, our accounting is done out-of-house so shop fees must be reported by a certain date.
Another factor, which has arisen recently, involves shoppers who do not update the address in their profile. We may reach out to them and ask if they’d like to conduct a shop. The shopper does the shop, but forgets to check their profile to make sure the information is up-to-date and, unfortunately, their address has changed from when they signed up. It is obviously very important for the shopper to ensure their profile information is current and accurate.
On rare occasions, there may be glitches that cause delays in payment, although, at SMI, we strive to prevent that from happening. Most mystery shopping companies want to pay shoppers for their hard work and efforts, since with no shoppers, there would be no mystery shopping companies!
MSM: I know it differs from company to company, but how are you measured at Service Metrics and what factors affect your pay, if any?
DixieWhiskey: I am an hourly wage employee and there are no factors, other than perhaps server outages, which affect my pay. Even if I don’t assign any shops, I still am paid for my time, whereas with other companies, many schedulers are paid per shop assigned. Both kinds of schedulers work equally hard and have to deal with the same frustrations. As an hourly wage earner, I still have to get the job done or else we would lose our clients.
MSM: You made several posts on the forum, complaining about feeling “abused” by schedulers who pelt you with emails, throughout the day, and even commented that you should “charge them for deleting their emails”. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, please discuss how and if your feelings and level of understanding on this topic have changed.
DixieWhiskey: My feelings remain unchanged. I still believe there is no reason to send multiple emails to shoppers everyday. I very rarely use email to recruit shoppers for assignments. I take a more personal approach and pick up the phone. I only call once and if I am not able to leave a message, I will send an email. At that point, it is up to the shopper to decide whether they want to do the shop or not. I will say though, I empathize with schedulers, who have taken a different route to get shops assigned. It is a challenging job at times, but I choose to do things differently.
MSM: Okay, the moment of truth: As a shopper, have you ever flaked on a shop and, if so, how many and/or frustrated the heck out of an editor?
DixieWhiskey: No, I have never flaked on a shop. I have shopped when I was sick and I have shopped when the car broke down. If I can’t do something, I always communicate with the MSC to determine what can be done.
I’ve probably frustrated an editor, since I am not hesitant to speak up if I do not agree with a particular action or statement.
MSM: DixieWhiskey, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy life to share your insights from the perspective of both a scheduler and an editor. And we promise to write in whole sentences!