Have you ever had a shop go horribly wrong? I mean so wrong as to make you want to seriously think about giving up mystery shopping? My “Car shop from hell” in Issue 17 of Mystery Shopper Magazine might have been close, had I not been as experienced as I was at the time. My very first shop, August 1, 2012, almost made me call mystery shopping quits.
It was Wednesday, overcast and drizzling. This was my first mystery shop ever, and it was at a Columbia Sportswear Outlet store. The assignment was supposed to be simple. Go in, find something to try on, ask for assistance with the fitting room. The associate was supposed to return within 10 minutes and I was to ask for the same item in a different color. Pay for the item and leave. Get an image of the receipt and then an optional return. The purchase had to be at least $20, with the option to return and the job would pay $15.
I called and verified the location’s hours. I arrive about an hour after they opened. It’s a drizzly day, not a steady rain, but enough to drive most people off the beach and into the shopping malls. I enter the store and start browsing.
The first thing I noticed was the cashier was busier than a one arm paper hanger. She had to run the register and assist the customers. I eventually found a shirt that was my size and that was available in several colors. I walked around the store and eventually found the store manager and another associate scanning items. I asked for assistance with the fitting room and you would have thought I’d asked her to break into Fort Knox. She muttered something under her breath as she got up and took me to the fitting room.
I tried on the shirt and then I proceeded to wait…and wait…and wait. According to the guidelines, she was supposed to check back with me within 10 minutes. Twenty minutes later, I decided she wasn’t going to come back. At this point I was wondering if I was doing something wrong, so I stepped out of secret shopper mode and just began watching everyone. The manager and the associate helping her were doing their best to ignore all the customers, leaving the cashier to struggle with everyone.
I watched this for about 15 minutes. I then made my purchase and left. On the report, I did mention that the reason I did not do a return was because I did not want to deal with that manager again.
This experience was so bad, I almost called mystery shopping quits at that point. Fortunately, I had several other shops already scheduled over the next week so I completed them and discovered the first shop was the exception, rather than the norm. Fortunately, I let the first experience flow off my back, and I’ve discovered that mystery shopping can be an enjoyable, and fascinating, occupation.
Do you have a mystery shopping horror story? Add it in the comments below!