The Adventures of a Mystery Shopper

Nervously I looked around the truck stop, trying not to be conspicuous or over play my part. It’s not every day that I had to pretend to be a trucker and was eager to get it just right.

This was my first mystery shopping assignment, over 20 years ago.

I sat at a counter and ordered my cup of coffee then made mental notes of everything I saw, hoping I remembered everything on the instruction sheet mailed to me.

If I messed up I knew I could expect a phone call in a week or two. The waitress came back and asked if I wanted to order my dinner and I said yes, remembering that I had to order a main course, soup, salad, appetizer AND dessert.

Her eyes grew big as the size of my order increased but she smiled and said nothing, although she cast some glances at my not exactly tiny form.

I vanished off to the restroom and glanced at my instructions, trying to remember to ask about the cost of washing my truck, making a gift shop purchase and still having to pretend to take a shower.

Even so, the prospect of making $6 was money in my pocket and I wasn’t going to complain, especially since this was my very first mystery shop. I got back to my seat as the waitress brought my order and I started to sample my dinner.

Interesting flavor in this potato soup, I thought to myself. I would later find out how interesting after being diagnosed with acute food poisoning. After sampling a bit of everything I hoped that asking for a doggie-bag was something other truckers would ask and went off to the far corner of the truck stop where I was supposed to pay for and take a shower.

After looking at the grime and a weird looking hole through the wall about 3 feet from the floor I decided to run some water, make it look like I used the shower and then get out of there.

Just as well because after a few minutes I had a creepy feeling that I wasn’t alone and decided to act on an impulse to spray a hefty dose of hair spray into the hole.

There was an immediate unearthly screech from the other side of the wall causing a similar scream to come from me too. I grabbed my belongings and made a very fast exit.

Once in the safety of home sweet home I took pen to paper and wrote my report in longhand, making sure it was legible enough for the editors at the MS company, before I mailed it to them. I didn’t want them to have to mail it back to me for clarification if they couldn’t read it.

Today, twenty years later, modern technology has made mystery shopping a different world. We get our assignments online and report them the same way, we can transmit photos and receipts electronically instead of having to take photos and get the film developed before mailing them, we also locate MS companies online and apply the same way, rather than spotting a stray advertisement in the newspaper classified ads looking for shoppers in the area.

After a lengthy telephone interview with two representatives from an MS company they decided that I could give it a try and the rest is history.

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