Shopper Bio: SecretSphinx

I’ve been mystery shopping for 10 years. I found it, as I think many people did, through the proverbial back door. I had had a career in the editorial field, serving as an editor of publications for an international non-profit group, a business trade publisher and, lastly, a publishing division that produced books and magazines about high-end homes.

When my publishing division closed in 2003, jobs were scarce and there were a LOT of hungry writers and editors out there. The job search had become almost unbearable when, one night, I stumbled across something on the Internet. On a consumer anti-scam page, someone had written a chastisement of groups charging for lists of mystery shop companies. He let it be known that these MS companies could be found for free, and he listed a web site where one could find them. I had heard about mystery shopping, but it seemed, well, kind of mysterious – something I always meant to check out someday. I decided this was the day.

I clicked on the site link and, indeed, found a long list of MSCs. I also found the open job postings. Reading them made me feel like kid running through a candy store. I couldn’t believe I could get paid to go a salon or a restaurant or the movies and evaluate the service. I’ve always been big on life experiences, and this was one big cornucopia of places and experiences waiting for me.

My first shop was at a salon where I got a mani/pedi and a hair cut. I remember there were a ton of details to remember, but apparently I did OK. During another salon shop in Chicago’s Gold Coast, I remember sitting under a dryer, looking out the window at Michigan Avenue and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m sitting in Chicago in the middle of the week, getting my hair done.” This was the life.

Since then I have completed assignments for 50 mystery shop companies. Besides doing many retail, restaurant, salon and bank critiques, I have also shopped entertainment centers (movies, live shows), senior living centers, college admission offices and new homes and apartments. I have also done video and audio shops of new homes, apartments, retail stores and storage facilities.

I’ve experienced the ups and downs of the business as many of you have. It pays my bills, yet it has done more than that for me. Since I’ve been shopping, I’ve learned things. I’ve found contractors for home repairs. I found a fantastic hair stylist. I’ve had the opportunity to experience places I would not have otherwise. But best of all, shopping gave me my self-esteem back, and to this day, I may scream at a 4-page report I have to fill out, but I will never regret the opportunity to do this kind of work.

I will be writing about how to take better advantage of technology (video and audio taping, tablets, smartphones, etc.) in your shopping endeavors. I look forward to sharing information with you and hearing from you.

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