Company Overview:  Many mystery shoppers also do merchandising assignments to fill voids in their schedules. Cast Force is a merchandising company about which volumes have been written on www.mysteryshopforum.com.

Based in Sarasota, FL Castforce is not a member of, nor are they accredited by West Florida BBB. However, the BBB notes that there have been complaints. “BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning: non payment for services rendered. Per BBB policy’s these types of issues are outside of BBB’s purview and therefore are not reflected in the business review.”

Registration is at http://contracting.castforce.com and is straightforward.

Castforce handles merchandising for big box retailers, as well as convenience and drug stores, among others. When you apply for a project, you’re given a time window for completion. Here is where shoppers start to encounter problems. One of the most frequent complaints is that the materials fail to arrive in time for the project to be completed according to schedule. Another complaint is a number of the big box store managers not being concerned about the condition of the Plan-O-Gram (POG), resulting in assignments that should only take an hour, taking three to four hours.

What Others Say: The reports on www.mysteryshopforum.com cover the spectrum from positive to negative about Castforce, with most ranging from mixed to negative. As stated above, problems include product not arriving on time, not being paid for assignments, and assignments taking much longer than advertised.

Personal Experience: I did several shops for Castforce before deciding they weren’t worth the effort. My first was a long route of four drug stores. I completed everything and submitted all the required pictures. Two of the displays were out of the required product. I did as I was taught from almost two decades in retail management—I substituted product and noted the substitutions. As any good retail manager will tell you, they can’t sell empty space. The shops were initially rejected because of the substitutions. When I explained that their instructions did not say what to do with empty space, they relented and paid. My second shop was a big box store where the product wasn’t even close to POG. The one hour job took almost four hours. The third job was the straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back. The product was not arriving on time. It was being shipped from the production facility in Ohio, to Castforce in Florida, then a new label put on and shipped to me in South Carolina. I canceled and got a call begging me to do the job. I explained that it would be almost two weeks past the deadline before I could do the job. The scheduler agreed and did send the agreement in an email. I had to send the email in order to get paid.

Summary: I agree with the shoppers who feel that a lot of the problems are inherent with merchandising—signs get misprinted, multiple shipping of the product, etc. Another factor that seems to come through in the complaints is that there are internal communications problems at Castforce. In the interests of full disclosure, on one of the more “severe” threads, a representative of Castforce replied and appeared to refute some of the complaints.

I was taught a long time ago to never say never…but Castforce has joined Ikea on my “10-foot pole” list.

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