Company Overview: Retail Track Mystery Shopping and Consulting was founded in 1991 by Shaun Belding, CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, as a division of TBGC. Elsewhere, their site says they began in 1992 under the name “StoreCheck”. They’re located in Kanata, Ontario, Canada.
Retail Track’s main website is here. They’re a member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), and have been accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since May 29, 2014; and have an “A+” rating. No reviews have been posted, but there’s one alert. It’s just the standard warning to NOT cash a check received with their name on it, if you’ve never been associated with the company.
One glaringly annoying thing about Retail Track’s website, is that it lacks a Shopper FAQ page, with common information most Mystery Shop Companies (MSC’s) make known up front; such as deadlines for reports and their payment timeframe. One page is billed as “Tips for Mystery Shoppers” — but it’s actually information for potential clients to consider in designing a mystery shopping program.
Location & Types of Shops:
Retail Track conducts shops throughout the US and Canada, but seem to be primarily focused on (and in) Canada.
Retail Track does customer service, selling skills, compliance, and competitor shops; including phone and internet shops. Some shops may integrate more than one method. Shops include retail, bank/financial, restaurant, wireless, healthcare, fitness, gas stations, convenience stores, and call centers.
Getting and Completing Shops:
Retail Track uses the Prophet platform to assign, track, and report shops. This is one of my least-favorite platforms, primarily because there’s no mechanism for saving a PDF of completed reports. I’ve have a work-around, but it’s a bit of a hassle, since Prophet uses frames; and annoying, since I shouldn’t have to.
Not being signed with Retail Track, I can only go by my other Prophet-based MSC. While there’s a way to access completed shop records, including pay and reimbursements; bonuses aren’t listed — they’re usually only mentioned by email and added to the top of that particular shop’s instructions. Neither is the date of payment listed. Completed reports are not accessible.
On Retail Track’s website, they tell us they “hand-select” a pool of shoppers, from their “carefully vetted” database of 1,000’s of shoppers, who best fit the needs of each particular shop based on qualifications and experience — and then invite them to apply. They don’t post to shop/job boards, or post available shops on forums. They don’t assign based on “first come, first served”; and while it isn’t specifically stated, I’d have to presume they don’t offer self-assign shops, either.
Shopper training is emphasized throughout the website. Retail Track provides “comprehensive project-based training” to ensure shoppers are well-trained and familiar with the specifics of each project. This can include written guidelines and instructions, a telephone briefing, pre-shop testing, and/or a video overview of shop expectations.
I’ve never done a shop for them, and couldn’t find commentary from anyone who had, regarding the complexity of shops and reports; but on their website, Retail Track explains that they work with their clients to identify only the key information they absolutely need to know, and to put aside the “nice to know” stuff. This stems from their belief that the more details a shopper is asked to observe and remember, the less accurate resulting data will be — shoppers are only human and have to rely mostly on memory, after all.
Shoppers are rated after each shop, and must maintain a cumulative score above the MSC’s “very high standard” in order to continue working with a particular client, or even to continue receiving shop invitations at all. On Mystery Shop Forum (MSF), one shopper reports, in 2011, receiving grades for their reports on the “One to Ten” scale.
From the few threads on MSF, it would seem that Retail Track is quickly and cheerfully responsive to shopper communications, and are happy to work with shoppers who run into difficulties completing and/or reporting shops.
Getting Paid: Absolutely nowhere on Retail Track’s main website, nor anywhere on their Prophet portal, does it mention when or how shoppers are paid. Not even the ICA, available during the sign-up process (see “Getting Signed Up”, below), specifies how, or how often, payments are made.
The ICA does say that payments are made in Canadian dollars unless otherwise stated — I’d hope that shops completed in the US, by US shoppers, would be paid in US Dollars; but that’s not specified.
On MSF, one shopper reported in 2014 that payment took over two months… but with no official payment timeframe stated by Retail Track, it’s impossible to know if that’s actually late, or not. Another shopper reported, just last month, that they pay “on time” — nothing more specific than that.
What Others Say: I only found six discussion threads on MSF — three from 2014-’15, and three from 2009-’11. Most have minimal participation, but it’s encouraging that a few include pleasant posts from an MSC rep. (http://www.mysteryshopforum.com/companies/?Retail_Track)
In the older threads, one shopper reports they’re easy to work with — helping to save (and pay) their first shop, which had a couple shopper errors. Another was simply reporting a scam letter using Retail Track’s name — a MSC rep responded helpfully.
A thread from 2014 inquires about and discusses Retail Track’s requirement of a phone interview prior to accepting new shoppers. (See “Getting Signed Up”, below.) A fitness shop for the company was also briefly discussed, and sounds interesting! Another 2014 thread is only one post — reporting how happy a shopper was, to find Retail Track so easy to work with, when problems were encountered on a shop that had been outside of the shopper’s control.
Getting Signed Up:
If you’d like to sign up, go here (http://www.retailtrack.com/Mystery_shopper_apply.htm). Scroll down and click the little box with the picture of all the people running towards the camera that says, “Apply Today!” This opens a new tab, and is actually the shopper login page; but from there you click the small, faint gray text that says, “Become a shopper: Apply here!”
After reading and accepting the ICA by typing “I agree” in the box and entering your email address, click “I wish to check my email address and proceed”. This takes you to the application form. Besides the standard information, you’re also required to detail your work experience. A writing sample is also required.
According to a MSF thread from 2014, shoppers must complete a phone interview before their application is accepted. A post from a MSC rep confirms that they do interview each prospective shopper by phone before acceptance, in order to get to know the shopper; to provide a company orientation, and an overview of how they work and their expectations; and to let shoppers know what they can expect from the company. The website puts it that shoppers are “assessed” during the phone interview. One shopper reports spending about half an hour on the interview.
Conclusion: From what I was able to find out, Retail Track is definitely one to sign up for, and sounds like they are invested in their shoppers.