Company Overview: Many mystery shoppers are continually on the hunt for “the best” mystery shopping companies, but sometimes it is just as important to know which ones to avoid. There are MSCs out there that have unethical business practices which cause shoppers great misery.
Secret Shopping Services is one such company. Although there is another reputable MSC with a similar name, be sure to not confuse the two. Secret Shopping Services is located in Puyallup, WA and owned by Laurie Hines.
This business entity maintains several email addresses for specific departments such as client services and accounting, but it seems that in all actuality this is a one-woman show.
Secret Shopping Services claims to have mystery shopping opportunities in all 50 states, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom. The most available assignments have been involved with retail evaluations.
As of this writing, the website for Secret Shopping Services at www.secretshoppingservices.com was still active. Potential shoppers are able to sign-up on their Sassie-based platform, but no available assignments are listed throughout the country as of this time.
All indications show that this business is in the process of going under. Established forum members on www.mysteryshopforum.com have been sharing frequent occurrences of delayed payment, incomplete payment, or nonpayment for quite some time now. Reported communications with the owner has been nonresponsive, futile, frustrating, and sometimes hostile.
Several subterfuges to avoid payment have been used time and time again.
In one pass-the-buck scenario, the person contacted, Laurie, will tell the shopper that the matter has to be forwarded to another department for resolution, although it is a widely held belief that this MSC runs all operations herself. It is for this practice that the owner was given the nickname “The Wizard of Oz” by disgruntled forum members.
Another excuse is that there is a problem with the shopper’s PayPal account. No one that has been given that reason for nonpayment has found it to be valid, since the information provided to Secret Shopping Services has been accurate.
Shoppers have also been told by the owner that she will look into the matter and then get back to them. Sadly, this has rarely happened. On the occasions where there is an interaction with the owner, shoppers are told that they are taking up her time and that they are being unreasonable.
Forum members have been proactive in trying to have payment resolution from this company, mostly without success. Amounts due to shoppers have been reported to be from $25 to several hundred dollars. Reports of late and slow payment go back over several years.
A recent forum posting shared that after 13 years of doing business, Secret Shopping Services is filing for dissolution. Supposedly the owner is claiming that fraudulent shoppers are the cause of the demise of this company,
Personal Experience: I was luckier than some of the other mystery shoppers out there in that I got my nonpayment issues resolved shortly before this company started circling the drain. It was by no means easy. I experienced the same subterfuges and excuses as many others. I contacted her repeatedly, and did so with courtesy. However, her own responses grew ever more uncivil. I believe she relented to pay me only because the amount was so small that it wasn’t worth it to her to deal with me any longer. I only wish the same could be said for my fellow shoppers who are still awaiting payment.
I also wish all of us had utilized the resources available on the Mystery Shop Forum to avoid getting involved with this MSC.