Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Mystery of Mystery Shopping

OK so a few of my friends do 'mystery shopping' for market research companies. This entails pretending to be a 'normal customer' and then going to the designated shop, pub, hotel whatever and spending some money while taking note of every tiny details (you know, like mannequins with their legs protruding across walkways or size 8 vests on size 16 hangers.... Not that I'm bitter or anything). You then report back to the market research company.

Brilliant I thought - free stuff is just what I need right now!

So I did some research and signed up to one of the bigger organisations. To do this I had to fill in a LOT of forms all about my personal information, lifestyle, habits etc. so they could paint a precise 'picture' of me and make sure I was assigned totally relevant work.

I then had to sit an on-line test.

To be fair, I've sat harder. I think the 'What type of friend are you!?' quizzes in the back of Cosmo would be harder.

The questions went something like this:

1. You are setting off to do your mystery shop in Bon Marche (a shop that I must be frank, is a mystery to me. The mystery being, how is it still operating?). Remember! You need to be MYSTERIOUS and not draw attention to yourself. You must fit in with the clientele. You must be ONE OF THEM. Do you wear:

a) a polyester peach jacket over a a shapeless floral skirt, cut on the calf, teaming it with the comfortable shoes you got from the ads at the back of the Mail on Sunday or
b) wet look skinny jeans, 6 inch stilettos and your Playboy Bunny bustier?

2. You need to fill in your report about the shop. Remember, once again, you need to be MYSTERIOUS! Do you:

a) fill it in as soon as you get home or
b) fill it in while sitting on the shop floor while asking the manager for a pen and if he thinks 'Mystery Shopping' should have capital letters?

3. Your report needs to give specific information about problems. Whilst on the job you notice that a shop has no staff at the tills, do you write:

a) There were no staff at the tills or
b) The shop was crap?

Congratulations! By answering (a) to all of the above questions you have proved to us that you meet our incredibly high standards and have what it takes to occupy one of the LIMITED positions within our dedicated team of Mystery Shoppers! We can now assign you carefully selected work that fits your demographic.

There were then lots of dire warnings about how if I ever spoke about my very mysterious job to ANYBODY it would undermine the entire retail sector and have dire implications for the economy.


Anyway, the point is - after all this rigmarole I get two emails a day from a mysterious woman at this mysterious company and I have still not been offered a job I could actually go on or am even vaguely suited to.

Examples include (I've cut out the waffle but this is the crunch of what they say):

URGENT: We need to someone to go down to the Ford garage THIS AFTERNOON and pretend they want to buy a transit van. You will need to have a good knowledge of the inside of vans, be aged over 40 and MUST BE MALE.

VERY URGENT: Will you be visiting Tesco's on the ISLE OF MAN in the next 2 days? If so we are willing to provide you with a £5 voucher to enable you to buy a packet of sandwiches and a soft drink. TRAVEL EXPENSES WILL NOT BE PAID.

ULTRA URGENT: Are you power tool crazy!? If so, get down to Wickes in the next 2 hours and ask a series of very complicated questions about your plumbing. You will need to appear as if you work in the building trade. MUST BE MALE. Voucher provided for free plunger.

OK so let me get this right, having spent the best part of an afternoon filling in forms so that the market research company can pinpoint my demographics EXACTLY, it would appear that they have concluded that I'm a 40-something year old bloke who is intimately acquainted with the back of a van, has a problem with his plumbing and lives on the Isle of Man.

Having said that, I wouldn't say no to the plunger. It would save the whole 't-shirt down the u-bend' scenario happening again.

Where's my £20 trip to River Island? It's a mystery.

Mind you if anyone is looking for someone to do some serious ball research, I'm your woman.


  1. try retail eyes for pubs, gapbuster for junk food and Bare for free flights. good luck doing it with 2 children. I stopped doing it with just one xx

  2. I used to do it for Selfridges. I had to go in and buy designer jeans. I went dressed as myself (natch) and every last one of them looked down their snotty, post-surgery noses at me.

    And I noted every last one of their names and added them on my report.

    Happy days...

  3. Thanks Vix - but my days are over before they even begun! I can't be doing with it and I wouldn't have been able to take kids so it would have meant all kinds of messing around for very little gain!

    Ohh get you P with your designer jeans..;). I don't think they'd send me on that - they'd get stuck somewhere just above my ankle....

  4. Don't write it off quite yet. Gapbuster do Pizzahut home delivery mystery shopping. can't get any easier than that.......