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NEW! The Mystery Shopper’s Manual 7th Edition is Hot Off the Press!

The Mystery Shopper's ManualThe brand new 7th edition of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual is here!

More than an update, this is a completely new book. I reviewed every page of the 6th edition and made drastic changes. Although a few of the basics were retained with minimal revisions, several chapters were eliminated, others were revised, and a lot of new content was added. In fact, the word count of this edition is 40% greater than the last one!

The biggest addition? I greatly expanded the section on writing reports. In fact, there are now two full chapters on writing reports with lots of example comments and narratives.
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An Offer is Not an Assignment

Question from a mystery shopper: I got an email from a mystery shopping company about a restaurant mystery shop in my area. I went right out and did the shop, but I couldn’t figure out how to put in my report and get paid. When I sent them an email, they said they had not assigned the shop to me. I spent $30 and now they say they aren’t going to pay me. What can I do?Continue Reading

Is it “Affect” or “Effect?”

affect-or-effectThere are not many things that have stumped more people than the two words, “affect” and “effect.” Not only do they look very similar, but they also sound very similar. To add another layer of confusion to the mix, the times in which you use one over the other are very subtle. To finally put a stop to all the embarrassment and stress, here is how to know when you should use “affect” and when it is time to switch to “effect.”

In general, both words have to do with something changing or altering another something. The different between the two words is the order in which it is happening. If the something you are talking about is what is doing the change or alternation, then it is necessary to use the word “affect.”

“Affect” is almost always a verb. “Effect” is almost always a noun.

Three examples would be:

  • “The strong ammonia odor in the dining room affected my enjoyment of the meal.”
  • “The hot weather affected our ability to swim comfortably.”
  • “The hurricane affected the coastal cities.”

In both cases, the noun at the beginning of the sentence in the thing that is changing the second part of the sentence—this is a clue that the “a” is needed.

If the subject of the sentence is the thing that is changing, or is the change itself (meaning, it’s already happened), then you need to use “effect.”

Three examples would be:

  • “The way you drive will have an effect on your gas mileage.”
  • “Poor Halloween candy sales had a negative effect on the economy this year.”
  • “The Ryan-Gosling effect is something plaguing the hearts of many women.”

In these cases, the change has already happened, and we’re talking about the subjects that were at the receiving end of the change. Think about cause and effect—the word comes second and is the result of something changing.

“Affect” is almost always a verb. Effect is almost always a noun. In one of the examples above, we said:

“The way you drive will have an effect on your gas mileage.”

Another way to write that would be:

“The way you drive will affect your gas mileage.”

In the first example, “effect” is used because a noun is needed. In the second example, “affect” is used because it is a verb.

The way I remember the difference is that verbs are action words and “action,” like “affect,” begins with an “a.” Another way to remember the difference between the two is to remember that “a” starts the alphabet and “e” comes at the “end.” By remembering this, you can remember that “affect” comes before the change has occurred and “effect,” comes at the end, when the change has already happened.

I hope this has made the use of “affect” and “effect” clearer and not more confusing! When the words are being used in relation to you, remember these two things:

You affect things and people.

Things and people have an effect on you.

What To Do With Food on Fast Food Shops

Question from a mystery shopper:
I do mystery shopping and get free fast food. I’m supposed to taste it but I don’t want to eat the whole thing b/c I’m trying to stay healthy and I feel guilty if I throw it out and I also don’t want to give it to anyone because I wouldn’t even eat it myself. I’m CONFUSED!

Whew! First of all, take a breath. That second sentence is a long one! Although you are confused, there are several possible solutions to this dilemma.Continue Reading

Creating Your Dream Mystery Shopper Job

One of the things I like best about mystery shopping is that I can make the job whatever I want it to be. When you work at a “real job,” you have to work the hours they set, and do the work you are assigned, while surrounded by supervisors and co-workers you may not like very much.

As a mystery shopper, though, you work on your own terms. Don’t like doing certain types of shops? Then only accept the ones you enjoy. Don’t like working with that mystery shopping provider? Dump ‘em! Hate working weekends? No problem.

Here are some of the things to consider when making mystery shopping your dream job. Answer these questions and build the career you want.Continue Reading

How to Take Photos of Your Food on Restaurant Mystery Shops

Empire-cafeMore and more often, restaurant mystery shop assignments include a requirement that you photograph your food. Although it might seem that taking pictures of everything would out you as the mystery shopper, it doesn’t. In fact, so many people post pictures of everything they eat to their blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, that you will probably not be the only person taking photos.

If you are not used to photographing your food, here are a few tips to help you get better quality photos and look like your standard-issue social media junkie and not a mystery shopper.
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Mystery Shopping Sharks

I have done some unusual mystery shops, but I have never mystery shopped a shark! The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC) has hired secret shoppers to check out shark dive experience tour operators to make sure they are properly engaging with the wildlife. Shoppers are also being used to monitor dolphin and whale watching tours, kiwi viewing, guided walks and adventure tourism.
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Wouldn’t You Like to Know?

integrity-consultantsMystery shopping company Integrity Consultants has brought back their Wouldn’t You Like to Know? event. This is your chance to get answers to your questions, share your shopper experiences and maybe even win a $25 gift card.

One way to participate is by asking a question. Questions will be answered by industry experts, so if you are wondering about any aspect of mystery shopping, this is the time to ask!

Additional contest entries will be awarded for social media sharing and other activities. (See the official contest page for more info.)

The contest ends July 31, 2015, so submit your question today!

Note Taking Tips for Mystery Shoppers

Customer Impact posted the above video with eight tips for taking notes on mystery shops. The tips are also listed below, with my comments.

  1. Pretend to make a telephone call and jot down notes while on the phone. Pretend you are taking down directions, or noting info from a voice mail.
  2. If the table has a tablecloth, take notes discreetly on your lap. Don’t spend a lot of time with your hands in your lap, though, or you might attract some unwanted attention!
  3. Go to the restroom and write down notes. This is always useful on mystery shops. Go in to a stall where you won’t be seen and you can make notes, check your shop tip sheets, etc.
  4. Bring a crossword puzzle and write notes in the spaces. Do this at fast food establishments and not fine restaurants. Other possibilities are newspapers, magazines, day planners, textbooks and other places you might reasonably make notes.
  5. Put a tape recorder in your jacket or purse. See this post about mystery shopping with a digital recorder.
  6. Send a quick text message to your partner, or have your partner send you a message. Or use a note-taking app on your phone.
  7. If you have a Blackberry, PDA or similar mobile device, jot down a note or two quickly and discreetly. There are a number of note-taking apps for smart phones, and you may even be able to find a way to take notes with other phones.
  8. Practice these methods when not a mystery shopper. Practice makes perfect! The first time or two you do this, it helps not to have the pressure of a real shop. If you mess up, it won’t matter, but you will know what not to do next time.

What is your favorite way to discreetly take notes on a mystery shop?