Hello shoppers...

Sun comes up, rooster crows, alarm screams along with your bladder that feels like a blowfish looks - all of nature's dashboard idiot lights indicating that it is, indeed, time to roll out of the sleeping sack cause you gotta anyway since there's no way to get mail delivered under your covers, where you didn't want to come out from this morning...

Welcome to Monday!

Hope your weekend was decidedly peachy and that the next five days lead to another one, just as fruity.

Today, it's a mixed cocktail of Unsecret Shopper reader responses to the most recent posts, that appear at times to have ignited your imagination, often tickled your funny bone and frequently made it sit there and just scowl.

You'll also find questions submitted by readers on a wide range of secret shopping topics, sent using social networking portals - FB, TW, BL, IM, TXT and JYL. (Just Yelling)

But first...


If you are an employee who works in retail or in some other capacity with the public, and want to make a very easy $25, even $50 dollars, then here's something you'll want to remember.

Starting today, if you are an employee and you smile at me, wherever I visit - at the checkout counter, on the retail floor, at the bill-paying kiosk, at the bank teller window (my clients are not eligible) - I'm going to hand you $25.

Yep. Just like that.

But wait, there's more!

If you greet or engage me using my name - either because you know me or because you see my name after running my debit/credit card - I will hand you $25.

In other words, by simply following two of the four pillars of customer service - smile, greet, engage and thank (including name) - you can pocket fifty bucks, just like that.

There are two exceptions. Employees who work for my clients are not eligible (all they do is smile when I'm around, so I'd go bankrupt) nor are employees who I see during in-store Secret Shopper reviews for Thursday's post - sorry, can't let the secret shopping kitty out of the bag. Besides, that's only during an actual secret shopper trip through a store - doesn't mean I couldn't see you, smiling and name-dropping, on my own time :)

A smiley, greeting properly with name employee can only win once, and after you've won, the other employees within earshot who just heard you freak out, are not eligible, on that visit.

The only stipulation is that you allow me the privilege of taking your picture and letting the world know that you're doing a great job - by including your photo in future posts.

So tell everyone you know who works in retail and/or with the public - here comes Jonnie with a pocket-full of cash, ready to reward those hard workers who use retail smiles and name greetings with customers.

I'm calling it The Smile Project.  I'll tell you how this week goes, on Friday.

Now to tell you how last week went, right now - with questions from readers and answers from your loveable USS.

1. “How do I become a secret shopper?”


1a. “I spend all of my free time shopping anyway, might as well get paid to do it!”


I get daily requests from readers like you, Jeremy, who want to take their retail shopping skills to the next level, for fun and profit.  And you’re right as rain, Kathy, if you’re out there spending your hard earned cash on stuff, why not have fun doing it and make a little cash in the process.

The easiest way to become a secret shopper for The Unsecret Shopper is the simplest – call my cell phone, 480-4190, and let’s talk about it.

I also want to reiterate something – and I’m about to violate a practice that I preach to my business clients about their radio/TV/print marketing: never ever tell consumers what you are not, because they’ll immediately believe that you are. “This is not a sales pitch!” “This is not an attempt to collect on a dept!” “This is not a bad cable show, even though it’s Melrose Place!”

So let me blow that rule up and say that this is not a scam, a sham, a ruse, a trick, a shell game or that thing you do with kids where it looks like you're pulling off your own thumb and they cry for an hour. The secret shoppers that work for The Unsecret Shopper – and there are over a dozen – are people just like you, doing exactly what they love to - shop - and making a little jack while they do it.

If you’d rather not call me – I have kind of a whiny voice, so I wouldn’t blame you - then email me at jonniewright@thebuyosphere.com. The Buyosphere is growing, the list of clients who need secret shopped is growing, and I’m looking for smart, observant people to grow with us.

2. “Do I know you?”


 If you knew me, you’d know – so probably not, unless you just forgot.

3. “There’s a picture of two kangaroos fighting, on the 'Target Off Target’ post. I’m assuming these represent you and Sonja Pothen [Target Spokesperson]. Which one is Sonja, and who won the fight?”


This is a lose - lose for me, Linda. If I say Sonja is the smaller, frailer, dumber looking one on the left, I sound sexist and rude. If I say Sonja is the bigger, uglier, dumber looking one on the right, I sound insensitive. Okay – I’ll say that Sonja is on the left because that kangaroo’s nails appear to be better manicured.

As for who wins? The fight is pretty even until, as you can see, we both look up to see helicopters, which eventually land, at which point the fight is over, because each one is full of kangaroos, carrying briefcases – Target’s attorneys.

4. “Have you ever secret shopped a store that did well?”


Great question, Matt. Of the 12 stores I’ve officially secret shopped for this blog so far - Legends American GrillHomemakers Furniture, Karl Chevrolet, Wal-Mart, The DMV, Hy-Vee, Casey’s, Jordan Creek Mall, Home Depot, Target, Verizon Wireless and Bass Pro Shops – I would say that Home Depot wins - for big box stores - and Legends, ironically, overall.

Yet all of them, including Legends, have customer service issues.

The good news is that owners/managers/corporate reps from 9 of the 12 (excluding Legends, Karl Chevrolet and The DMV) have not only responded to their secret shopper review, but have told me they’ve shared the info with their managers and employees.

And that's music to our ears - everywhere except...oh never mind - for businesses to continue to work to improve the level of customer service for all of us – shoppers, employees, managers and owners.

Wouldn’t it be great if that were actually happening?


5. “Do you really go into the stores you secret shop? Sometimes I wonder.”


I’m assuming the second sentence is related to the first, Karen, and not just a general observation about letting your mind go - like, “Sometimes I wonder…like, while I’m reading your blog.”  Wait. That's "wander." Okay - fughetaboutit.

The truth is that yes, I do go into these stores when I say I do and observe the things I write about. That’s one of the reasons I use names of employees and where I see them in the store, so my journey can be verified, not just by casual readers but also by store managers and employees, who frequently tell me, “I know exactly where you were when you wrote about…” such and such. I also buy something on every secret shopper visit and keep the receipt, just in case I’m ever cross-examined by kangaroo lawyers  (see above) but hopefully NOT in a kangaroo court. (See definition by clicking here.)


6. “What do you look like, so I know if you’re in our store? Like, what do you weigh?”


I am the largest Unsecret Shopper on record.

I also have brown curly thinning/graying/schlumping as I write this hair, a “looks like ya broke it” nose with nostrils you could park two Yugos inside, ears the size of thimbles, a quadruple chin that’s recently (through exercise, diet and fear) been downsized to a one and a half-zie, and none of this matters because I always secret shop with a paper bag over my head, so you’ll never know I’m there, Tiffany.


7. “I love your voice. Hmmmmm…would you like to have coffee sometime?”

-Sonja Pothen

Target Spokesperson

Kidding. Seeing if you’re paying attention.

8. “Hey Jonnie do you record your radio show at all so people can listen to it later? Because I love reading your blog myself, but can never catch your show, just wondered!”


I’ve had several requests for this – and quintuple that, demanding the show be cancelled.

Assuming the latter doesn’t happen before we do the former, pod casts of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show will be available starting this Saturday May 29th.  I’ll give you details this week on where to get them.

9. “Did I miss the results of your survey, or is it still in process?”


No, you’re still good, Jon. It’s an ongoing process and we post the results on occasion. I keep promising a Friday results rundown but every Thursday we have a “breaking secret shopper news” piece that goes up instead. I promise that this Friday, May 28th, I’ll have the latest results from The Des Moines Customer Service Survey, which you can take by clicking here.

We’re at 512 Survey results, so make sure your voice is heard by local storeowners and employees – take the Survey. It’s 10 simple questions, mainly multiple choice, you check your answers, write out some comments if you’d like, submit it, you’re done, that’s it.

10. “Enough questions – are you going to shut up and get to this week’s reader responses?”



Wow. Okay Mr. Poopy Pants. Jeesch, what a grouch…didn't you see my funny blowfish pic?



(On The Unsecret Shopper Goes Shopping: Bass Pro Shops)


“Your question has been received. You should expect a response from us

within 24 hours.”

-Bass Pro Shops Automated Customer Service Response


(Seven hours later…)

"Mr. Wright:

I really appreciated reading your feedback on our store. I am the HR Manager and every time you mentioned a name, I knew exactly whom you were speaking about. That was awesome to hear how our staff is engaging with customers. We go through some awesome customer service training at Bass Pro, and really hit hard on it every morning before the store opens, with the associates. But it's 'you' the customers who we need the feedback from. I took this constructive criticism to heart, and will be looking into the advice you left on how to improve our 'world class customer service' that Bass Pro strives for."

Tricia Utter

[HR Manager, Bass Pro Shops, Altoona]


“It’s not like we can get to every customer. We work very hard at Bass Pro Shops and we’re only human. So while I’m sorry you didn’t get acknowledged as much as you wanted, I also think you’re being extremely picky. Go secret shop Scheels, you’ll be lucky to get anybody to say anything to you.”



“Dude, you can’t blast someone about spell check in an article where you leave out at least two words before the spell check comment…just sayin’.”



“I loved your BPS post.”

 “I agree with you Bass Pro Shops is a cool environment to shop in but their customer service sucks which is why I started going to Scheels. I’ve walked around inside [BPS] for an hour without getting a ‘hi’ or ‘can I help you/’ out of an employee, more than once. I hope they read what you wrote and do a better job because I’d like to come back.”



“I’ve never had any problems with their people. Kudos to Bass Pro Shops for building such a fun place for hunters to shop.”



"Thanks for the great "Secret Shopper" updates."





(On Retail Speak: When Did “Ing” become “Un”)


“You’ve got to be kidding. Are you for real? Are you from here? What a joke.”



“We just ran off 100 copies of your post about proper English and gave it to every employee who answers our phones. Great information, thank you!”



“Is this all you have better to do? What dumb (stuff) this all is.”



“Great points on improving the way we speak! I’m an English teacher and I fight this battle every day, one that I’m afraid we’re losing, in classrooms and in stores.”



“My name is Aneta single never married before, I found your contact in the Google web interesting and want to say Hi to you because I'm planning in relocating to your Country pretty soon and will like to make a friendship, reply me at (Email address deleted) will be glad to hear from you again."

With love and care


(Unusual email response to post)



(On Target Off Target On Corporate Reaction To Secret Shopper Review)


“Jonnie, You crack me up. But that Sonja...I am rolling my eyes. She really gets paid for not knowing anything? I am sure she is secretly listing to her IPod under her desk... Rock on Jonnie, Rock on! “



“Give ‘em (heck) JW! Target deserves it – their stuff is garbage and so is their service.”


“Great job, Jonnie!  So true that Target does what they think the consumer wants, with nothing to back up their lame claims.  It isn't one of my favorite places to shop...I really enjoy dancing through the racks of clothes, amongst the toile paper, and toothpaste!  Shopping is boring and a little music helps break that boredom.  Since your conversation with Sonja, I can see why.  She is rude and inconsiderate in her actions to you.  Boo to Target! 



“…Keep up the great work you really do give business owners the feedback they need in this day and age. When I have a business, I know where I'm coming for it.”



“That Target interview was very interesting. I am glad I am a former employee of that company. I will not shop there.”



"Canceling out minutes before going on air...dumb, how executives handle things....dumber.  This is a spokesperson with a serious sense of entitlement-to do as she wishes."




(On The Unsecret Shopper Goes Shopping: Verizon Wireless)


“Thank you for your detailed and informative secret shopper feedback on our Verizon Wireless Stores. We work very every day to insure the best customer service in our industry, and I work very hard to stay connected to our customers. Your feedback has been shared with our store managers and you can be certain that we will learn from it.”

 -Seamus Hyland

President, Verizon Wireless

Great Plains Region


“I’m sure glad there are jobs for these kind of people so I don’t have to waste my tax dollars buying him (expletive deleted) food stamps. This guy pretty much expects for the Verizon employees to take a (expletive deleted) and even (word related to expletive deleted) for him or he wouldn’t be happy with the service. Such a Drip!!!”



“I was recently in a Verizon Store in Des Moines and was treated like I was a complete irritation to the young women “helping” me. I won’t go back to that store and I won’t go to the Valley West store now either after reading the comment on your blog from the gentleman that works there. He and the rest should own up to the customer service mistakes they made. Only then will he, and the others that provide terrible customer service, be able to embrace the idea of getting better at what they do. I have a friend that now sells for a telecommunications company and thanks to the service I’ve NOT received at Verizon I will now be giving all my cell phone business that person. Owning up to mistakes and having a commitment to improve is so much more attractive to me than denial is. I’m done with being treated as someone who is not worth the time of the company I am giving my business to.”



“Okay, so I went to my "favorite" Verizon store last week and MY KID talked me into buying the Droid. Fabulous. I get 50 bucks credit, a 100 dollar rebate, but still had to write a check for 347 for all the crap I needed including, but no limited to, the purple case. They told me they'd send it all to me Fed Ex cause they don't have anymore. Again, fabulous! So, then they said I need to call the salesperson in a few days to see when it's coming because I either have to be home to receive it or leave Fed Ex a note. I'm thinking, all that money I paid for still apparently nothing and they can't even call me!!! I still haven't gotten my actual salesperson on the phone so I spoke with the Mgr. who after telling that they won't ship before June 8th, finally looks up my account and then says it will be here by the 4th at the latest----maybe even sooner. Goodie!!! I bought a new phone because my 4-year-old one is crap! The legal car talking wire thing is broken, the car charger doesn't work and the battery runs down really fast. He didn't ask my name or anything until after I said I’d come in and get my money back so I can go to buy an Iphone. (I was bluffing). Seems you CAN'T get your money back anyway. I'm sure I'll get my phone eventually, but shouldn't I feel better about having written that big check on May 11th and coming home with absolutely nothing!!!

Customer service, what's that!”


It's this...





Give this Monday your best smile - and watch her smile right back. :)


Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," Saturdays 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at jonniewright@thebuyosphere.com.


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