I wear my pajamas to work.

I don’t have to leave my house.

I love my job.

You could too.

Have you ever considered working from home?  Do you need extra income that you can earn but still be home for your kids?  Are you good at spelling, grammar and punctuation?  If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you should consider becoming an editor for A Closer Look!

A Closer Look, an awesome mystery shopping company, is currently hiring from-home editors.  You could work for us, in your pajamas.

If you are not familiar with mystery shopping, you can read more about it HERE.  To learn how to be a mystery shopper, go HERE. Although there are many scams involving mystery shopping, mystery shopping in itself is a legitimate and large industry.  A Closer Look is one of the premier companies in that industry.

Editor Position:  The editor role for ACL is vital in that it is the final check of the information submitted by the shopper before reports are sent on to our clients.  This position would be an 'at-home' position (not at the ACL offices) with the editing of shops possibly being done during non-traditional hours

Requirements for becoming an editor:

1.  You must have on-line capability AND have at least a DSL or Broadband connection to the Internet.  Connections that are less than DSL or Broadband quality are too slow for this position.  As compensation is based on the number of shops edited online, a slow connection is not desirable.

2.  The applicant for this position must possess great attention to detail, the ability to read and follow precise directions, the ability to identify and correct inconsistencies in information, the ability to proactively obtain information from shoppers by phone daily, and a strong command of the English language, including spelling, grammar, and the ability to alter sentence structure.

3.  You must have a minimum availability of 4 to 5 consecutive hours a day (and more hours as needed) to commit to editing.  We have seven day editing week, with a 4 on/2 off schedule for editing that rotates throughout the year. 

This is a great position for someone who is looking for a work from home opportunity. We offer preferred shopping status to all of our editors.

The editing workload cannot be predicted, as it is based on when shoppers complete their shops and submit their reports.  As such, we are seeking editors who are flexible and have the availability to work as many hours as are needed on any given day.  Generally, editors average around $10/hour, but as this is a production system, many editors make more or less than this amount/hour. 

Applicants should first register as a mystery shopper at www.a-closer-look.com and complete 3 mystery shopping assignments.  If you are accepted as a shopper and cannot find 3 shops in your area, please contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com .  Once you have completed 3 shops, please also contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com for information on how to apply for an editing position.     -Al

I work from home, and I love my job.  I wear my slippers, and I sit on my couch while I work.  I'm an editor.  You can read about my job HERE.  It's a great job, but it's not for everyone.

Fortunately, there is another position offered by A Closer Look that is a better fit for some.  If grammar isn't your thing, maybe organization is.  

A Closer Look, an awesome mystery shopping company, is currently hiring from-home schedulers.  You could work for us, in your pajamas.

If you are not familiar with mystery shopping, you can read more about it HERE.  Although there are many scams involving mystery shopping, mystery shopping in itself is a legitimate and large industry.  A Closer Look is one of the premier companies in that industry.

A scheduler for our company organizes the calendar of mystery shopping assignments and gets shoppers to complete those assignments.  This isn't the right job for me, but it might be for you.

I asked a scheduler what her favorite part of the job was, and she said she loved the flexibility of being able to set her own hours.  She said the scheduling job was fun because she got to meet new people and she got to work with a great group of schedulers and editors.  (I'm in the editing group, and I can say, we are all pretty terrific!) ;0)   The scheduler said applicants needed to be aware of the fact that they would have to be able to commit time to getting the assignments scheduled.  However, she said there was a great sense of accomplishment when all her shops were scheduled.

Here is more information about the scheduling position:
The scheduler role for ACL is vital.  This position would be an 'at-home' position (not at the ACL offices) with the scheduling of shops possibly being done during non-traditional hours. 


1.  You must have on-line capability AND have at least a DSL or Broadband connection to the Internet.  Connections that are less than DSL or Broadband quality are too slow for this position.  As compensation is based on the number of scheduled shops that are completed, a slow connection is not desirable.

2.  The applicant for this position must be an outgoing, people person who possess great attention to detail, the ability to read and follow precise directions, excellent phone skills, the ability to proactively contact shoppers or potential shoppers by phone daily, creative writing skills and a good working knowledge of Excel, texting, Google Voice, Outlook, the ACL website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other shopper recruiter resources.  The candidate must be someone who likes to “think outside the box” in order to meet goals and deadlines.

3.  You must have a minimum of 4 to 5 consecutive hours per day (and more hours as needed) to commit to scheduling.  We schedule 7 days/week.

This is a great position for someone who is looking a work from home opportunity. We also offer preferred shopping status to all of our schedulers.  We are seeking applicants who are comfortable calling shoppers to promote our open assignments.  The pay schedule is per completed shop, and it might average somewhere around $10/hour as an estimate.  Some schedulers may make more than this and some may make less.

Applicants should first register as a mystery shopper at www.a-closer-look.com and complete 3 mystery shopping assignments.  If you are accepted as a shopper and cannot find 3 shops in your area, please contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com .  Once you have completed 3 shops, please also contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com for information on how to apply for a scheduling position.     -Al

I've been working for Ellis Property Management (EPMS) for a while now.  I like them, and I have found that they are a great company to work for.

If you've only done restaurants and retail mystery shops, working for Ellis may be a nice change for you.  They focus on apartment communities.  When working for them, you will go into an apartment leasing office and act like someone who is looking for a new apartment.   You will let the agent take you on a tour, and you will evaluate the agent's sales techniques.

I enjoy doing these assignments.  It's fun to go see what apartment complexes have to offer.  Sometimes, I make up a whole different life for myself just to make it interesting.  (I'm a single career woman with no kids....I can fantasize, right?)  The company pays well, and they pay quickly.  I've always found Ellis to be an easy company to work for, and they have great communication if you ever have questions or problems.

One great thing about shopping for Ellis is that there is no out-of-pocket expense.  If you're broke (like I normally am), this is a great way to make some money without having to use any of your own!

To sign up with Ellis Property Management, go HERE.  Give Ellis a try - you'll like them!           

I have been shopping for Bare International for a few years.  They usually have a lot of assignments available throughout the country.

I have found Bare to be pleasant to work for.  They have a self-assign job board which makes getting assignments easy.   The editors give clear feedback which helps shoppers know how to improve their shops.  They grade their shoppers on a 1 to 10 scale.

Bare does fine dining, hotels, casual dining, retail, shipping and more.  They have a wide variety of assignments.  Any time I have contacted them with questions, they responded quickly.  I have not had a bad experience with Bare, and they pay fairly quickly.

To sign up with Bare International, click HERE.

Another great company to work for is Shoppers' Critique.  They are based near Orlando, FL.  

I have worked for SC for many, many years.  I think they were one of the first companies I started shopping for, back in the day.  They have always been pleasant and friendly.  Their forms are easy to navigate, and their expectations of shoppers are reasonable and fair.   I have never had a problem getting paid by them, and they pay quickly.  They provide feedback to their shoppers on their website through a star system (5 stars means you did everything correctly).  

Shoppers' Critique shops mainly retail stores near me, but nationwide, they do automotive, retail, fine dining, casual dining, apartments, attractions, hotels, casinos, banks and libraries.  They offer video shops and lots of phone shops.  There are  many opportunities to work for this great company.  They have a job board on their website.  Once you are registered to shop for them, you can visit their job board and self-assign some shops and request others.  The scheduling system is easy to navigate.

To sign up as a  shopper with Shoppers' Critique, visit HERE.

Shoppers' Critique is also currently hiring editors, and I have heard they are great to work for.  To be eligible, you must live in Florida and be available a minimum of 20 hours a week.  To apply, go HERE.

They are also hiring schedulers.  To qualify, you must be available to work in their Longwood, FL office a minimum of 30 hours a week.  To apply, go HERE.

If you aren't registered as a shopper for Shoppers' Critique, you are missing out!  I love working for this friendly company who treats their shoppers well.  If you apply with them, be sure to tell them notyouraverageal sent you!

Service With Style is a great company to shop for.  I guess they are relatively small compared to some others, but that smaller size actually works to their benefit.  (Mystery shopping is only one part of their business, so they actually are not all that small.)  If you work for Service with Style, you will find very quickly that they are friendly and they get to know you.  They refer to their shoppers by first name and know many of them well.  This gives the shopping experience with them a very homey feeling, and it’s nice to be known when you call.

If you call the office, you are likely to reach Rhonda, Amy, Ellen or Taryn.  All four ladies are super-nice and will help you in any way they can.  You are not just a number when you work for this company.  It’s a refreshing change from some other companies that are not personalized.

Service With Style was started in 1998.  They are based in Brandon, Florida, and many of their shops are in the greater Tampa Bay area.  They also have shops throughout Florida and some in various parts of the country.  They offer casual dining, fine dining, retail, hotels and resorts. 

To sign up as a shopper with Service With Style, go to www.servicewithstyle.com.  Click on, “Become a shopper” and apply.  You can tell them you heard about them from notyouraverageal.com.  I won’t get anything for it, but maybe I’ll win some brownie points!  

You will need to fill out a shopper agreement with this company.  It’s basically a little “test” that you take after you’ve read their information.  Once you sign up, Amy will send you information about this agreement.  If there are shops in your area, you should hear from Amy pretty quickly after you apply.  If there aren’t, she may just save your name until they have work for you.

Shoppers at Service With Style are expected to submit quality reports with good comments.  Be prepared to use full sentences and punctuation when writing for them.  As you start out, you will see the easier shops available on their job board.  As you gain experience with them, you should start to see the nicer assignments (assuming you do a good job on your reports).  You will not be eligible for resorts and hotels until you have completed several quality reports for them.  If you ever wonder if your reports are good quality, it is okay to ask.  The ladies in the office can give you feedback on improvements you can make on your reports.  If you want feedback from the editors, you can request that too by asking Amy or Rhonda.  They can pass a message on to the editors that you would like constructive criticism.

One down side to this company is the fact that they do not pay quickly.  Their shopper payments average about 60 days.  For instance, if you did a shop in December for them, you could expect to be paid around February 15.  A lot of companies work this way, but I thought I would warn you.  Sometimes, especially when paying for fine dining, hotels and resorts, it is hard to wait that long for reimbursement.  The good news, though, is that they are reliable about payments.  You don’t have to wonder if they will try to not pay you, because they are honest and trustworthy.  It might take a while, but you will get your money.

I hope you will consider signing up with Service With Style.  I only found out about them about a year and a half ago.  I enjoy working for them, and I think you will too.  -Al

My favorite mystery shopping company, hands down, without a doubt, is A Closer Look.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t she edit for them?”  (See…I can read minds!)  Yes, I do.  The fact that this company pays me so I can have electricity in my home doesn’t hurt, but that’s not the only reason they are my favorite.  

I have been a mystery shopper for A Closer Look for about 14 years.  I have always loved working for them, and I have never had a problem being paid (even before I became an editor for them almost 3 years ago).  They are a high-class company with high-class standards.

The good thing about ACL is that they treat everyone with respect.  They bend over backwards to be fair to their shoppers and, in my case, their independent contractors.  It is rare for them to deny payment to any shopper who has made an honest effort to complete their assignment.  I’ve even occasionally seen them pay shoppers who really did not deserve to be paid.  However, that’s how ACL works.  They are genuinely nice, and they genuinely want to do the right thing even if it means extra expense for them sometimes.

This company shops many types of places.  They do fast food, casual dining, fine dining and hotels.  They are also branching into retail stores and professional services.  The list just goes on and on.  ACL is so large that they have thousands of assignments available every month.  There have many opportunities throughout the country and even in Canada.

To register with A Closer Look, click here  and sign up!  

There are a few things you should know about ACL before you sign up:

1. Pop quiz!  There is a test that shoppers have to take to work for this company.  When you take it, give your best effort as it may affect what types of assignments you will be allowed to complete when you start.  Don’t worry.  There’s no math involved.

2. A Closer Look expects quality reports.  They want reports written in complete sentences and using good grammar.  They want all the facts of the report to match and make sense.  (This is actually true of every company in the industry.)

3. They have a quarterly drawing for a cash prize if you refer a friend.  After you start with them, refer your friends.  If they sign up, you and your friend will be entered in a quarterly drawing.  If you win, you both get $50 cash!  I have not included a link to enter me in the drawing if you sign up.  Just getting to work for them is reward enough for me!

4. When you start working for them, you can expect to get feedback from the editors.  This is not meant to be a criticism but a chance to help you improve.  ACL is committed to helping shoppers be the best they can be.  Just know that we (the editors) are only trying to help you get better assignments by improving your reports.  The feedback will always be phrased positively.  We won’t slap your hand with a ruler or tell you you’re fired.  I suggest that you take the tips and put them to use, so your reports can be even better!  The editors will love you, and you will get even more opportunities for awesome assignments.

So, that’s the low-down on this great company.  I really could keep writing.  I could pledge my undying love to them.  I could beg you to join the team.   I think you get the point.  If you are thinking about being a mystery shopper and you skip the opportunity to work for A Closer Look, you are missing out!  -Al
PictureThe real hotel was too scary to show.
Oh, number one.  El numero uno.  The single worst mystery shopping experience of my life….  Wow.  Was it bad.

When the Beetle was about 5 and the Goose was about 1, we decided to take a trip to Atlanta with some friends.  We were going to Six Flags over Georgia to ride the Superman roller coaster.  I, being the thrifty wife that I was, decided to get a hotel shop.  We offered that our friends could stay in the room with us, but once they saw how inexpensive the hotel room was, they said they would just book a room at the same place.  This was my first experience with staying in Atlanta, and I learned quickly that there are many different parts of Atlanta.  Some were much more desirable than others, and you guessed it, our hotel was not in the more desirable area.

The fact that the hotel rented rooms by the week should have been clue #1.  Apparently, I was young and stupid.  So, off we went, to explore Atlanta and fly like Superman.

I must provide a little side note here, because though this has nothing to do with the mystery shop, it’s funny enough to tell you.  We all piled in the mini-van and headed north on I-75.  We made it all the way to Valdosta without stopping once.  I was so impressed that the kids had gone that long without a potty or food break.  We stopped at a shopping center, and I told the Beetle to get his shoes on.  He said, “Where are they?”  I said, “Where did you put them?”  He answered that he had not put them anywhere.  We had driven all the way to Georgia without shoes for my child.  This was one of many reasons I was nominated “mother of the year” that year.  Our friends, the childless couple, found this to be hilarious, and they teased us about it for a long time.  I told them just to wait until they had kids, and they would understand.  I mean, really, I was expected to keep two small children alive day to day AND remember to pack shoes?  It was more than one person could handle.  

Okay, so back to the nightmare shopping experience.  We arrived at the hotel after crossing over the railroad tracks.  We were officially on the wrong side of the tracks.  As we pulled into the parking lot, the area was well lit.  Of course, the lighting was blinking, because the parking lot was well lit with police lights.  The cops had someone laid out on the hood of his car, and he was in hand-cuffs.  We’ll chalk this up as clue #2.  Clue #3 was the uniformed officer standing at the door, checking IDs to allow people into the building.  Still, being the dedicated mystery shopper that I was, we headed inside.  In hindsight, for the safety and good of my barefooted children, we should have run back to the mini-van.

We got checked in and headed upstairs.  Judging by the blood stain on the carpet in the elevator, I was pretty sure we weren’t staying.  Plus, many of the “guests” of this “hotel” seemed to have many personal belongings with them on “vacation.”  There were plastic lounge chairs and plants in front of several doors, and many of the curtains in the windows did not match each other.  It looked more like a half-way house than a hotel.

We got to the room and began to inspect.  I had to take pictures, so I got to work.  I instructed Mr. Everything to hold both of my children off the floor and not let them touch anything. 

The room was disgusting.  There was hair on the sheets.  The curtains were stained.  The carpet was ripped.  We could hear yelling next door.  

Picture the worst hotel from an episode of Law & Order, and you’ll have a good mental image of what we were dealing with here.  My Mama Bear instinct was kicking in quickly.  The hair on the back of my neck was standing up, and I needed my babies to be out of there.  I asked Mr. Everything to take them back to the mini-van.  He pointed out that they would not be much safer in the car in the scary parking lot, since the cops had left by this point.  I agreed and reminded him again not to let them touch anything.  Then, I headed to the bathroom.

I had to take photos of the tub, the sink and the toilet.  Meanwhile, my friend opened the dresser drawer in the bedroom.  “Uh, Al, you might want to come take a look,” he said as calmly as he could manage.  (And, yes, he actually called me Alison, since no one calls me Al in my real life.)  I walked over and looked in the drawer.  There was a broken piece of mirror with a white powdery substance on it.  Now, it might have just been that someone had a powdered donut while admiring herself in the mirror, but I doubt it.  My protective instincts kicked in, and the rest is a blur.

The next thing I remember is being in the mini-van, heading toward a decent hotel in a decent part of town.  We got a good night’s sleep and had to return to the scene of the crime (literally) the next morning.  I had to check out of the hotel so I could complete the assignment.  I should have gotten a bonus or at least an “Attagirl” for completing that report, but at least I did not get shot or mugged or worse.

The worst part is that our friends actually had to pay for their room.  I felt really bad about that, but they said they didn’t mind.  They said $39 plus tax was a small price to pay not to have to actually stay there.

After that, we traveled with our friends a few more times through the years.  Each time we did, I would offer to get a hotel shop, and they always answered with a very quick, “No!”  Some people just didn’t appreciate my generosity!  -Al

A few years ago, I got the great idea to take a mystery shopping trip to Miami.  I had never been to Miami before, except to board a cruise ship.  I wanted to see it, and there were plenty of shopping assignments there.  So, for our anniversary, Mr. Everything and I loaded up the Toyota and headed south.

Little did I know that the first assignment I had to complete was the worst one of all.  I was to go to a hotel and use valet parking.  If asked, I was to tell the valet attendant that I was checking in.  Then, I was to wait for 20 minutes and return to get my car.  At that point, I would act like I was leaving, so I could fill out the first part of my report.  I would then go back to the valet area and tell the attendant that I was a mystery shopper.  The last part was the completion of an audit form, where I would evaluate everything from their time clock to their fire extinguisher.  It sounded simple enough, so, with forms in hand, I was ready to go.

We got to South Beach around 4:00 PM.  The traffic was unreal.  The people were unreal…literally.  Mr. E said he had never seen so much plastic surgery in his life.  It was amazing.  The streets, cars and people were just like I had seen on TV.  I always thought the shows about South Beach were an exaggeration.  I was wrong. 

We drove past the hotel 4 times before we finally found it.  The street was like a parking lot, so driving past the building 4 times took almost an hour.  The hotel was so trendy that, apparently, they did not need signage.  Those who were cool enough would know where they were.  Finally, we put on our cool glasses and located the hotel.  We pulled up and stopped the Toyota between a Maserati and a Lamborghini.  I begged Mr. E not to turn off the car, but he turned it off out of sheer habit.  

You see, our Toyota had the nickname, “Old Smokey.”  It looked like a nice enough car, but when we turned it on, smoke would billow from the tailpipe.  It would smoke to the point that people would look to see what was on fire.  It did not always do this, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would smoke at a South Beach hotel.  That’s how our luck worked, and I was right.  When the valet attendant started it, smoke poured out of that sucker like I had never seen it before.  I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.  Unfortunately, there was nothing natural, like rocks, to be found in all of South Beach.

Before the smoking began, I had to interact with the valet attendant.  That was fun.  I found it unfortunate that I had not continued my Spanish classes in high school.  They would have come in handy.  The attendant did not speak much English, and I did not speak much Spanish.  He knew enough to ask me if we were checking in.  I said yes, and he asked for my name so he could find it on his registration list.  Uh-oh.  That was not in the guidelines of the assignment, and I knew I was in trouble.  I gave him my name, and he said it was not on the list.  I told him I did not have a reservation but was going to check in.  He told me he thought they were booked.  Double uh-oh.  The point of the assignment was to see if the attendant would park my car properly and to time how long it took to get my car back.  If he did not park the car, I could not complete a major part of the form.  I asked him to park my car, and he said no.  He said he would wait until I saw if I could check in.  He said to bring back the room key and he would park my car.  I acted defensive, trying to throw him off guard.  I insisted that he park my car, and he said no.  He said he would accompany me to the front desk to make sure I checked in.  This guy was starting to get on my nerves.

It was at this point that another attendant started my car to pull it forward and out of the way.  The smoke was unbelievable.  I wanted to cry.

The attendant walked me to the front desk and waited in line with me.  I told him I could handle it, and he said he would wait.  If persistence earned a bonus, this man was going to be rich.  In my head, I was screaming because I did not happen to have room on my credit card to book a room at this hotel.  The overnight parking alone cost $85, so I had no idea how much a room would be.  Besides, I did not know whether I could get the charge reversed.  I couldn’t think of what to do.

It was my turn in line, and the employee said she could help me.  The attendant spoke in Spanish to her and explained, I hoped, that I wanted to check in.  She checked and confirmed that there was no room.  The attendant said he would accompany me to my car.  I thought I was going to faint.  I told him that I needed to use the restroom and that I would make a few calls to see if I could get a room somewhere else.  I went to the restroom and called my scheduler.  It was a Friday evening, and she was off duty.  There was no answer, and I was up a creek without a paddle.

Finally, I went back to my car.  It had never been parked, so I just had to mark those questions as “N/A.”  I told the attendant why I was there and began to conduct my audit.  He was friendlier to me after he found out that I was not just trying to get free parking.  He and I struggled through the report together.  He did not understand many of the questions I asked him, so I had to just wing it on a few answers.

Next, I got to visit a second South Beach hotel to complete the same assignment.  Again, my car smoked like a chimney.  Again, I wanted to die.  I had prayed for two things.  First, I prayed that I would get someone who spoke English, and second, I prayed that they would not have a registration list.  The first prayer was somewhat answered, since the attendant knew about 5 words of English.  I should have been more specific.  The second prayer was answered, and there was no list.  Halleluiah!

When we got inside the hotel, it was unreal.  The entire lobby was white on white on white: white walls, white floors, white cushions on the floors with sheer white drapery hanging.  It was the strangest lobby I had ever seen.  I could not even figure out where the registration desk was.  Luckily, I did not need it since I had no intention of checking in.  

Mr. E asked where I wanted to go to wait for 20 minutes.  “Find the nearest dark corner,” I said.  Now, I had thought ahead and planned what I was going to wear for the visits.  I knew I had to look trendy and in style.  What I didn’t know was that there was absolutely nothing in my closet that would have made me fit in at a South Beach hotel.  I have never felt so out of place in all my life!

We found a bench in a corner near the restroom, and we just watched people heading out to the pool.  The show was worth the admission price.  Those people were fascinating.  The brand names and jewerly and expensive handbags were amazing.  The plastic boobs were intriguing (more-so to Mr. Everything than to me).

The audit portion of this visit did not go much better than the first.  It was difficult asking questions of a person who did not speak my language.  That was what prompted me to post the Facebook status update, “Will the last American out of Miami please bring the flag?”  

I definitely got to see the real Miami on that trip.  It was my first, and hopefully only, trip to that area.  Now, when I see the parking assignments for these locations listed on the job board and the schedulers are offering a bonus, I just chuckle.  I know why.  There wouldn’t be enough money offered to get me to return to these hotels. -Al

My third most memorable mystery shopping experience happened before my kids were born.  My assignment, since I chose to accept it, was to go to a shoe store at the mall.  I was to buy a pair of shoes, wait an hour and a half, and return the shoes.  To this day, I question the wisdom of having shoppers do this.  Who, in the real world, returns anything 1 ½ hours after they’ve bought it?  I mean, I guess it happens, but not often.  Typically, the things I would return that quickly would be at Wal-mart or the grocery story when I picked up the wrong box of cake mix.

My mother went with me for this shopping assignment.  We were going to be at the mall anyway, so I thought I would fit in a little money making.  Buy some shoes and return them.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  This led to probably THE most traumatic shopping experience of my career.

I went into the store and looked around.  I pretended to care whether or not the shoes fit and if they looked good.  I really did not care since I was returning them anyway.  My mother gave the appropriate responses as I tried on shoes.  Finally, after my required 15 minutes in the store, I picked a pair and bought them.  The employee who helped me was nice enough.  He thanked me and wished me a good weekend.  “You’ll see me long before the weekend,” I wanted to say, but resisted.

For this particular company, the return had to be done in 1 ½ to 2 hours, no more, no less.  Mama and I shopped and went to get our Chick-fil-A sweet tea, a requirement when visiting the mall.  I kept a close eye on the time, and when it was time, we headed back to the shoe store.

I walked in, and the employee saw me.  Now, I’m no reader of body language, but his immediate crossing of his arms was a sure sign to me.  The look on his face also said it all.  My cover as a mystery shopper was blown, and I knew it.  I took a deep breath, put a smile on my face and walked up to the register.  When I got there, the employee just looked, scratch that, he glared, at me.  Finally, I spoke and said, “Hi.  I need to return these please.”  “Uh-huh,” was his answer.  Then, I gave him some story about finding them somewhere else for cheaper.  “Why don’t you have another box of shoes then?” he replied.  I told him I had to return these first because I did not have the money to buy them until I did.  That sounded good, right?

The employee just stood there and stared at me.  I kept a smile on my face, but I think I was starting to sweat.  Finally, I said, “So, can I please return these before the other store sells out?”  Actress of the year; that was me!  Then, the employee said something that, to this day, still shocks me.  He said, “I know you’re a mystery shopper.  You know, I will get a bonus if you write a good report about me.”  This shocked me because, if a bonus was on the line, wouldn’t you think he would have been sugary sweet to me?  I badly wanted to tell him that the nasty attitude was not winning him any points.  

Of course, I could not admit that I was the mystery shopper, so I feigned ignorance.  “What is a mystery shopper?” I said, innocently.  He said, “Oh, you know what it is.  It is someone who is paid to spy on employees.”  “Really?” I said.  “That sounds like a cool job!  I wonder how I get started with that!”  He rolled his eyes.

So, there we stood, at the register and at a stalemate.  Finally, I said, calmly, again, “So, can I return the shoes?”  “I guess,” the employee said, with a snarl.  Again he told me that he would get a bonus if I wrote a good report.  Really, dude?  Was this the best way to get a bonus?  He began to ring up the return, and he pounded the keys so hard I thought he was going to break the register.  The cash register took an excruciating amount of time to process.  I stood there, looking around.  He stood there, glaring at me.  At this point, the employee announced to the other employees and all the customers in the store, “She’s a mystery shopper.”  “No, I’m not,” I said, semi-convincingly.  Then I said, “But I am going to have to check into that.  It sounds like a neat job.”  A nearby customer said, “What’s a mystery shopper?”  I said, “He told me it’s someone who gets paid to spy on employees.  I wonder how you get that gig!”  The customer agreed that she would like that job.  Before I knew it, several customers were in a discussion about what a cool job that would be.  The look on the employee’s face was priceless.

By this point, the return transaction was finished, thank goodness.  The employee took the return receipt and stapled it to my original receipt.  He handed them both to me, and with as much warmth as he could muster, he said, “Thank you.  Have a nice weekend.”  He said this so he would get a ‘yes’ answer for, “Did the employee thank you warmly?”  

As I took the receipt from him, I paused while holding it.  I looked him in the eye and said, “Well, I still don’t know why you think I am a mystery shopper, but if I had been, you just royally screwed up.  If I were writing a report about you, I would blast you to the point that you would never work here again.  You have a lovely day!”  Then, I turned and walked out.

Needless to say, I wrote a long, detailed report about the treatment I received.  I don’t know whether the employee lost his job or not, because, to this day, I have never stepped foot in that store again. -Al