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