- Neelys Landing man shot, killed by highway patrol trooper after traffic stop (05/01/16)43
- Cape student sues, accuses school officials of slamming her to ground multiple times (04/28/16)49
- Missouri House votes to allow concealed weapons without permits (04/28/16)8
- River Ridge Winery changes hands (05/02/16)
- Police report filed, but no charges in incident at Cape Central (04/29/16)40
- 2016 All-Missourian Boys Basketball (04/29/16)
- Statement: Man says copsí good work drove him to grow his own marijuana (05/01/16)1
- Bob Evans restaurant in Cape Girardeau among chain's 21 closings (04/26/16)9
- Senator introduces bill for I-57 that would connect Sikeston with Little Rock (04/28/16)4
- Hopper Road to close for months during construction of Veterans Drive (04/27/16)9
Mystery shoppers help companies evaluate service
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- You might find Tina Kashlak at a restaurant, secretly timing the number of minutes it takes the server to deliver her food. Or you might see her at an auto-supply store, making sure the parking lot is well-lighted at night.
Then again, she may show up in a clothing store, seemingly searching for just the right dress when her true mission is to assess the friendliness of the clerks.
Tina Kaslilak is a mystery shopper, one of thousands of service industry spies nationwide who are paid to detail their shopping experiences for corporate managers. Although these under-cover professionals may look like run-of-the-mill shoppers, their mission is to rate businesses on customer service, cleanliness, management and product quality.
"I feel a little bit like a private investigator," says Kashlak, who has been mystery shopping for about five years. "It's something I don't talk about with many people. You have to be discreet and maintain your anonymity."
Kashlak also has a full-time job in the retail industry. Like most of her secret colleagues, mystery shopping is only a part-time pursuit for her. Secret shoppers are independent contractors who receive assignments from one or more mystery-shopping companies. And those companies act as middlemen, securing and training competent shoppers to provide feedback to service providers.
Rodney Moll is president of TrendSource, a 13-year-old, San Diego-based mystery-shopping company that arranges some 100,000 shopping trips a year.
Moll, a founding member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, a trade group, says secret shopping has grown into a $400 million to $600 million industry. "Especially in times like these, when people have less discretionary money, companies realize they have to make every dollar count."