In my trademark cat-chasing-a-sunbeam manner, in looking for something completely different, I stumbled upon an article from late last year about a South Carolina man who, following a night out with his friends, decided to hit the neighborhood Waffle House for an early morning meal. It was around 3 o’clock in the morning. According to his story, he walked into the Waffle House and sat at the counter for about 10 minutes waiting for someone to take his order. When no one appeared, he did a bit of reconnoitering, and discovered the one-and-only employee sound asleep in the back room.
Now, this fellow had enjoyed a number of adult beverages, so he proceeded to do something he claims is quite uncharacteristic of him. He stepped behind the counter and prepared himself an entire meal. He ate the meal, cleaned up after himself, and headed home. The employee never budged. Later in the day, he returned to pay for the meal, at which time the manager apologized, thanked him profusely, and offered him a mystery shopper job. I’m guessing said employee was free to spend his remaining nights in his own bed, perhaps after spending the day looking for a new job.
While the story made me laugh, my real takeaway from his tale was that I want to be a mystery shopper. I would be a good mystery shopper. Well, except for the fact that I really don’t like shopping. But other than that, I am generally friendly, but could easily be crabby if that’s what the job entailed. Just ask Bill; he will concur that I do crabby quite well.
I don’t know if it’s still true, because I rarely shop at Safeway, being a faithful Kroger customer. But years ago, when my brother worked for that company, they used to have mystery shoppers visit stores regularly. Any time you would ask a Safeway employee something like where do you keep your Velveeta cheese, that employee was obligated to walk you directly to the Velveeta cheese, even if it was all the way across the store. While that is a very nice gesture, it seems somewhat inefficient. But even if you told them you didn’t need an escort, they walked with you because you could be a mystery shopper. And if you were – then he or she was BUSTED!
Only somewhat relatedly, I have a very good friend who – many years ago – was employed by the Creighton University Medical School as a mystery patient. When she would get to her job, the powers-that-be would give her a list of symptoms about which she should complain to the medical student. She was instructed to be a cooperative patient, a complainer, or maybe an obnoxious Chatty Cathy. She knew what her diagnosis SHOULD have been, and afterwards, would give feedback on how the medical student did and how successful he/she was at making the correct diagnosis. That might even be better than being a mystery shopper. While I don’t like being a patient any more than I like shopping, I certainly have plenty of experience.
By the way, the Waffle House story made me laugh, because it made me think about a story that my brother-in-law told about Waffle House. He and a number of his friends were out one night, and just like the story above, decided to venture into a Waffle House to eat an after-theater meal. They were all dressed nicely, and sat at the counter to eat. When the server brought their food, one of the men politely pointed out that he had requested no hash browns, but there were hash browns on his plate. Without skipping a beat, the server/cook took the plate from the man, scraped the hash browns into the garbage can, and handed him back the plate. “There,” he told the man. “No hash browns.”
But at least he was awake! And he should be grateful that the man wasn’t a mystery shopper.