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Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Why would anyone who hates shopping become a secret shopper? For author Kelly McClymer it’s all in the name of research for a mystery series about a secret shopper who stumbles over dead bodies while sleuthing out bargains. Learn more about Kelly and her books at her website. 

Is that a Secret Shopper in Line for Coffee Ahead of You?

When I got the idea for a set of mysteries around a mystery shopper mom (the Secret Shopper Mom Mystery series that begins with Shop and Let Die), I knew I needed to do research because…well, because I hate to shop.

That probably sounds heretical to true shoppers, I know. But my least favorite time of year was back-to-school shopping. My mom was, and still is, a bargain-hunting maniac. I was much too young to appreciate how much she saved by marching her four daughters around every sale within a 20-mile radius.

So, knowing I needed to do a *lot* of research, I went the computer and typed in “mystery shopping.” I signed up for a few companies, and started getting job offers. And -surprise, surprise, I found I liked this kind of shopping. Well, I liked that:

--Your mystery shop visit is meant to be only long enough to let you gather your information.
--You have a check sheet of items to make notes on, so you’re always focused.
--You have a script, so you always know what to say to the salesperson who asks you if she can help. (My non-mystery-shopper response had always been, “I’m just looking” even if I am in the store to buy something specific.)
 --I usually bought something I wanted, and then got a small shopper fee on top, so it was like getting a discount for what I had to do anyway.

Because I was in exactly the same situation as my main character Molly Harbison (a mom of young children trying to make a little extra household money around school events, snow days, and sick days), I only took small jobs. Grocery stores. Coffee shops. Fast food. Banks. Jewelry stores. Malls. Restaurants.

But I had joined shopper forums to learn more about the business, and I read enviously of people who shopped cruises, airlines, and fancy hotels.

I never got to do the highend shops. But Molly, my character, will. If she can keep her husband’s disapproval and her tendency to stumble over crimes while mystery shopping, at bay.

I still am not fond of shopping, although, I do enjoy going to Camden, Maine and window shopping during the holidays...see picture. One thing that has changed for me is that I understand all the hoops and hurdles that employees must leap over and through. I am much more patient and understanding when someone tries to upset me (They have to! it’s in their script!) 

However, I also now know when they don’t do something they are supposed to (meet your eyes when you get in line; let you know they see you and will wait on you soon.)

It isn’t my job to make note of their lapses, but I sometimes check out the other people in line with me and wonder if any of them are making notes for their mystery shop report.

I would tell you how to tell a mystery shopper from a regular shopper…but that would break the mystery shopper code!

Have you ever tried mystery shopping?

Shop and Let Die
Molly Harbison hates being asked “What do you do?” more than cleaning the ring around the bathtub or digging Cheerios and raisins out of the car’s back seat. She’s tried on every possibility from a flip Domestic Goddess to a simple declarative Mom. She jumps at the chance to make some extra money as a secret shopper. But when she’s assigned to shop an online dating site…things get tricky. For one, she realizes her husband doesn’t exactly meet her checklist of “must haves” for the perfect man, not at all like her dating site Mr. Perfect. For another, the FBI wants her to actually keep her date with Mr. Perfect, who just may be the perfect serial killer.

Book Links


Kelly McClymer said...

Oops! I mis-typed! I'm patient when people try to *upsell* me, not *upset* me. Most sales people do not try to upset me :-). Autocorrect is probably to blame, as it often corrects me here. At least it didn't autocorrect Molly's name (always wants to change the b in Harbison to a d!).

M. Johnston said...

What an interesting concept...and there are a lot of women who don't like to shop, me included. My youngest son is THE shopper. Good luck with the series. I hope you have a shoppers lined up out the door to buy a copy.

KB Inglee said...

I did a couple of times when one of the civil rights organizations was comparing inner city stories with suburban stores for price and quality. I'm afraid I wasn't very subtle about it. I was amazed how the prices went up and the quality went down when you crossed a certain line.

Kelly McClymer said...

Solidarity, M. Johnston. My husband is THE shopper in the family. He can get the best deals. I'm happy to let him do so :-)

Wow KB Inglee. What you did sounds more like activism than mystery shopping, though (a mystery shopper is hired by the company to make sure their own rules are being followed). I wouldn't be subtle, either, if I was in activist mode!

Anne Louise Bannon said...

I've done mystery shopping. It's not a bad way to pick up some pin money, but after a while, the amount of work for the minimal pay just got to me. I used to love shopping, but being broke made it not much fun. I've also gotten a lot less materialistic over the years, at least regarding clothes. If I'm buying something, it's usually because I need it. And mystery shoppers aren't supposed to be taking notes in line. ;-).

Angela Adams said...

Great career choice for your character!

Morgan Mandel said...

Great idea for a book series!