Manic while Mystery Shopping

About four years ago I had a sponsor in Overeaters anonymous. She was a tough cookie. She was in her eighties and had survived two rounds of cancer. She was an accomplished and sought after mystery shopper. She did four jobs a week.

She taught me how to get involved. First of all, half of those offering assistance in finding jobs in the field of mystery shopping are fraudulent. They charge people for lists of mystery shopping companies. There are quite a few and some of them specialize in high end, shoplifting prevention and restaurant reviews to name a few. But this ‘charging’ for lists is bogus. Getting good jobs in mystery shopping is a different process. Here it is:

What a person needs to do is become silver certified by the MSPA, Mystery Shoppers Providers Association. Google that, pay them a one time fee of around sixty bucks to study their tutorial, take their test and get Silver Certified. Most mystery shopping firms, like ‘A closer Look,’ and Jancyn (sp?) require that certification before giving you anything.  You get the ‘silver,’ (there is a gold cert available but it’s inconvenient and requires travel. Then you start googling to find that list or request a list from MSPA.  My OA sponsor told me all that stuff. I still have my silver certificate on the wall. It has a number so that the mystery shopping outfits can verify that I am Silver Certified.

I got ‘in’ with a high end outfit who sent me to Burberry, Chanel Cosmetics, Dior cosmetic counter,  Aveda, Dior Couture, Ferragamo, Kate Spade, Coach Barney’s New York, Cole Haan, and other such stores.  I also ‘in’ with a few restaurant accounts. Each company  makes you study yet another tutorial on what that mystery shopping company wants from its’ employees. Then they have you on a list of available mystery shoppers. Sometimes they contact you for last minute stuff that you have to do and report on by the next day with an added financial incentive. A relationship with a mystery shopping company representative involves a lot of trading. It’s ok. If you do them favors, they will make sure that they save the more lucrative shops for you. It works out. But it requires constant computer access. Everything is done over the computer.

What you have to do for every different store job, is study and pass a test. These tests cover what the ‘brand,’ stands for and they type of displays, customer service, how long the line is, what questions they ask you, all sort of things that the parent company wants you to make sure that the employees are doing.  I get triggered in high end shopping environments. Since the jobs usually require you to purchase something and then return it, it can be a double trigger. One time I bought a pair of Ferragamo Shoes that I loved and had to return them. I have foot problems from excessive sports and I have to have really high quality shoes so that my feet don’t hurt. These shoes were 500.00 and I could not afford such a purchase. As I returned the shoes, I felt like a total fraud. I didn’t want to. But the job required that. For the next six months  I visited the outlet stores at Sawgrass Mills, searching for the same shoe on sale. But it was never available In my size. The amount of money they paid me to go there twice and write the report might have been forty dollars. It wasn’t worth the heartbreak. I’d have just as soon never known about this perfect black, stretchy shoe.

After a mystery shopping job, you have to fill out a very time consuming form and write mini essays on your experience with the retailer. Believe me, you have to do your homework and do quality work. If your memory is not so strong (as in my case due to psych meds) this can be challenging. And for a long one like a restaurant, they do not let you take notes because that would give you away as a corporate ‘spy.’

More on mystery shopping while manic tomorrow. There are some funny stories.

Brainwashing using trendy Buzzwords.

If I see the words “Mindful” “Balance” or “Recovery” again I am going to barf. They are just overused. We are being spoonfed the essential values and virtues of these words, “Mindfulness,” “Recovery,” and “Balance.” And when we swallow these buzzwords wholesale, do all of us really understand what they mean? Do they mean a different thing to each individual? And the arrogance, as if these are the only words to describe a conscious effort to live and heal constructively.

Mindful:  To me it sounds like a passive buzzing in the head while knitting or making jewelry. I much prefer the word “Vigilant.” Or “Watchful,” even “aware.” My life means the world to me and after all this time, I’m not going to have it yanked away by some destructive distraction, like body image preoccupation 24/7.

Recovery. From what? Cholera? I much prefer the term “Reclaim.” Because when we live in the solution we are reclaiming the life that my higher power, whom I call God, wanted me to have.

And “Balance.” How ‘catchall’ can you be? If I’m passionate about something, I’m “All In,” (if you want to see a really trending phrase) How about the words “Even,  “Equal?” “Proportionate?” “Varied?” “Integrated?”

I ran into the ‘balance’ business with a disingenuous eating disorder therapist who did not understand that certain psych meds slow people’s metabolism, drive their hunger, at least mine, and weight is hard to keep off. I was discharged for being ten pounds heavy. She said I was not making progress.  I went in there for a destructive case of exercise bulimia, which is not unlike cutting. THAT was the behavior we were supposedly treating, not whether or not I was carrying a few extra.

She did not understand that the meds made some sugary and starchy foods super triggering- kick starting endless food binges. I’m better off avoiding these foods completely.  She said that that attitude was not ‘balanced,’ and even eating disordered in and of itself. Seven years later I find myself with metabolic syndrome, half way down the road to the big ‘D.’ I take no solace in the fact that I’m right. But she was wrong and she was the ‘expert.’ Now she claims to be a “Celebrity Eating Disorder Therapist,” has straightened a beautiful head of hair, has lip implants and botox. Good for her. She now charges over 600.00 an hour. Her photos have a wind machine blowing her long straight hair. A Wind Machine? That is so 80’s. Poor girl. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.

So many bipolar people have an eating disorder (14% according to a recent study cited in Psych Central from the Cincinnatti College of Medicine) that it’s not even funny. So for an eating disorder therapist to have no clue re antipsychotic’s metabolic side effects was dismaying.

BUT ANYWAY, back to the BUZZWORDS. If you start hearing a word harped on all the time, that’s because it’s the lynchpin of someone’s platform. I have a platform. We all do. But what’s good for me is not necessarily good for you, or you, and that’s why the mass overuse of these platitudes representing key values for our lives bug me.

I’m into individualized therapy. I revel in the idea that we can use new ideas (that we think of ourselves) to solve old problems.   Clichés are hollow.

Allow yourself some passion and to value one thing over another. If one thing matters more to you than anything else, allow it to weight more.  it might be because it’s a good thing that makes you happy!

Budget Cuts for Arts focused “Drop In” centers for mental health consumers in Fl

A huge amount of County money was cut from the Arts-focused “9MusesArtsReach” up here. When asked why the funds were cut, the county said they were looking for more transparency and weren’t sure what they are paying for. A judge on the bench here locally snapped back, “Well, when you see our Emergency rooms and jails overflowing with mentally ill people, you’ll know what YOU WERE paying for, and I guarantee you, this will be a whole lot more expensive, not to mention putting the community at risk, both the mentally unwell and the rest of them.  This probably wont affect Rebel’s Drop in as they are an arm of a local hospital that is the fifth largest provider of hospital care in the country. They have money. 9Muses will really be hurt. And I like it there. Their depression support group is truly transformative and supportive. What they do not support is the depression and negative self talk or thoughts themselves. “Hold onto the Good!” is their motto and they are kinda ‘tough love.’ They won’t let you sit in your garbage.