Mystery Shopping Story

Confessions of a Mystery Shopper

I was once a high-valued corporate spy, investigating customer service everywhere I went by working as a mystery shopper. After a year of luxury brand espionage, I went inactive.

Why would I forgo hitting posh hair salons on the house, free smells, scrubs, and soaps while receiving hand massages? Wouldn’t I miss playing ‘let’s pretend I’m rich and famous’ while being measured for Haute Couture I’d never pick up?

After 22 years of living and working full-time with Bipolar I, I fell into a depression so deep I had to quit a stimulating, high paying job. I applied for disability insurance and was immediately approved. So I’m that sick. Eventually I felt better.

My best friend was a Mystery Shopper.  She took me to lunch at incredible restaurants while chattering about overdue reports for ‘shops’ she’d already done.

She said she’d show me the ropes; warning me about companies selling lists of companies. She said they were scams.

I signed up through the Mystery Shopper Providers of America (MSPA). The MSPA represents both shoppers and hundreds of mystery shopping companies. There are ethical standards both are expected to uphold. There is work outside this network but I was warned it was unreliable. Things like not getting paid.

I registered with five companies my friend said she enjoyed working with. All of them were upscale. Two of them represented restaurants only. I filled out endless personal profile forms. It was interesting to study each brand’s corporate culture and customer service requirements. It was thrilling to spy on their employees and inform on them. I became hypomanic.

There were drive-thru banks, movie theatres, and car dealerships. The shops that paid the most were boring economy hotels that required a weekend stay and a 100-question report due the next Monday. I was so elevated, I just couldn’t stay in one place that long.

My grandiosity got over on me at the ‘just looking’ drop ins. By then, I was beginning to hear things. The handbags all screamed “Take Me Home!”

Once I had to purchase and return shoes on a credit card. I was ashamed. How could I be such a horrible, lowly creature that I couldn’t afford a pair of flats?

What really cost me was equating money with value. If I didn’t have enough money to keep something I wanted, I wasn’t anyone. What a mindwarp.

My last run involved six desirable shops at high-end cosmetics counters. My payment was one hundred dollars per, to be used for purchases I could keep. I was offered a complimentary makeover. While she was touching my face, the saleswoman kept intoning, “You should buy this, your face needs more moisture,” etc.

I dropped over 700.00. Even though I had been compensated 600.00 in cosmetics, I lost 100.00. And that’s not including gas and online time spent on reports for these projects.

This also happened in my restaurant jobs. We were supposed to bring a friend, but they didn’t give you enough for two. Not wanting to seem stingy, I always overspent.

Eventually, I realized I was spinning my wheels, and had racked up five thousand dollars in credit card debt. I went online and deactivated all of my profiles. I made a significant shift.

I see the importance of giving back to the world, leaving something good in my trail. Even though I’m on disability, I want to be a creator, rather than someone who has to buy things all the time in order to feel whole.

I began to write, study nutrition, exercise, make jewelry, and try new recipes from the newspaper to improve my meal planning and cooking. I feel better about myself.

As a person with bipolar disorder with a tendency towards mania and overspending, I don’t need additional triggers. I have friends with bipolar disorder who hit every sale, and have finally stopped urging me to take them there.

About the only time I go to a shopping center is during the holidays or to see some art film that’s not playing elsewhere. I go to the grocery store nearly every day. That’s enough time consumerism for me.

Read the rest of Allison’s posts for IBPF here. Allison has also written for NAMI Not Alone and has personal blogs on WordPress and Tumblr.You can find her on Facebook where she has a closed group to share coping strategies for living with bipolar disorder. 

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I promised You Documentaries this week

Documentaries

Upcoming

Little Girl Blue…Janis Biopic

On Showtime right now: “Listen to Me Marlon.” Live Clips and interviews as well as film clips from the actor before he died. Said to be really good. Playing a lot. Record it ahead of time if you have that option.

Madam Phung’s Last Journey: True Cinema Verite about  transgender’s sheltering and protecting each other in Vietnam

Mia Madre (Italy) about female filmmaker

“Palio” Italy. About travel in Italy.

“Sembene” Political take on Sengales

“Taxi” Iranian film taken from car camera. This filmmaker has been banned since 2010.

“Song of Lahore” Pakistan. A traveling Pakistani troupe of musicians.

“Jacskson Heights” US  A part of Queens where 167 languages are spoken.’

“Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans.” Its about his obsession with race cars and the road it took him on.

“Ingrid Bergman, In her Own Words.” A documentary about the actress.

“In the Basement” What people do with their basements

“What our Fathers Did.” Another take on the Holocaust.

 

Fish food for brain health

Pompano Beach, South Florida

One of the great things about South Florida is this discount wholesaler called Penn Dutch. Their prices are through the roof low low low. Their fish counter is teeming with life.  I swear, they have fresh Chilean Seabass at 12.00 a lb. Crazy. At the regular market it’s almost 30.00 lb.

There is a town north of Hollywood, where I live,  called “Pompano Beach” and I found out that it’s named after the Pompano fish, which you can catch just off the coast across from my house. So I went to Penn Dutch yesterday, bought two whole Pompano Fishes, had them fileted (I don’t cut fish) and made this coconut milk, Thai Chile and Mint Herb soaked Pompano fish 4 first time. It’s actually a hell of a lot better than farmed Tilapia, which tastes just like the dirt pellets they feed it.