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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Escape from Paris: Movies & TV The Good, Bad and Ugly. Foreign too.

I don’t want anyone to think I don’t care about  Paris, ISIS, Their threats to Russia, Recent acts of Terrorism, Mass Immigration from war torn countries and the lick.

I am shocked. I’m not frightened yet, I’m frozen.   My reactions swing from right to left. I know people who really feel strongly about increasing our military presence and taking extreme action against people in the Middle East. What do you think?  Most of us can’t do anything from here except enlist or write letters to the editor. Or vote.

Here’s  why I’m so into movies. I learn about other people’s  global convictions and how express them in their art. Not the business of going to Darfur or adopting ten children, but with their scripts, movies, film reviews and the like.

Here’s what’s coming up or playing now in Movies and in Amazon Prime’s Pilot season. If you don’t go to films, you can write them down and get them from Netflix, the Library or Amazon when they come out on video. This is what I do. Movies are expensive and I’m on a fixed income.

 

I’ll do documentaries next time.

 

 

deniro bradley cooper Pauline Kael PaulineKaelBookMovies are my hobby. I’m reading a book about the late Pauline Kael, who was the most influential and political film critic ever. (New Yorker, Look, McCalls and the LA Times.)

I read her reviews in the LA times when I was there and until now,  I never understood the deep political convictions she floated in her reviews. Like this one: “Morality tale plays right and left.” This was about a Gregory Peck Cold War Spy film. There is a double meaning in ‘right and left,’ conservative and liberal.

In the film review she accuses our government and the Hollywood studios of portraying political ideology as Right and Wrong, Black and White, Right and Left, instead of shades of gray. She further theorized that we needed to understand our enemies and why they were in conflict with Americans. I wonder what she would say now, about this Paris situation.

The Good, Bad and The Ugly in new and upcoming TV & Film:

I will deal with Christmas themed movies, Netflix’s  new TV shows and documentaries next week.

 

My New New Category: Tanked but not toast. Movies that the critics hate and did not do well at the Box Office.

Deep freeze at the box office, “Burnt” is well done.

Unfortunately for The Weinstein Company,  Their new haute cuisine film about a sober, troubled chef on the re-invent lacks pace from beginning to end.  An hour of vibrant, detailed closeups of culinary masterpieces stalls our realization of how high the stakes are and how high the odds are stacked against Bradley Cooper’s character.  Many are gunning for him to fail.  Sienna Miller, (Factory Girl) Daniel Bruhl, (Rush, Inglorious Bastards) Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman and Matthew Rhys (Phillip from ‘The Americans on FX)  costar. Word is the studio will push for an Academy Award nomination or two.  Weinstein usually does.  I wish them well.

If you love Quentin Tarantino

 

“The Hateful 8.” Gun slinging Western inspired by Sergio Leone, Spagetti Westerns starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russel and Samuel Jackson for starters. He’s reviving a cheesy wide-screen technology from the 1970’s that the Movie Studios employed to lure people away from their brand new television sets back to the theatres. Leave it to Quentin to employ a cheesy film making technique as a retro-comic touch like he did with “Jackie Brown.”

If You Love Moby Dick….

December 15 “In The Heart of The Sea.” After thousands of recent Television and Literary references to Herman Melville’s Masterpiece “Moby Dick, joking about people’s pointless and absurd obsessions, Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Rush) is taking on The Great White Whale. It’s been stalled, so this date is not fixed for sure. It should be here by Christmas at least. Great Quote from film and book, “What offense did we give God to upset him so?” I guess it gets pretty wet out there.

“The Last Witch Hunter” Vin Diesel resurfaces, finally.

“Crimson Peak” Gothic Romance with Jessica Chastain.  A spooky haunted house.

“Spectre” Bond. James Bond. Daniel Craig. The only reason to see this is to take in Oscar Winner Christopher Waltz’s graceful menace. He was the hunter in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards,” hunting down every last one. Remember?

November 20 Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts “The Secret in Their Eyes.”

Steve Carrell “The Long Short.” Bad Loans somehow funny?

The Heist: Robert Deniro and others hijacking a school bus.

The Martian (Matt Damon’s “Green Light” take about diveristity in hiring only being important in casting choices (makes me keep Freudian slip-forgetting to put his movie on here…Sorry Matt. Just keep hiring enough women to say you do.)

Suffragette w Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter

Brooklyn: Coming of Age, moving to New York in 50’s

Truth: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchette and Matthew Modine about the CBS witchunt following an unflattering 60 minutes story about the Bush Dynasty pulling strings to keep George W out of ‘Nam.It’s about why Dan Rather, played by Redford, stepped down from journalism. It’s very moving, even if you are not a liberal.

James White: Sundance Festival Winner about an unrepentant druggie whose mom, Cynthia Nixon, is dying of Cancer.

“The Condemned 2:” Eric Roberts (Julia Robert’s underemployed terrific actor brother) Wrestling film

“Miss You Already” Drew Barrymore and Tony Collette as best friends. They both admit in interviews that it’s a chick flick. Color me Surprised.

“My All American.” Football film true story.

“Shelter” a drama about homelessness. Jennifer Connelly stars

“The 33:” Chile (coal miners trapped underground after a blast) Antonio Banderas, Juliet Binoche, Jennifer Lopez, Lou Diamond Phillips (Henry from Longmire) Cote De Pablo refurfaces at last (NCIS, she’s from Chile)

“By The Sea” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie doing a ‘take’ on former celebrity couple Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. Troubled artists in a troubled marriage. Some violence and much grief. Written and directed by Ms. Jolie. Is said to be good if you can endure all of the gorgeous posing and art film aspirations seen in camera work, body language, dialogue, lighting, locale and wardrobe. Said to be opening November 10 in 10 theatres.

“Concussion” December when???Will Smith takes on the NFL on behalf of the player’s by discovering brain injury and related complications and trying to help install safeguards against further injury and disability Alec Baldwin Co-Stars. Supposedly in December. Gotta be by Christmas, right?

“Spotlight:” Boston Globe finally stops protecting the Catholic Church in story about investigative journalism’s duty and ability to expose human transgression and help put an end to it. Live Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams (True Crime), John Slattery (Roger from Mad Men). It better be good. It’s gotten a lot of media attention.

.New Info on “Trumbo:” Bryan Cranston (Mad Men)as the blacklisted Screenwriter who manages to get his work produced from a jail cell. Also, I just found out that Helen Mirren plays the feisty, power-wielding MGM publicity gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Apparently this woman was known for her flamboyant wardrobe and ridiculous hats with toy objects on them. It should be great.

House of Spies..Tom Hanks dir: Speilberg. This is a must see. Even tho it’s a cold war drama concerning spies, it also deals with integrity and professional respect.

 

 

******************************

Foreign

Madam Phuang’s last Journey: Vietnamese about transgenders.

Song of Lahore: Pakistani film about a traveling orchestra.

“Love” Argentine Movie about love told thru sexual escapades.

“The Price We Pay,” French, about global income inequality. Supposed to be good.

The Nightingale: china

Mia Madre: Italy. It’s about a female film maker.

“Taxi” Iranian film shot from a car camera.

Televison….this is just what I’ve seen on TNT and Amazon Prime

 

TNT’s Agent X With Sharon Stone: Hackneyed mish-mash of various spy stories sewn together in a horrible, unintelligible patchwork quilt.

A few of Amazon’s new shows:

“Z: The Start of All things” Christina Ricci is terrific as Zelda Fitzgerald in this coming-of-age, finding-true-love drama.

Amazon: The Man In the High Tower ***** (What if the Nazis and Japanese won World War two? What if the Mentally ill, elderly, children and crippled were drugged to sleep and incinerated every Thursday?) So good it’s scary.

The Good Girls Revolt: It appears to be the story of the late Nora Ephron’s early days.  (Sleeping In Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Books, Essays) A Feminist take on young idealistic female journalists in the 1960’s, when women were not allowed to be journalists but relegated to researchers. You know they’re not going to stand for it. The first show is about the rush to get the scoop on Northern California’s Altamont Concert, the Hells Angels who were security guards there and the deaths that occurred. Police Brutality? Say it’s not so.

Z The Start of All Things: Zelda Fitzgerald as previously mentioned.

There is a new Western…forget the name…

There are four animated series and I don’t watch those.

 

 

Escape from Paris: Movies & TV The Good, Bad and Ugly. Foreign too.

I don’t want anyone to think I don’t care about  Paris, ISIS, Their threats to Russia, Recent acts of Terrorism, Mass Immigration from war torn countries and the lick.

I am shocked. I’m not frightened yet, I’m frozen.   My reactions swing from right to left. I know people who really feel strongly about increasing our military presence and taking extreme action against people in the Middle East. What do you think?  Most of us can’t do anything from here except enlist or write letters to the editor. Or vote.

Here’s  why I’m so into movies. I learn about other people’s  global convictions and how express them in their art. Not the business of going to Darfur or adopting ten children, but with their scripts, movies, film reviews and the like.

Here’s what’s coming up or playing now in Movies and in Amazon Prime’s Pilot season. If you don’t go to films, you can write them down and get them from Netflix, the Library or Amazon when they come out on video. This is what I do. Movies are expensive and I’m on a fixed income.

 

I’ll do documentaries next time.

 

 

deniro bradley cooper Pauline Kael PaulineKaelBookMovies are my hobby. I’m reading a book about the late Pauline Kael, who was the most influential and political film critic ever. (New Yorker, Look, McCalls and the LA Times.)

I read her reviews in the LA times when I was there and until now,  I never understood the deep political convictions she floated in her reviews. Like this one: “Morality tale plays right and left.” This was about a Gregory Peck Cold War Spy film. There is a double meaning in ‘right and left,’ conservative and liberal.

In the film review she accuses our government and the Hollywood studios of portraying political ideology as Right and Wrong, Black and White, Right and Left, instead of shades of gray. She further theorized that we needed to understand our enemies and why they were in conflict with Americans. I wonder what she would say now, about this Paris situation.

The Good, Bad and The Ugly in new and upcoming TV & Film:

I will deal with Christmas themed movies, Netflix’s  new TV shows and documentaries next week.

 

My New New Category: Tanked but not toast. Movies that the critics hate and did not do well at the Box Office.

Deep freeze at the box office, “Burnt” is well done.

Unfortunately for The Weinstein Company,  Their new haute cuisine film about a sober, troubled chef on the re-invent lacks pace from beginning to end.  An hour of vibrant, detailed closeups of culinary masterpieces stalls our realization of how high the stakes are and how high the odds are stacked against Bradley Cooper’s character.  Many are gunning for him to fail.  Sienna Miller, (Factory Girl) Daniel Bruhl, (Rush, Inglorious Bastards) Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman and Matthew Rhys (Phillip from ‘The Americans on FX)  costar. Word is the studio will push for an Academy Award nomination or two.  Weinstein usually does.  I wish them well.

If you love Quentin Tarantino

 

“The Hateful 8.” Gun slinging Western inspired by Sergio Leone, Spagetti Westerns starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russel and Samuel Jackson for starters. He’s reviving a cheesy wide-screen technology from the 1970’s that the Movie Studios employed to lure people away from their brand new television sets back to the theatres. Leave it to Quentin to employ a cheesy film making technique as a retro-comic touch like he did with “Jackie Brown.”

If You Love Moby Dick….

December 15 “In The Heart of The Sea.” After thousands of recent Television and Literary references to Herman Melville’s Masterpiece “Moby Dick, joking about people’s pointless and absurd obsessions, Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Rush) is taking on The Great White Whale. It’s been stalled, so this date is not fixed for sure. It should be here by Christmas at least. Great Quote from film and book, “What offense did we give God to upset him so?” I guess it gets pretty wet out there.

“The Last Witch Hunter” Vin Diesel resurfaces, finally.

“Crimson Peak” Gothic Romance with Jessica Chastain.  A spooky haunted house.

“Spectre” Bond. James Bond. Daniel Craig. The only reason to see this is to take in Oscar Winner Christopher Waltz’s graceful menace. He was the hunter in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards,” hunting down every last one. Remember?

November 20 Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts “The Secret in Their Eyes.”

Steve Carrell “The Long Short.” Bad Loans somehow funny?

The Heist: Robert Deniro and others hijacking a school bus.

The Martian (Matt Damon’s “Green Light” take about diveristity in hiring only being important in casting choices (makes me keep Freudian slip-forgetting to put his movie on here…Sorry Matt. Just keep hiring enough women to say you do.)

Suffragette w Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter

Brooklyn: Coming of Age, moving to New York in 50’s

Truth: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchette and Matthew Modine about the CBS witchunt following an unflattering 60 minutes story about the Bush Dynasty pulling strings to keep George W out of ‘Nam.It’s about why Dan Rather, played by Redford, stepped down from journalism. It’s very moving, even if you are not a liberal.

James White: Sundance Festival Winner about an unrepentant druggie whose mom, Cynthia Nixon, is dying of Cancer.

“The Condemned 2:” Eric Roberts (Julia Robert’s underemployed terrific actor brother) Wrestling film

“Miss You Already” Drew Barrymore and Tony Collette as best friends. They both admit in interviews that it’s a chick flick. Color me Surprised.

“My All American.” Football film true story.

“Shelter” a drama about homelessness. Jennifer Connelly stars

“The 33:” Chile (coal miners trapped underground after a blast) Antonio Banderas, Juliet Binoche, Jennifer Lopez, Lou Diamond Phillips (Henry from Longmire) Cote De Pablo refurfaces at last (NCIS, she’s from Chile)

“By The Sea” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie doing a ‘take’ on former celebrity couple Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. Troubled artists in a troubled marriage. Some violence and much grief. Written and directed by Ms. Jolie. Is said to be good if you can endure all of the gorgeous posing and art film aspirations seen in camera work, body language, dialogue, lighting, locale and wardrobe. Said to be opening November 10 in 10 theatres.

“Concussion” December when???Will Smith takes on the NFL on behalf of the player’s by discovering brain injury and related complications and trying to help install safeguards against further injury and disability Alec Baldwin Co-Stars. Supposedly in December. Gotta be by Christmas, right?

“Spotlight:” Boston Globe finally stops protecting the Catholic Church in story about investigative journalism’s duty and ability to expose human transgression and help put an end to it. Live Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams (True Crime), John Slattery (Roger from Mad Men). It better be good. It’s gotten a lot of media attention.

.New Info on “Trumbo:” Bryan Cranston (Mad Men)as the blacklisted Screenwriter who manages to get his work produced from a jail cell. Also, I just found out that Helen Mirren plays the feisty, power-wielding MGM publicity gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Apparently this woman was known for her flamboyant wardrobe and ridiculous hats with toy objects on them. It should be great.

House of Spies..Tom Hanks dir: Speilberg. This is a must see. Even tho it’s a cold war drama concerning spies, it also deals with integrity and professional respect.

 

 

******************************

Foreign

Madam Phuang’s last Journey: Vietnamese about transgenders.

Song of Lahore: Pakistani film about a traveling orchestra.

“Love” Argentine Movie about love told thru sexual escapades.

“The Price We Pay,” French, about global income inequality. Supposed to be good.

The Nightingale: china

Mia Madre: Italy. It’s about a female film maker.

“Taxi” Iranian film shot from a car camera.

Televison….this is just what I’ve seen on TNT and Amazon Prime

 

TNT’s Agent X With Sharon Stone: Hackneyed mish-mash of various spy stories sewn together in a horrible, unintelligible patchwork quilt.

A few of Amazon’s new shows:

“Z: The Start of All things” Christina Ricci is terrific as Zelda Fitzgerald in this coming-of-age, finding-true-love drama.

Amazon: The Man In the High Tower ***** (What if the Nazis and Japanese won World War two? What if the Mentally ill, elderly, children and crippled were drugged to sleep and incinerated every Thursday?) So good it’s scary.

The Good Girls Revolt: It appears to be the story of the late Nora Ephron’s early days.  (Sleeping In Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Books, Essays) A Feminist take on young idealistic female journalists in the 1960’s, when women were not allowed to be journalists but relegated to researchers. You know they’re not going to stand for it. The first show is about the rush to get the scoop on Northern California’s Altamont Concert, the Hells Angels who were security guards there and the deaths that occurred. Police Brutality? Say it’s not so.

Z The Start of All Things: Zelda Fitzgerald as previously mentioned.

There is a new Western…forget the name…

There are four animated series and I don’t watch those.