The Mystery Shop

So the grocery store I work at has these things called Mystery Shops. If you never heard of a Mystery Shop, it basically involves some undercover asshole (who has nothing better to do with his or her life) entering whatever store or business and making mental notes on the overall experience. These mental notes are later transcribed by this undercover asshole onto a detailed evaluation form and delivered back to the store or business for analysis.


To prepare us (cashiers) for these Mystery Shops, our supervisors will sometimes bag groceries for us in an effort to make sure we are hitting all the robotic bullshit points we are required to hit during a typical transaction. This is called an audit. Recently, I was audited by a supervisor. Here is how I did.

Did the cashier welcome the customer?


I am very good at saying, “Hi, how are you doing?”

Did the cashier ask if the customer found everything they were looking for?


I don’t care if the customer found everything they were looking for. In life, we rarely find what we are looking for. The grocery store is not some magical place where all of your dreams come true. Or maybe it is?

Did the cashier engage the customer in conversation during the transaction?


Look. I follow the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. When I go to a grocery store or wherever, I like competent employees who get me in and out as fast as possible. I’m an in and out customer. I’m not a stay and chat customer. With that said, if I sense (because I am almost 30 years-old and have the ability to sense things) that a customer is a stay and chat, I will engage in conversation. However, to assume a stay and chat when, for all I know, the customer could very well be an in an out, is just plain wrong.

Was the cashier sincere, kind, and welcoming to the customer?


I should have failed this one.

Did the cashier use suggestive selling or attempt to upsell an item? Did the cashier tell the customer about the latest donation?


I did not suggestive sell or upsell, BUT I did ask every customer if they would like to donate. I am great at asking customers if they would like to donate. It’s great filler conversation and fun to see the different ways people decline the donation. My favorite donation decline was this one woman who basically retracted her face in disgust and made a “ugh” sound.

Did the cashier smile and seem happy to be waiting on the customer?


I am not a natural smiler. I am not a natural frowner either. I am what you would call, a normal-faced person. Now, if you say something that makes me smile, I will smile. Just as if you say something that makes me sad, I will frown. Otherwise, I will have a normal-face as I ring up your groceries. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Did the cashier make eye contact throughout the transaction?


Good thing I took public speaking in college.

Was the customer offered pick up assistance for 3 or more bags?


While my supervisor bagged groceries/audited me, none of my customers had three or more bags. If they did have three or more bags, I would have most likely failed, because I think asking every customer who has 3 or more bags if they would like pick up assistance (or help out to their car) is insane. With that said, if someone looks like they need help (this is another one of those sense things), I will ask. If not, thank you, have a good day.

Did the cashier announce the change and count back bills to customer?


I learned this very important skill back when I was 15 years-old and working at Steamer’s Hot Dogs. I am proud to say that nearly 15 years later, I am still using this very important skill.

Did the cashier ring up everything correctly?


I am robot. Hello. Ring. Ring. Ring. Your total is. Change. Receipt. Thank you. Have a good day.

Was the customer asked to donate the bag refund (if the customer brought their own bags)?


If a customer brings his or her own grocery bag, they have the option to keep their $.10 bag refund or donate their $.10 bag refund. I don’t have a problem asking customers this. Most people don’t mind donating $.10. Some people keep the $.10. Whatever the case, it’s a pretty smart donation system. It’s not like one of those businesses who ask customers to donate a $1 (which is hard for people to give up) to some charity that, if you decline, will make you feel like a horrible human being. 

“Would you like to donate a dollar to breast cancer?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Would you like to donate a dollar to starving children with their ribs sticking out of their skin.”

“Maybe next time.”

“Would you like to donate to crack baby dead mom no father this baby will die if it doesn’t get your dollar today?”

“I already donated to that.”

Did the cashier say “Thank”, “Glad”, “Appreciate”, “Pleasure” or “You’re Welcome” in their closing remark?


Lucky for me, I said “Thank you” instead of “Thanks,” because if I said “Thanks” instead of “Thank you,” I would have failed. “Thanks” is NOT an acceptable closing remark. It must be “Thank.” No “s.” If there is an “s,” you fail. To review:

“Thank” = acceptable

“Thanks” = not acceptable


I am an average grocery store cashier. Despite the fact that I am competent, show up on time, and very rarely call off, I am still not 100%. My supervisor suggested ways to improve, but I wasn’t interested. I don’t intend on practicing smiling or fixing any of the things I am doing wrong. I refuse to be some company robot that scores 100% on these stupid Mystery Shops or audits or whatever the fuck, fuck, fuck, system malfunction, human intrusion, reboot, reboot, reboot.


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4 Comments The Mystery Shop

  1. Avatarbryan

    score 100% on giving me a genuine belly laugh. my ipad was on my belly, and it went up and down as I laughed and read this blog. I did that retail thing for a good chunk of my youth- it gets better. (when you leave that job.)

  2. AvatarIris

    I’m the same with smiling. I have a neutral face at most times, even when I’m feeling happy or pleased. If someone says something which makes me smile, I smile.

  3. Avatarkyle

    This is awesome. I’m an “in and out” guy. I hate stupid small talk (which is the reason i hate getting my haircut).


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