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Site to Avoid: Franklin Allen and Associates & a New Spin on the Cashier’s Check Scam May 31, 2011

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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While we work on getting this site taken down, we wanted to alert you of a website we came across that has essentially phished our site and they appear to be a mystery shopping company based in Texas. They go under the name Franklin Allen & Associates – thankfully, there are no obvious links that take people anywhere, which is good because we certainly don’t want others to think they are on our site logging into anything.

You can see they’ve taken most, if not all, of our site’s content:

This is a link to their page: http://mysteryevaluations.com/Service.htm

This is a link to our page: http://www.ishopforyou.com/Services.html

Now, the question remains: how could the average person, especially one not familiar with our company, know that it is a fictitious site? It is actually difficult to do, but we can offer some pointers to help you out:

1. None of the links are working. I am actually thankful for this – if the new shopper registration link was working, for example, who knows where it would take people.

2. Do a company search online. Better yet, go to a reputable website for mystery shoppers – such as the MSPA site or Volition’s message board. You can do a search on the company in Volition, and if it doesn’t yield results, you can start a thread to see what people know. Mystery shoppers are VERY knowledgable about mystery shopping companies and can certainly help you stay away from sites that may not be legitimate.

Another thing that we’ve gotten wind of in the last few days (not related to this website) was a new spin on the Western Union scam. In this case, I had someone call asking about the “Western Union evaluation” she received in the mail. Sigh…here we go again!

I asked her for details so we could file a complaint, and it seems that she was given a money order for $900. She was instructed to keep $200 and send the remainder via Western Union to the “next shopper in line.” Definitely an interesting twist, but this person was smart enough to call us to check it out. She was given our name, but when she asked the gentleman she spoke with for a website to look them up, he said that the recent tornado in Joplin “wiped out their website.” I know that tornado was powerful, but I’ve never heard of one knocking out a website!

It’s been an interesting week for fraud, and we wanted to be sure to share what we know with you to keep you safe. Please stay away from anything that doesn’t sound quite right or sounds too good to be true – it usually is!

Until next time…happy shopping!

Notes From an Editor…. May 28, 2011

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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At the recent IMSC Conference, I had the opportunity to sit on an editor’s panel. This discussion revolved around the importance of accuracy in mystery shopping reports. It’s an excellent topic – shoppers know the importance of their work and how it impacts companies. It’s important to share thoughts on how it can also make or break a mystery shopping program.

  1. Create efficiencies and make everyone’s lives easier: this is a simple one. Make sure you’re making solid and all required observations, and report everything carefully. We always teach shoppers to write in an objective, detailed manner so that when the client is reading the report, they feel like they were a fly on the wall during your experience. This also relieves the need for follow up from editors, giving clients the reports faster, and giving shoppers a better rating with the MSP.
  2. Give clients the opportunity to improve: by simply saying, “The restroom was dirty” the client doesn’t know exactly what was wrong in order to fix it. Provide concrete, objective details to help them make the customer experience better – let them know that the sink was dirty, the paper towels were not stocked, and the hand dryer wasn’t working properly. This gives them concrete information to work with.
  3. Keep clients happy with the program: details are important; incorrect or insufficient detail can cause a client to question a report. If this happens enough times, they will wonder if the program is worth it. Keep the industry’s reputation and quality strong by submitting accurate, detailed reports. Remember too that many clients tie monetary bonuses to high scores; be sure you are providing the most accurate report, as an employee’s bonus or employment may rest on it!

There are many common errors editors see that require additional follow up and a lower shopper rating. Keeping these items in mind when submitting reports will help you be the best you can be!

  1. Narrative in Word, then report questions: for many reasons, it’s always good practice to write up the narrative portion of your experience in Word, and as soon after the shop as possible. Remember to write objectively, in chronological order, and with as much concrete detail as possible. Not only will this allow you time to write it all without worrying about a system timing you out, but it will help you when you’re ready to submit the report.
  2. Use that narrative and your notes when answering report questions: once the narrative is written, put it away for an hour or two so you can look at it with fresh eyes. Is anything missing or unclear? Put yourself in the client’s shoes – is there something that you’ve written that leads to questions? If so, clarify it in the report. Once you’ve done this, THEN answer the questions online – it will ensure you are answering the questions accurately, and making sure that the ratings you provide match what was said in the narrative.
  3. One last review: once you’ve submitted the report, you can opt to save the report to submit later. Walk away for a short time and re-read it one last time, making sure the date/time are accurate, all of the ratings match the narrative, and of course run one last spelling/grammar check.

All of these tips will help you provide the best information possible. Of course, if there is anything unusual that happens during a shop, be sure to document it in your report, or, if that’s not possible, contact your scheduler/editor ASAP so they can offer direction in reporting.

Until next time…happy shopping!

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