All great things must come to an end: an extra-large four-alarm pizza from Pizza Pit in Ames, any movie with Leonardo DeCaprio (excluding The Beach) and this past weekend, which felt, for some reason, like one of the last real, amazing, true Summer weekends – at least before the barrage of Back to school, Kids! ads start pounding the airwaves.
Then again, it’s not like God won’t cook us up another one. (sniff sniff) Can you smell that? Off in the distance...it's the enticing aroma of Friday afternoon, around 5:01pm. Ahhhh…
Until then, how about some blogging leftovers?
I also have something else cooking: posting video footage of Secret Shopper visits.
I began using hidden body cameras – extremely small video cameras that blend in with a person’s clothing, so as to avoid detection - in 2005, when I started The Buyosphere. The camera can be hidden in a shirt button, a pen in your pocket, a necklace, a cap, just about anywhere on your personage.
You say you could spot one on me, if I was wearing it? I’m wearing one right now and you can’t see it, can you, smarty pants!
The idea of wearing a body camera and shooting footage of a retail employee interacting with a “customer” is similar to what I used to go through with "airchecking," when I was a "morning radio show host." At the end of each show, I'd sit down with my boss and listen to the show I'd just hosted - my rambling, disjointed voice only.
Describing that daily self-flaggelation as "humbling" ain't even in the actual gut-wrenching feeling's zip code.
Yet it's also an incredibly powerful teaching tool.
Same dealio with videotaping retail employees, and sitting down with them and watching the footage. Not much has to be said. The employee is usually too busy holding their head and moaning. ”I look like that????"
It cuts to a notion that I strongly believe in: We can teach ourselves everything we need to know, and what we teach ourselves, sticks 100 times better than what others can teach us.
The sage words of a five-college drop-out.
Since I started Secret Shopping businesses at random, back in February, I’ve contemplated using one of my body cameras to shoot footage as I Secret Shopped, then posting edited portions of it, or even the entire thing, along with that Thursday's written review. I’ve held off because, first and foremost, I’m not in this to humiliate anyone. It’s hard enough being called out in public, in writing. I don’t want to pile on, by showing every retail employee’s frown, slighting of a customer or ambivalent handing back change, in living color.
I also know that my credibility – and my flat out honesty – concerning these Secret Shopper reviews, is, more and more, being called into question - particularly with the following reviews: (Click each to read it.)
Defending oneself against some blogging hack is completely understandable. But he/she said, Jonnie said, is a stickier wicket.
The problem is that eyewitness testimony - recalling the details of any one particular experience - is the most fallible. One Dealey Plaza witnesses believed JFK shot himself. You and I can both see the same event, and describe the experience in completely different ways – like going with your significant other to a movie, coming out of the theater and raving about it, while they thought it stunk. That doesn’t make us liars or mentally deficient (unless somebody liked Sex And The City II). It makes us human.
Unlike body cameras. They're horrible at conversation, and almost never pick up the check.
And so the possibility of shooting, and posting video footage of my Secret Shopper visits has now entered the “probable” stage, and will become a reality, as soon as all the legalities are ironed out i.e. my attorney stops laughing.
In the meantime, titter along with amused (and not so much) readers, as they offer their feedback to posts posted over the past few weeks.
And enjoy your Monday, and your work week, while it lasts – cause I smell something delicious cooking, down the road…
“…Your findings have certainly got us talking more about these important issues of customer service, fair housing, and ethics. We plan to make them a priority in upcoming leadership seminars and training sessions. I wanted to follow up with you regarding the question you asked about minorities. I talked to IAR’s Legal Counsel, Paul McLaughlin, who provided some helpful information that I am passing along for your reference.
Real estate licensees, brokerages, landlords, lenders, banks, etc. are prohibited from disclosing demographic information about protected classes under fair housing and discrimination laws. In fact, if they did inform a client of the composition of a neighborhood, they may be assisting the client in steering to a particular neighborhood based upon a protected class of individuals and may be perpetuating racial discrimination. Brokerages do not keep statistics on racial composition due to fair housing concerns. If clients desire particular information they would need to research this information on their own.
As you know, fair housing laws were enacted to eradicate discrimination, and racial discrimination is ALWAYS unlawful. It is important to note, that not only do individual real estate licensees, brokerages, landlords, lenders, banks, etc. get sued for violations of the fair housing law, but the law is also applicable to clients and customers. A complaint may be filed against them or they may be sued for violating any of the Acts. Lastly, fair housing laws also apply to clients and customers that encourage real estate licensees, brokerages, landlords, lenders, banks, etc. to discriminate on their behalf.
I also wanted to share with you that REALTORS®, who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, abide by a set of professional principles and code of ethics, and are committed to treat all parties to a transaction honestly and fairly. As REALTORS®, we are expected to maintain a higher level of knowledge of the process of buying and selling real estate. You can find the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics at realtor.org, enter Code of Ethics.
Thanks again for the opportunity to visit with you [last week.“
-Carey Jensen, 2010 IAR President
Key Real Estate
501 S. Main St.
Council Bluffs, IA 51503
“Jonnie – Thank you for your interest in the real estate industry in Des Moines. REALTORS® are required to understand Fair Housing laws, which are addressed in mandatory ethics and law update courses. However, your findings may indicate that there are still opportunities for improvement. We will continue to make these top priorities among our nearly 7,000 REALTOR® members. We look forward to discussing the topics brought to light in your recent shopping with our REALTOR® members at upcoming training sessions and meetings. “
-Amy Smith, PR Coordinator, Iowa Association of REALTORS®
“Hey Jonnie …. love the idea of secret shopping the open houses. Thank YOU for doing that and I enjoyed the blog. It is a good reminder for Realtors of what they need to do at an open house. We will be sharing your results with our agents.”
Founder and Owner, RE/MAX Real Estate Concepts
”I am writing in response to this blog that was written by the (un)secret shopper, Mr. Jonnie Wright entitled, “The Unsecret Shopper goes Shopping: Real Estate Agents.” I will start by saying that the whole portrayal of me in this blog is inflamed and exaggerated. In fact, Mr. Wright’s blog is bordering on defamation given that it leaves out important parts of conversations and unfairly portrays parts of conversation out of context. Additionally, I would like to explain why my behavior, specifically in regards to Mr. Wright, on that day was not the epitome of customer service and salesmanship.
To put this incident in the proper light, I will let you know that I had a traumatic incident at an open house last year with a man. During this incident, the police had to be called and the person ran off and was not found. This was a very frightening experience for me as I was alone at the open house at the time of the incident. This man entered the open house, appeared to be locking the door. He then began approaching me menacingly and would not say anything. I then ran out the back door, calling my husband and approached through the front door. As I came in the front door, this man was coming up from the basement and told me that I had to go in the basement with him because there was a water leak. There was no leak. I told him that I would not go to the basement with him and asked him to sign in. He wrote down, “Mike Myers” and stated that I did not need his information. He then left before the police arrived.
Mr. Wright called prior to arriving at the open house. He had asked directions from me to the house and I gave him directions. People ask directions all the time but this is also how the above mentioned incident also started. When I approached the house, I observed that the signs I had placed on Thursday of that week had been removed by someone. When I got to the house, I noticed that even the sign in the front had been taken. I then attempted to call Mr. Wright back to inform him that the signs were not there to guide him but he did not answer the phone and I did not leave a message.
About an hour and a half later, I observed Mr. Wright approach on the sidewalk so I met him at the door. After having a little conversation with him, it was readily apparent that he was not actually interested in the home. I would describe him as acting odd. His questions seemed strange and rehearsed. This made me wary as there seemed to be no legitimate reason for him to be at the open house if he was not interested in the house. Additionally, the rehearsed nature of his questions put Mr. Wright in a “creepy” light. I felt totally uncomfortable with him being there. As such, I did not accompany him when he briefly toured the house. At the time Mr. Wright was in the house, I felt that my safety was more important than making the complete sales pitch to some creepy guy who obviously was not interested in the house to begin with. Mr. Wright was right about one thing though: I did smile when he left. I smiled because I felt relief that he was leaving and since he was leaving I could then relax enough that my normal customer service returned a little.
Mr. Wright had made me so uncomfortable that I brought him up at an ethics class that I took on the following Tuesday and Wednesday. Additionally, I told the homeowner, and family and friends about him and his behavior as well. Normally, I would not have behaved in such a way with a potential buyer. As a realtor, I do not have to work with someone who makes me uncomfortable. Therefore, I did not engage or try to gain Mr. Wright’s business.
I would also like to mention that some of the quotes were not complete. For example, Mr. Wright wrote “The second thing out of Tiffany’s mouth was, ‘We just reduced the price today.’” In fact, this sentence was in response to a question from Mr. Wright. The question was asking what the listing price was. I am pretty sure that is a proper response to such question.
This is my business and I am self-employed. I may work under the Prudential name but I only work off of commission. Perhaps, before Mr. Wright speaks again on a subject, he can write truthful quotes that are in context. Additionally, Mr. Wright should practice his “script” prior to arrival so he appears more interested in the house and comes off a little less creepy. Given that Mr. Wright stated that I answered all of his questions “competently” and my only flaws were matters of customer service, I do not think that his rating of “horrible” stands. This portrayal of me is potentially injurious to my reputation and business.
Finally, speaking of professionalism, it seems to me that Mr. Wright is using the unsecret shopper and KRNT to drum up business for his training classes. As such, I believe that he is portraying me in such a poor and exaggerated manner to get Prudential and Iowa Realty Co. to hire him as a trainer. Evidence that supports my thoughts is the fact that he did not speak to me about my alleged customer service problems but felt is necessary to email Prudential and Iowa Realty. His first sentence identifies himself as a “customer service trainer” yet he was not acting in that capacity when he performed his “investigation.” This type of business practice is underhanded and should not be condoned by KRNT.
I therefore request that, if Mr. Wright is to speak of this incident on KRNT, I would like the opportunity to discuss this with him on the air in order to defend my reputation through organized and informative dialogue.”
"Come on Tiffany, did Jonnie get your panties in a bunch? Face it, you sucked at this open house, maybe you do well at all of the others, but this time you blew it. No biggie, Jonnie was not going to buy it anyway. Your 2000 word reaponse just shows you let him get to you and probably did more damage than good. (nobody is going to read all of it anyway) He may seem a little wierd, but this is what he does and your comments will only fuel his fire. Watch the movie Glen Gary Glen Ross and then get back to selling homes!"
”Jonnie..thank you for all of the positive comments you made about me. Even though you misquoted me about the “lily-white school” (as that phrase isn’t even in my vocabulary), I am taking the comments about my being bright, engaging and vivacious as a compliment! I am glad that you liked the kitchen as well! I’m still hoping to sit down with you and get that offer written up! And, Jonnie, have a blessed day!“
”Jonnie, I think you need to know the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent…ETHICS.”
“Thanks for sharing! I could not believe what some of them said!!! OMG! That is just sad, I thought we were all just people, not color coded!!”
“Maybe some of these agents thought you were weird and didn’t want to do business with you? LOL and for the Next Gens… come on… you really secret shopped the homeowners? Of course they were pathetic… they are not agents and there are trying to save a buck using Next Generation and not a real firm. If you need a tooth pulled you go to the dentist… you know…you don’t go pay a guy to tell you how to pull the tooth out yourself and who will charge you for the tissue you use to clean up the blood when you do it yourself. Although the one guy you asked about being a jerk… THAT WAS AWESOME! I sure hope he reads your blog someday… maybe I should send it to him.
Minorities… WOW… shut your mouths AGENTS! Be glad that wasn’t someone from the gov or you would be DONE!!!!!”
After reading your blog for the first time ever I have come up with the conclusion that:
1) You are a Jerk
2) You are a lazy (expletive deleted) who will not go out and get a real job.
3) You are not very smart…you have never owned a home? Sure just throw your money down the drain each month. Oh, I guess it’s probably because you can’t get qualified for a loan when you don’t have a job and don’t make any money…lmao!
4) There is no doubt if I was a real estate agent I would be creeped out by you and would have treated you with “poor customer service” as well just to make you go away.
4) You are sarcastic and think you are funny but you are NOT!
5) You are against same sex marriage and fertitity treatments for people who found the love of their life and want to get married to them and for people who for some reason canno’t have children of their own…You are probably single yourself and do not have children. If you do, I feel bad for them.
6) The relo-seller you talked about being a “jerk” is nothing compared to you and the reason he does not care is because he is going to get a relocation-buy out which is probably better than he would get if he sold it on his own anyway.
7) It’s not really fair you told the agent Toren what you were up to but not anyone else, so they were all just creeped out about you and probably thought about it and how they could have and would have responded differently.
I have seen the listing at 2511 Mansfield Drive (and you can see pictures of it online) and it does not have shag carpet in it anywhere, so really that makes you a liar. I wonder what else you are lying about. I think it was a pipe dream you had on night.
9) Since it is illegal to record voice, I take it you are quoting all these quotes off of memory. That’s not very safe…only a matter of time before you get yourself suied for slander…humm…good luck with that.
This will be the first and last time I read your blog. Your blog will never pay off and you will never be able to afford that half of a million dollar house…so sorry!”
“just thinking a little more about this… seriously you are a lifer renter… obviously you have your own set of issues… maybe you should work on cleaning up your credit one Sunday afternoon instead of messing with hard working real estate agents. And you know… I went ahead and checked out the house on Mansfield Drive… seriously YOU ARE A LIAR… there is no shag carpet so NOW we all KNOW you are not honest… so go away. And now we all know who you are so when you walk in an open house I am fairly sure you will be asked to leave.”
”I think it’s funny how you gave the highest rating to the person who clearly gave the most racist answer to the minority question. “The blacks really don’t start until sixth avenue” Really!! She said that, and you still give her 3 masks! Obviously there were some customer service issues here, but I think the main focus should be on any matters involving ethics. Giving a higher rating to a racist comment over someone who does not greet you propertly raises a question on if your head is in the right place here. Maybe your a racist who just can’t stand poor customer service, who knows!! Leave the secret shopping to the professionals, and stick to announcing the weather on the radio.“
”Have enjoyed your blog and coverage of this industry…“
-Rich Carr, CRME
Carr Knowledge, Inc.
Interactive Marketing & Advertising
“Dirty restrooms are my pet peeve–-and they are everywhere!”
“Jonnie…I constantly make the drive between Des Moines, and Minneapolis. I have my 4 hour drive down pat. I stop at the Kum and Go the exit before Clear Lake which always has a spotless restroom and the Kwik Trip in Owatonna, MN for my 2nd stop. This Kwik Trip always has had friendly employees, good food choices and SPOTLESS restrooms. This, along with Quik Trips are the best convenience store chains I have come across in the US. I would be curious to know about their manager’s incentives as I think that probably has much to do with the way their employees are trained and how they treat their customers.”
“I loved your tips on interviewing, Jonnie, and they work! I was recently down-sized out of my job after 12 years, and have been furiously interviewing for openings. After I read your blog post, I decided to incorporate some of your advice. The HR person who interviewed me, told me I’d interviewed for the position better than anyone she’d ever seen! I was offered the job, accepted it and start in two weeks. Your advice worked! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. You’re awesome!”
“Good stuff Jonnie. Love that pic of your distorted face. “ -T
“I did review the Secret Shopping you did for us. We appreciate it as a training tool – in fact we already have kind of used it, so hopefully we can get a little better. With the economy the way it is, every single customer is extremely important to us.”
General Manager, Dewey Ford
(during phone conversation)
“(Alan) is full of enthusiasm but sucks at everything else. Interesting that he just doesn’t get it…thanks for the nice things you said at the end though. Those were also right on.”
“If you think about it, your spending your money on just a “thank you” and not the product itself. I personally don’t make a big deal over something small. Either way i can understand your frustration on not getting proper customer satisfaction you should be getting. Because it is your hard earned money. Also, nice work Jonnie.”
“On the morning of Friday the 9th 2010 approximately 7:30 a.m. At red oak Iowa Kum and Go I put 35$ worth of fuel in my Chevrolet blazer.drove this truck 10 miles and my truck started to not run right .so I called the store back later on in the evening store clerk answers so I tell him the situation yeah he said we have water in our fuel call back Monday morning to resolve with our manager.ok no problem I told him! Monday night my truck was bad!! Tuesday I took into shop Tuesday afternoon get truck back and 280dollars worth of parts and labor to my truck!!!! Who is responsible for this I want reimbursed!!! I have gas from my tank and receipt proving purchase plus other complaints in town from other customers in town please respond to my e mail…”
“Matt – thanks for your feedback about your recent Kum & Go store experience. I’ve passed this information on to our customer service group and someone will be contacting you shortly. Please know that we offer our customer service number, 888-458-6646, 888-458-6646, as a way to contact us when you have issues at a store. Thanks.”
-Lisa Lewis, Social Media, Advertising and Promotions Manager
Kum & Go
“I have been going to the Kum and Go on Hubbell regularly for about 5 years. I have always been treated with courtesy and respect. On the very rare occasion when Teri was taking a quick break, she would put out her cigarette immediately to come in and help me. 98% of the employees who have worked there have been the same. The 2% probably ended up being fired.”
“Although on many aspects of your reviews I agree with, I would like to say that you also need to think about all the aspects of peoples jobs. I have been going to the Kum & Go on Hubbell daily for 8 years and have never been treated poorly or ever not been greeted. I know those people work hard and long to maintain that establishment and don’t deserve to have people like you disrespect and degrade them in public comment. You obviously do not have any employees and don’t realize how hard it is to hire good ones. Judging by your writing and your “Prius” you have nothing better to do than judge others.”
“I would agree with you 100%”
“Hey – I saw you on TV Sunday. Added you to the “famous people I know list.”
“Congratulations on your KCCI Newsmaker segment this past weekend–great advertising! Kudos, too, on your engaging and enjoyable KRNT Saturday radio show. I have learned a lot from it.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more. Customer service is crucial to any business. Keep up the great work.”
“Where is that radio station located? Thought about syndication? What a laugh. I have been in soooooooooooooooo many Wal-mart stores that the service there does not even rate a capital “W”. Keep up the good work, or the work, anyway!”
“Would you please go back and Secret Shop Wal-Mart again? Their customer service is awful!”
Great And Not So Great Customer Service Stories, And General Comments:
“I had an unpleasant experience today at Walgreens, 1999 Grand Ave in West Des Moines, Iowa, that I would like to bring to your attention. As I approached the checkout counter I noticed a young woman waiting to check out before me. There was no one at the counter to wait on either of us. We waited for about two minutes before another young woman, Stephanie, approached the counter. Stephanie recognized the woman waiting in line in front of me and immediately squealed a greeting and then carried on a conversation with her as she checked her out. When it was my turn I stepped up and placed my basket of goods on the counter. Stephanie did not look at me, greet me, smile at me, or in any way acknowledge me other then to reach into the basket and start to scan my items. As she did so, Stephanie continued her personal conversation with her friend, asking her if her boyfriend and her had worked things out, etc.
I purchased seven items. Stephanie continued to ignore me the entire time she grabbed and scanned my items all the while continuing her animated conversation with her friend. When her friend finally walked out the door Stephanie turned to me, with a flat tone of voice completely opposite of what she was using with her friend, and said, “$41.77.” I scanned my card and completed my transaction without another word, eye contact, or a smile from Stephanie. As she handed me my bag, which had everything I bought in it and was therefore a bit heavy, Stephanie said, “Is this OK?” I told her yes, it was fine, and then I walk out the door, without being told thank you, good bye, have a great day…nothing.
All she said to me the entire transaction was “$41.77,” and “Is this OK?”
I have a good friend who is a customer service trainer and I’ve done some work for him. We train employees on the four pillars of good customer service: greet, smile, engage, and thank. STEPHANIE MADE NO ATTEMPT TO MEET ANY OF THE PILLARS OF GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.
There are at least 25 places within a 15 mile radius of where I work and live that I could buy the personal care items I bought today at Walgreens. What I am shopping for is good customer service. I am shopping for employees who care that I spend my money at their store and who have been trained to treat me like the human being that I am, with the respect and attention I deserve as I spend my hard earned money on products in the place that employs her.
The very poor customer service I received today is not the first time Walgreens has done this. The last time was a few weeks ago, the store in Ankeny, Iowa. I called the manager of the store after that incident, but chose to share this latest experience with you directly via this email. I believe in letting management know when I have received poor customer service and I want to make the point that you are losing my business from this point forward as a direct result of the poor customer service I have come to expect from your staff.
Thank you for “listening, ” and thank you for your attention to this matter.”
“I have one for ya Jonnie!! So, I had worked a long 16 hour day and went through the drive up at Arby’s at almost closing time. Ordered the food for my “crew” because I was NOT cooking after a day like that. My order came to around $45 bucks. I was thanked by the guy giving me my order, because they had been slow and I had helped them reach payroll! Ummmm, Thank You? How do you even respond to that!? LOL”
“Jonnie, I read about you on Mike Sansone’s Google Buzz feed. Is it correct you need people who can make extra $$?”
USS: Mike’s Buzz is correct. Anyone interested in becoming a Secret Shopper for my company, The Buyosphere, should email me (email@example.com) or call me (515-480-4190). You’ll make some extra cash, and have some extra, extra fun.
“Dude! I just a really dumb movie with Craig Ferguson in it…were you and Jay Thomas separated at birth? Or better yet, has anyone ever seen the two of you in the same room together?”
USS: Yes. It’s Paul Giamatti that has people worried. Hmmm…
USS: YOU GET ALL MY VOTES!
“Hey, im Astarte and I was just browsing profiles and we found yours. we liked what we saw you should add me on yahoo so we can all chat, the sn is (ridiculous email deleted) oh and we’re ignoring msgs from strangers so just say it’s Jonnie from facebook if you do msg us ps. if ur lucky i’ll give u a link where u can see me and her get crazy on cam at this free site we just signed up on ”
USS: Oh sure, Astarte’s FB photo is of a young, tan, tall and lovely seductress. But why does this nagging voice in the back of my othewise vacant skull tell me that the person doing the “come hither” writing isn’t really a nubile 19 year-old girl with legs up to her chin at all, but a 55 year-old hairy dude named Hank who lives in a basement apartment in Queens and hasn’t washed his sheets since July 10th?
“Greetings.I am Barr David Chan, an attorney at law. A deceased client of mine, by name Mr. Michael Wright, died as the result of a heart related condition on March 12th, 2005. His heart condition was due to the death of all the members of his family in the tsunami disaster of the 26th December 2004 in Sumatra Indonesia. I can be reached at 60176193912 for more information. My late Client has a deposit of $18 000 000 00M left behind.”
USS: Ah-HAH! THERE you are, Hank!
Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.
Click to email Jonnie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Open The Buyosphere Toolbox to get FREE exclusive access to proven tools that will help you generate higher shop sales and profits - delivered weekly, right to your inbox!