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Mystery shoppers - WebSpecial PrivacyInTheNews...

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Quick Quotes   Look Up Tables  |  Portfolio  |  Index   Selling Us  Spies in the Aisles Companies Use Anonymous Shoppers to Keep Tabs on Service By Margaret Webb Pressler Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, June 16, 2002; Page H05 As the retail industry is dominated more and more by big chains with decentralized management, I've wondered how top executives are keeping track of what shoppers are actually experiencing in their stores. Do the executives at Rite Aid know, for example, that their store near my house almost never has more than one register open, no matter how many frustrated customers are standing in line? Likewise, when I had a particularly patient and helpful clerk in the crazed children's department at Hecht's, I wondered if management would ever find out that she was such a gem. _____ Web Special _____   Privacy In The News   Latest news and updates E-Mail This Article Printer-Friendly Version   Subscribe to The Post  
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One way they might, it turns out, is through mystery shoppers, regular folks who are paid to shop at a store or eat at a restaurant and then formally evaluate the experience. Mystery shopping has been used in some form for decades, to check up on both the competition and a store's own operations. But the practice is more widely and openly used now by retailers trying to keep tabs on how well they're interacting with customers. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association, which has been around only since 1998, does not keep statistics on the use of mystery shoppers. But John Swinburn, the trade group's executive director, says the practice has gained popularity "especially in the last two or three years." He estimates that there are 500 to 1,000 mystery-shopping companies
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