Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Mystery Shopping

Because a number of people have asked me questions about Mystery Shopping such how to do it, how to get assignments, and so forth, I decided to put together a short post of some of the information I’ve found most helpful.

I’ve done mystery shopping for several years, and during that time it’s been fun to observe and report about both excellent as well as terrible customer service. I’ve acted as a prospective member of fitness centers, inquired about cell phone plans, computer monitors, and party supplies, performed gas station audits, checked for serial numbers on the back of ice cream freezers, watched hundreds of movie previews (trailers), tried on clothing, shopped for new furniture, and eaten lots of fast food. The possibilities are as endless as the commercial establishments that use mystery shoppers to hopefully improve their customer service and sales.

If you’re interested in making a little extra money as an independent contractor, I’d suggest doing some reading and research first to learn exactly what is required and to discover if you have what it takes to be successful. I’ve found the following two websites invaluable and immensely helpful.

Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) is a good place to begin. Please check out their website and bookmark it as a favorite as I’m sure you’ll return to it again and again. It offers a wealth of information as well as constantly updated shopping assignments from a wide variety of mystery shopping companies.

Volition provides extensive A-Z lists of the many, many shopping companies you can sign up to represent.

Probably the most time-consuming part of becoming a mystery shopper is signing up for various companies. I’ve usually found those companies on volition.com. All companies require information such as name, address, phone number, email address, height, weight, gender, and so forth. You might be asked to provide a sample or two of your writing. Each company is different because each company represents a variety of companies. Some of them notify you of possible assignments by email; for some you will need to check their site for available jobs. So, be sure to bookmark all of the companies you sign on with. Also be sure to note the user name and password you use.

Here are just a few of the companies for which I have completed many assignments.

Business Evaluation Service

Second to None

Market Force

Blogs represent another excellent way to gain information from shoppers’ experiences and hints. Here are only a few I found from a Google search.

8 Truths from a Mystery Shopper You Must Read Before you Get Started

Mystery Shopping Coach’s Update

Blogs About Mystery Shoppers

I realize this is just a very tiny bit of information about the field of mystery shopping. While doing your own research, you’ll find your own favorites. However, I hope these ideas will at least get you started.


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Social Media Bootcamp for CEOs
John Larson
Westin – San Diego
Jan. 19, 2011
500 million people on Facebook alone. 62% of people using social media are between 25 and 54 years old. 71% are employed, median age is 33, 47% married.
Point of using social media for business is to build relationships with large groups of people. A two-way conversation with your target audience. Leverage technology. Customers listening to each other and tuning out marketing messages. There is always a conversation going on about your industry. At least use social media to protect your brand.
“Turn strangers to friends. Friends to customers. Customers to evangelists.”
Old School
New School
Yellow Pages
In using social media, don’t:
  • Tell friends about bad food
  • Beg people to buy from you
  • Carry on a monologue. Instead, build relationships
  • It is not just setting up environments and not doing anything with them
Large, Fortune 500 companies: 65% use Twitter, 54% use Facebook. On average, they post 27 Tweets and 4 FB posts per week. They post 10 videos and 7 blogs per month.
How to use social media to the best advantage
Develop your strategy first.
Goals, objectives, target audience, conversion activities (what you want people to do), budget, and resources.
Performance goals
Branding goals
Cost per lead
Cost per acquisition
Make changes for improvement
Create new objectives
Manage by exception i.e. Why?
If You Regularly
Your Profile
Blog, podcast, tweet, video
Write reviews, post replies
Update your profile
Watch videos, read blogs
None of the above
You need to be a creator and a critic. Figure out and engage with people already having a conversation about your industry.
How to make informed decisions and “Lead with value.”:
  • Use archived knowledge such as spec sheets, technical data. Write blog articles using that knowledge.
  • Use real-time knowledge to influence buyers’ decisions
  • Use humor (check out Old Spice videos on YouTube)
  • Use products
Don’t be a narcissist.
There is a time commitment – resources and manpower needed
Ask questions and for opinions. Stay relevant
 Focus on your niche.
Educate – train customers to buy. Use key words and phrases on your website.
Tactics in a nutshell – short overview
  • Listening:  to identify who you want to build relationships with
  • Build community – grow social media environment i.e. friends and followers
  • Broadcast – post stuff. Drive people to your content
  • Content – if people want to share
  • Convert
Tactics – long version
  • Key phrase research, include misspellings.
  • Google Alerts. Set up on Google so they will alert you when people use your key phrases, etc.
  • Twitter – search bar, hash tags (# in front of key word or phrase)
  • SocialMention.com – it will search through media environments, real time.
  • Industry sites and blogs. For example, websites listed in industry mags.
Build Community:
  • Use “Follow” buttons on website
  • Email-blast customers and prospects, under guise of customer service.
  • Tweet, blog, post. People will follow you.
  • Leverage search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Begin engaging with target audience
  • Link social sites together to push content across multiple channels. Can use: One tfor Twitter – I can’t read my own writing but available on Twitter home page. Also Ping.fm and Hootsuite. Only need to type a message once. One click of a button will post to many sites.
“For every nine non-commercial broadcasts, you earn the right to one promotional one.”
  • Define tone/voice. Do you want to be humorous, serious, just facts, personal, etc.? Have the company voice.
  • Leverage content across media types using videos, blogs, etc.
  • Make your content more than valuable: Make it remarkable (people will remark about it).
  • Content ideas:
  • Success stories/case studies
  • Product comparisons
  • Top 10 lists
  • Write something controversial i.e. maybe write an opposite opinion in a blog.
Convert – to get leads, etc.:
  • Enable people to request a catalog.
  • Offer free consulting – do a service for someone, help solve a problem
  • Promotional products – to get contact information
  • Offer an online webinar/workshop
To maximize conversions:
  • Enable people to know what’s in it for them.
  • How to take the next step. Be very clear and specific about this. If you’re not mailing anything, don’t ask for a mailing address. People don’t like this.
  • Send follow-up thank you by email
  • Invite people to follow you on other sites.
  • Use Dashboard software
    • Aggregate view
    • Real time
  • Analytical data
    • Use Google Analysis (free)
Social Media Cornerstones
  • Be human. Let your personality shine through. (Check zappos.com CEO Tony)
  • Tweet 3-7 times per week at a minimum. For example, Dell Computers tweets coupons.
  • Always personally reply to new followers
  • Build a professional-looking profile
Facebook – 500 million people:
  • Set up a company page
  • Post 3 or more times a week – each business day
  • Add “Like” feature to page
  • Add video from YouTube
  • More business oriented than Facebook or Twitter. Google loves LinkedIn
  • Update personal status 3 – 5 times per week
  • Create company profile with key words in mind
  • Connect your blog to your personal profile and company profile
  • Start a group tailored to your target audience with lots of links
  • This should be the central command post for all your content.
  • Blogs never go away – they last forever and can be found.
  • You can aggregate other things like Twitter, FB, etc. Optimize with key phrases and words.
  • Should have a professional appearance
  • Post a blog at least 4  times per month and/or once a week.
  • Post the blog headline on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn to let people know it’s there
  • Post a related video on YouTube
    • Link to sign-up for email newsletter
    • Link to embedded video
    • Social environment links (buttons) should be at the top in plain sight for easy use
YouTube (This is the main thing right now):
  • Post one new video a month.
  • Not the place for amateur hour. Should be professional, TV-quality video
  • Keep it short and optimize. People have short attention spans. Approximately 1-3 minutes
  • Post videos on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Videos are 53 more times likely to get on the first page of search engines
  • YouTube is the second most favorite with search engines. 2.6 billion visitors per day.
Read “Business Week”, July 15, 2010 article about social media.
Social Media Professionals:
Annual Average Salary
Social Media Strategist
Community Manager
Video production

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 P.S. Before being turned into a theater, the Old Barn at Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah used to be a working barn. There’s a very good chance that Trigger, Buttercup, Silver, Scout, and one of the many horses John Wayne used got to sleep there during movie filming. 
 There also used  to be a speakeasy-type club in back called The Black Cat where the stars used to go for their entertainment. Kanab has always been quite a quiet, Mormon town, and even though it’s fairly close to Las Vegas, sometimes a little liquid refreshment or a game of cards on site hit the spot. The place burned down long ago, and not many people know about it. Now you do.

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Working in a Barn

Like me, I’m sure you’ve occasionally done something stupid enough that someone asked, “Were you raised in a barn?” Well, although I was definitely not RAISED in that barn, I’ve now spent lots of time in one.  Since beginning work at Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah on April 1, I’ve hung around in a barn three hours a night, five nights a week, showing old Western movies that were filmed in this area.

Being raised during the 1950s and ’60s, I grew up watching the Lone Ranger and Tonto save the West from the bad guys, the ones who almost always wore black hats. I very seldom missed an episode of “Gunsmoke” or “Daniel Boone,” or “Have Gun, Will Travel,” but gave absolutely no thought to where those TV shows were filmed. But now I know.

Have you ever heard of Kanab, Utah? Before coming here four years ago to work at Parry Lodge, I didn’t know this place existed until my brother once told me that he and his wife were considering moving here. My intelligent comment at the time was, “Where?” They didn’t, but I’ve now spent a total of fourteen months here, a lot of that time showing old Western movies in The Old Barn.

All of the films we show, nineteen this season, have been filmed in this area of Kane County and Kanab, Utah. Although the fantastic red rock scenery doesn’t show to good advantage in black and white, in Technicolor it’s beautiful. What a great place to make Westerns!

Actor Joel McCrea starred in many movies here: “Cattle Drive” in 1951 with a very young Dean Stockwell, based on Kipling’s “Captains Courageous; “Ramrod” (1947) with a luminous-looking Veronica Lake; “The Outriders” (1950) with Arlene Dahl; and one of my favorites, “Trooper Hook” (1957) with Barbara Stanwyck. That movie was ahead of its time in serving as a commentary on toleration and acceptance of differences.

Rod Cameron starred in the forgettable, at least to me, “Oh! Susanna” (1951), which has absolutely nothing to do with a Susanna other than the title music.The plot concerns strained relations at an army fort during Indian wars. He also filmed “Ride the Man Down” (1952) with Forrest Tucker, a much better movie.

Two of my favorites this season have been “The Fargo Kid” (1940) and “Wagon Train,” (1940), both starring Tim Holt, the one with a beautiful smile. “The Fargo Kid” is a light Western comedy about mistaken identity.

Of course, the hands-on favorite of just about everyone this season has been “The Lone Ranger” with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, filmed in 1956. Every night it’s played to a full house with applause afterward.

As in any decent old movie house, I sell freshly-made popcorn as well as soft drinks and various kinds of ice cream. The comfortable, mismatched seats once graced various rooms in the Lodge. If you get there early enough, you can choose the most comfortable ones in the place–two plaid, overstuffed rockers.

Many guests have asked me how many people usually show up for the movies and, being honest, I tell them there’s really no way of knowing beforehand. It all depends on how many people are registered at the Lodge on a particular night, how many tour buses, and what country the folks on those tours are from, and how many people from the community show up for a night out. The French rarely come, most likely because of the language difference; the films were made before subtitles. However, the Japanese, as a rule, love their Westerns and their popcorn. Germans like the movies, as do the British. Most of the old Westerns have enough action to satisfy just about anyone.

Enough talking. Here are some pictures I took the other night.

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Here’s a  little Kanab “movie-in-the-barn” trivia for you. Last night I calculated just how many times I’ve shown the 24-minute short feature, “Return to Little Hollywood,” since April 1. My first season here, I complained about having to watch “Buffalo Bill” 38 times. Well, the figure for “Little Hollywood” is now at 160 with four more to go this coming week. Gee, do you think that might be the reason I can repeat it all in my sleep? However, I really love the freedom of this job. And smoozing with guests from all over the world is wonderful fun, especially when some of them dance to the pre-film Western music or applaud at the end of  “The Lone Ranger.” That makes it all worthwhile.

It’s the same here in the workampers RV park. As long as the place looks decent, I can pretty much do what I think needs to be done and set my own time for doing it. Getting rid of huge, still-green tumbleweeds is ideal as they take up a lot of space yet are very easy to pull up.

 The trick is to time their removal right before trash-emptying Thursdays. Otherwise they get dry and stickery before I can shove them into the dumpster. But,  I think it’s going to take a while before I’ll be able to see one in the desert somewhere and not think, “gotta pull that one up.”

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