Why Do We Mystery Shop?

Unknown caller. A man holds a phone in his hand and thinks to end the call. Incoming from an unknown number at night. Incognito or anonymous

When you hear the term “mystery shop,” the first image that may come to mind is a shopper in disguise, checking a store for cleanliness and clandestinely quizzing staff on product knowledge. At SAM, we have an entire team of these incognito shoppers ready to help our dealers. But in our case, fake mustaches aren’t required.

Origins of SAM’s Secret Shopper Club

Sr. VP of Advertising Services Sheila Grandy is at the helm of SAM’s telephone mystery shopping operation. In an interview, Sheila recounts that it all began with sporadic requests for mystery shops by clients. These would funnel through Account Team and would always get handled one way or another.

In February of 2018, Sheila spoke with John Paul about leading up the effort for an organized team and process for mystery shops. After outlining the procedures and recruiting volunteers, SAM’s Secret Shopper Club (SSSC) was born.

How Mystery Shops Work

What is a mystery shop, you ask?

Mystery shops are calls that SSSC makes to clients’ dealerships and to their competitors to gather insights that would be otherwise unavailable. This information ranges from how well a shopper is greeted to how knowledgeable the dealership representative is about the dealer’s product.

Calls to a client’s dealership are typically geared toward assessing customer service. Competitor calls can also asses service, but they provide added insight into local market pricing, helping our dealers stay competitive.

With the new process, AT receives a shop request from a client. Then, Sheila handles assigning a shopper and adding the details to Podio via the new app Ivan created for SSSC. The shopper then researches the product online, takes an alias, and performs the call from a spoofed number local to the dealership. The recording is then sent to AT and the client for analysis.

How Our Clients Benefit

Mystery shops give clients insight into both internal and external market data that would be unavailable without SSSC.

“We’ve received feedback from some of our clients saying this was a great training tool for their staff and that the feedback continues to provide great intel,” Sheila said. “To date, we’ve completed over 300 phone shops.”

SSSC Today

Currently, the mystery shop team consists of Bentley, Casey Q., Chris, Holly B., Lindy, Liz, Luke, Marderius, Mimi, Tina, and Zack. Holly L. and Brad will begin training to join the team as well. Karli aids with tracking number setup, and Courtney B. creates aliases for the team.

“I enjoy this because it gives me the chance to work with team members from several other departments,” Sheila said. “Everyone is always so willing to help.”

The Digital department handles another form of mystery shop that is conducted online. Data from these shops include insights on form submissions, response time, email sales processes, and online pricing.

Living Off the Land

For the majority of us, there’s not a lot of time spent pondering where our food comes from. It could be right down the road, or flown in from South America. That is, unless you’re the type of person who grows it right in their own back yard.

Co-Op Specialist Laura Dobbs has tapped her agrarian side to cultivate a backyard collection of southern vegetables. In the article below, written by Dobbs, she shares the story of this newly-awakened hobby.


Cultivating a Fresh Start: By Laura Dobbs

My family has had a garden plot behind the house for long time. It’s been fallow in recent years. No time, no energy, no interest.

This year, we’re back with a vengeance. It’s taking some additional work to get everything prepared. We’ve had to bring in garden soil, compost, and fertilizer. By the time we do this again next year, it will be much easier. We’re starting our own compost pile and will keep the soil conditioned.

The pictures don’t look like much, but there are four rows of bush beans and four different types of heirloom tomatoes. We’re germinating okra and will transplant seedlings soon. We’re also prepping containers to plant squash.

Towards the end of summer, when the beans have finished producing, we plan to plant collards. We’re not sure what else we’ll plant (Possibly cabbage? Butternut squash? Maybe turnips so that Mom can have turnip greens?) but we plan to keep it going.

My mother has spearheaded this effort. She’s so passionate about it. Much of what she knows, she learned from my grandfather (her father-in-law), who was an avid gardener and could grow just about anything. He fed his family, and his neighbors, all from whatever minuscule plot of land was attached to his parsonage.

What Mom doesn’t know, she fills in with homesteading blogs and YouTube channels. My sister and I provide labor.

Mom has even inspired our next-door neighbor to do the same! His approach is a bit different, but he takes his cues from her and comes to her for advice.

Pretty soon, we’ll be shelling peas on the couch while we watch a movie. We’ll can tomatoes. We’ll cut, pack, and freeze okra. She hasn’t said how she wants to preserve the squash, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

It’s a lot of work, and it’s not easy. But, when the time comes, we’ll savor every bite.