Friday, September 21, 2007

Secret Shopper

Way back in the old days, when were young and carefree and living in Pensacola, I sold wireless, internet and long distance plans for Alltel. It was their policy, as it is for many retail outlets, to hire secret shoppers who would come in and test the salesperson's knowledge without them realizing it was a test. I "got shopped" at least once that I know of (the nice old lady had too many specific questions, but gave me a rave review which I received a week or so later, so it was all good) and maybe more times when I was unaware. I always thought it would be kind of fun to be the secret shopper and try to stump the salesperson.

Tonight I had to call Midwest Airlines because we're flying them from Seattle to Kansas City when we come back to the states.

**Sidenote: we're supposed to be able to book all these flights through the government-contracted travel agency here but they don't handle the smaller airlines, so referred Jeff to the Services-run travel agency (ITT) to get that flight. However, ITT couldn't reserve Millie's spot and wouldn't let Jeff pay for our tickets until we were sure there was space for Millie. They also wouldn't call from their office for him, so we had to call last night and found out that the airline wouldn't reserve the space for Millie until our held reservation was paid for. So which came first - the chicken or the egg? In the process of figuring out all of that, we discovered that ITT was also charging too much. Good use of government funds in this day and age of no-towels-at-the-gym-because-they-save-money-by-not-doing-laundry. We now return to regularly scheduled programming.**

So the nice lady at Midwest answers and I tell her I need three one-way tickets, but that two are adults and one is an infant for whom we want to purchase a seat. Oh, and that we also need to reserve pet space for one dog in a medium-sized kennel. She gets all the details from me, finds the flight, puts me on hold a couple times and is super-pleasant. She asks if we have a contact number in Seattle. I tell her no, we'll be arriving on an international flight earlier in the day. She confirms the fares for us and the price for Millie (FYI - they charge only 50% of the fare for Wyatt to have his own seat - that's far better than United's 70%) and that there is space for Millie. She reads me all the rules regarding pets travelling as baggage and the rules about carseats on airplanes. She asks me if row 17 is okay. She asks me if there's anything else she can do for me. I say no, and thank her for her help. The call is practically over. And then she says, laughing, "I thought you were a test!"

I can see why she thought that. And I find it both amusing and somewhat scary that our reality is daunting enough that it could serve as a customer service test. On the bright side, it's kind of like I got to be a secret shopper without having to write the review.


Adrienne said...

And you got excellent service! Which is also rare these days!

The Blake Family said...

That's great! It sounds like everything worked out for you, Jeff, Wyatt and Millie to get back to the it's all too real! I still can't believe you're leaving in 8 weeks!

lisa said...

When we lived in Quantico I was a secret shopper at Ikea....made $60!! :)

susan said...


I vividly remember a night at Salty Iguana when we realized that just the prospect of us entering the dining room with our not-quite-three-year-old and our colicky newborn was making other patrons nervous and we realized that we were officially the family that no one wanted to sit near. It was somewhat saddening but also amusing that our reality was another diner's well, not dream dinner!

Mom said...

I'm just excited that you are really getting tickets to come to Kansas City! I responded to an ad about becoming a secret shopper last spring, but when they asked ME for money to get started, I decided that wasn't for me!

The Thomas Crew said...

I can't believe how the time is getting so short. Keep on having fun, though--It's not over yet! So glad the flight worked out for you---I think I'm going to play 'the ignorant secret shopper' now when I go into stores or make calls by "accidentally" telling them they're being tested. I'm bound to always get great service at that point! Sounds like a plan.