The Life of a Secret Shopper An inside look at Consumer Reports’ secret shoppers. [Consumer Reports Electronics]


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  1. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    Whoa, so all those ‘become a secret shopper’ spam e-mails I have been getting have been coming from Consumer Reports? Who knew!

  2. winshape says:

    Do they just return the TV’s after they test them? Is there a site?

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, one of the benefits of working at Consumer Reports is that once we finish testing all the products, most of them go up for auction to staffers. (Just ask Ben and Meghann… I think they’ve one a thing or two at our last in-house auction! ;-))

      -Paul Eng
      Web Sr. Editor, Electronics
      Consumer Reports Electronics Blog

  3. j-o-h-n says:

    Wouldn’t it raise less suspicion to buy 5 TVs at five different stores?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @j-o-h-n: Or at least 2-3 different stores. It probably wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows if you’re buying a TV for two rooms or one TV is a gift.

      I guess that particular mystery shopper didn’t live someplace with that many electronics stores or the driving in their city is horrendous.

    • Rachacha says:

      @j-o-h-n: Possibly, but with the way that stores and manufacturers work out agreements where models are unique to one particular retailer you sometimes have no other choice unless you want to drive to every BestBuy in a 100 mile radius to obtain 5 televisions of the same exact model number that are needed for testing.

    • eelmonger says:

      @j-o-h-n: “I’m opening a sports bar.” Done.

      • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

        @eelmonger: I guess that depends on whether the mystery shopper buys 5 identical or 5 different TVs. The article didn’t specify, nor do I know if CU purchases multiple identical units or one of a kind. But assuming they’re 5 identical models, then they’re for:

        my church’s overflow rooms/nursery/offices/etc.

        Conference rooms where I work.

        Medical center waiting rooms.

        College lecture halls.

        and on and on…

        I would really be impressed with a nonchalant response to why one needed an RCA 50″ LCD, a Panasonic 42″ Viera plasma, a Sony Bravia 47″ LCD, a 37″ Vizio plasma, and a Sharp 46″ plasma. Especially when it’s necessary to get a very specific model number for each one.

        “No, sorry, we’re out of stock on the RCA with the 72Hz refresh rate, however, I can give you the RCA with the 120Hz refresh for the same price.”

  4. Raekwon says:

    But, but, I have 5 TVs!! Then again they are not all brand new.

  5. pop top says:

    Are you looking for anyone in Michigan to be a secret shopper? :)

  6. Ichiro51 says:

    This one must have flown right over my head…what’s the need for covert ops if the point of procuring the TVs are just for product testing and not something like assessing customer service performance?

    • Coles_Law says:

      @Ichiro51: Reps may test the TV in the stockroom to make sure there’s no out-of box defects. Of course, it would be nice if they did that for everybody…

    • pop top says:

      @Ichiro51: Or they may refuse to sell anything to the shopper so they don’t have to worry about any of their products being reported as defective.

    • Rachacha says:

      @Ichiro51: If you walk into a store and say Hi, I’m with consumer reports and I would like to buy 5 TVs you risk the store giving you “pristene” samples (i.e. selecting the samples that have not been dented or banged while in storage, and ones that have PERFECT boxes), you also risk the store telling the manufacturer that Consumer reports buys their equipment at that particular store (presumably the manufacturer would start giving hand selected (possibly specially marked)samples to that particular store with the hopes that the secret shopper will return.

      By acting as an every day consumer, you minimize the chance that the purchaser will receive any special samples.