This interview with Scott
Ridgway was a little different from the other
interviews in a couple of ways, first it was very nice to meet
Scott in person, and to visit his office, which is very close to my
home. It is one of the drawbacks of mystery shopping
that we rarely get to meet each other face to face and
many times we only communicate through e-mail and
don't even know each others voices. The second
interesting thing is that Scott's company does more
private investigating work than mystery shopping work.
JM Ridgway was founded in 1927 by Scott's Grandfather
as a sole owner, private investigating firm. After
that it was run by Scott's Dad and Scott purchased it
from his Dad 15 years ago. Until about 10 years ago
it was strictly a PI firm, but with prodding from his
loyal customers, Ridgway branched out into mystery
shopping. They do restaurant, auto, clothing, and coffee houses
as their main types of shops. The private investigators that work
for Ridgway are full-time employees and they also employ assigners to
schedule shops in other states, and they are paid by
the shops that are booked. Up until 2 years ago his office was
located in Los Altos, CA and now it is in San Jose, CA. The staff at
Ridgway have worked together for many years and were
very friendly when I met them. JM Ridgway is a member of the Mystery
Shopping Providers Association, a trade group that works to
improve the mystery shopping industry as a whole and
get rid of the people who try scams that discredit
the rest of the very reputable mystery shopping
companies. Scott had some very unique things to say about mystery
shopping in California. He wants us to know that it
is illegal in California for a person to
conduct honesty or integrity shops unless they are "employees",
rather than independent contractors for a licensed company,
Which means shops that are meant to find theft or dishonesty
among the employees. Until recently it was illegal for anyone
to do mystery shops in CA without a license, but that
law has been changed. Scott feels that many mystery
shopping companies still have unlicensed shoppers do
integrity shops and wants us to know if we do these in
CA that it is not legal and you could be subject to fines.
If you are not in CA check your own local laws to see what
is allowed. Scott has plenty of great advice for mystery shoppers.
He thinks it is a little bit of poor form for shoppers
to get together on the mystery shopping boards and
lists to complain about companies, without making a reasonable
attempt at reconciling problems within the company. For instance,
if you send an e-mail to a company and don't get a reply, don't assume
they are ignoring you, try calling. Scott wants to develop shoppers
that can be hired over and over again. If you follow all
the instructions, it doesn't make sense for a company
to treat you unfairly or to withhold your pay. Scott would much rather
pay a good shopper for a good report than try and get out of paying for a
shop and he feels reputable companies all act in this manner.
Vagueness is a big problem Scott sees in many reports. For example:
If you write on a report that an employee was rude, that is too vague, they need
details. Cathy didn't smile at shopper, she spoke in a rude tone of
voice and told the shopper "Wait until I am off the phone" Or any specific
that might help the company that is paying you understand exactly what
occurred. Scott tries to send shoppers simple instructions so that it is easy for
everyone to do the work completely, without a lot of time wasted on correction.
Many times a shopper's check is delayed because it was done incorrectly or
incompletely and it takes extra time to fix the problem.
Shoppers have to remember that Scott's clients pay the shopper,
not really the mystery shopping company.
It is helpful if shoppers have pagers, cell phones and e-mails,
so that the company can contact them quickly.
Scott wants to put out the best product possible and
he expects the same from shopper's, which is pretty fair,
since the average pay for a 15 minute shop is $15-$20.
Scott also says that sometimes we, as shoppers make
things more complicated than they are. Do not try to
read extra things into your instructions, just do what
is asked. Scott's staff is more than willing to
clarify anything for his shoppers.
Scott feels his company is moving forward at a good
pace, going along with his business plan, and he can
be selective in his customers and employees. Scott wants
the shoppers to know that Ridgway is very open and communicative.
Don't give up if you don't get an immediate answer, remember try again
and persistence pays off. Ridgway is moving toward paperless reporting,
which is a growing trend in the industry. To apply to Ridgway go
Thanks Scott for the information and advice.