« Starbucks won't sell Springsteen CD because of steamy lyrics | Main | What are you doing to celebrate the Frappuccino's tenth anniversary? »

May 06, 2005


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Starbucks barista asks: What do you know about "secret shoppers"?:

» Prozac no help for anorexia relapses, study finds from ead full story
ead full story for latest details. [Read More]

» Gates to Give Up Daily Role at Microsoft from Bill Gates Plans
Bill Gates Plans to Withdraw From Day-To-Day Role at Microsoft Over Next 2 Years [Read More]

» Ronnie Lott and Billy Hunter are Among Stellar Panelists Participating in Canon Capital Partners Investment Symposium from Professional
URI: http://www.prweb.com/zingpr.php/RmFsdS1TaW5nLVRoaXItU2luZy1JbnNlLVplcm8= [Read More]

» Ex-Govt Official Arrested in Hyundai Probe from ormer South Korean
ormer South Korean Government Official Arrested in Hyundai Motor Scandal [Read More]

» Billups' Parting Advice to Team: Be Unselfish from first of two
Japan. But before the players walked out of the Wing Lei restaurant at the Wynn [Read More]

» Stojakovic Likes Hornets' Attitude from and the Hornets
unable to attract top free agents after finishing with an 18-64 record. [Read More]

» Indian State Places Ban On Coke, Pepsi from the sale of soft
PepsiCo sold in the country contained high levels of pesticide, a news report said . [Read More]


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

they usually order a tall white mocha


Actually they are supposed to order a Tall Latte. It's easy to pick them out as they don't behave like a normal customer.
How many customers do you have that come in, walk around your retail area, walk by the bathrooms then order a tall latte, ask a question about a drink or beans and nearly immediately leave the store afterwards?
Shopping has it's good points, but there are crappy shoppers out there. One of the first stores I worked at was cited for having dirty bathrooms that needed everything refilled. The store had no bathrooms, nor were there even bathrooms near enough to it that they could be confused as the store's bathrooms.=)


They have to order a tall white mocha, latte, mocha, or cappuccino (!), with no modifiers. Look on the second page of the snapshot. While we're on the topic, does anyone know if the percentage rating actually bears on the service rating (1-5 stars)?


woah, two posts from starbucks gossip back to back (oops! pun!) both including the word "anal"!!!


I knew a guy who worked for a secret shopper consulting company. He was an alcoholic old guy. He looked borderline homeless: unkempt clothes, hair, and smelling kind of ripe. The company sent him to stores to be a pain in the ass to see if the employees treated him rudely (he had money and payed but would change his order and ask lots of questions) and he reported on them.

So, a secret shopper could be anybody.


Someone I know in corporate in the large city I'm in said that snapshots are 'always' done by women.

To prove that they did the snapshots they need to have a receipt, and since it's too suspicious to ask for a receipt for a cash transaction, you can be sure they're using a Starbucks Card (since baristas are supposed to automatically provide the receipt).

I've seen snapshots on lattes, cappuccinos and mochas. The mochas are often a bitch because the syrup and whipped cream cool the milk which lowers the temperature pretty quickly. If you don't have your milk close to 165 before making the drink, the temp could go too low.


We also have seen screwed-up snapshots, like the one where the barista on duty was supposed to have dreads ... but no one in the store did.

But I can't say any snapshots have been really off in the last 6-8 months.

this space for rent

The public radio show This American Life had a program about "amateur spies," which included a segment about mystery shoppers. One mystery shopper visits an unnamed coffee shop. Strangely, she doesn't let the radio reporter to follow her into the shop (so they could pretend to have a conversation), but she talks into a hidden microphone as she surveys the cafe (wouldn't that attract even more attention?). I can't find a way to link directly to the Real Audio of the show, but the radio show is available at http://www.thislife.org/ and the episode aired on Nov. 19, 2004. The mystery shopper segment starts about 34 minutes into the show.


Just to clear things up, many companies hire mystery shoppers. A lot of these clients usually go to a middle company who deals with all these. And these mystery shoppers usually get paid from $10-$50 USD a trip. Not only that, they also get freebies. And they would be introduced to the same expectation as the company.

Yes, they would have to order a tall latte, mocha, or cappuccino. They would have to record the waiting time(in line before greeted), the time it takes before they get their drink. They would also have to weigh and measure the temperature. They would then review the service provided. Then they would rate the service in four categories. BTW, they DO take note of EVERYTHING.

In addition, they would have a percentage part which is calculated by all those mentioned above. And they would also have a legendary service, which is a one to five star. It is seperate, but based on the Starbucks Legendary service.

Typing While Naked

Sounds like a sweet gig. I guess the next question is, how and where do I sign up?

Partner 1139XXX

We had a snapshot at our store once where we lost points because the mocha was too heavy...way too heavy...we tried remaking the drink using a grande cup and pouring straight cold milk with the syrup and couldn't get it as heavy as they reported....turns out other stores in our district had the same problem and apparently it was the persons scale...

You think that if the numbers were THAT far off (we're talking an extra 100 grams)the person would go "Hmmm..."...apparently not.

Boston Starbucks Rebel

Hi! I think Snap shots are stupid by their very definition. First of all, it is only a snap shot that means it doesn't get the entire picture that is occuring within the store. Perhaps, the store is in a shift change or maybe the people are just inexperienced at the time. New baristas aren't the easiest to use or helpful for that matter. I wish Starbucks would have an IQ requirement of at least 130. But I digress. An interesting point is that they usually get a decaf tall whatever. It can be a decaf tall white mocha, latte, or cappucino. I even read a snap shot where the person got a caramel macchiato. The person said that drink was the most delicious caramel macchiato ever. This leads to my second question concerning whether or not they actually drink the drink or just take a sip. In the cities, it must be really hard to get a parking space near the store because has anyone actually thought of the time necessary to walk from the store to the car and the change in temperature that occurs! I will admit that I do hand off all tall drinks first, in the off chance that a person is a snap shot person. Oh yeah, the stars do not reflect the actually percentage. I know a store that got like a 75% and still got 5 Stars.


Mystery shoppers can be a pain. Manager's hearts race when that precious envelope arrives in the mail. They can make - or break bonuses, and even careers.

That said, everyone knows they are just that "snapshots". The current condition of the store at a particular time. Every store may have that 10 minutes of problems during a shift change, etc. But remember, a real customer doesn't know it's shift change. Nor do they care. They still payed for a latte, and they deserve a latte.

A store with a bad snapshot is just unlucky, a store with multiple bad snapshots, has bigger issues than worrying about who the snapshot person is.


The Legendary Service score is not at all related to the basic percentage score. I've seen a 76% with 5 Stars because the store looked like it had been hit by a bomb, but the partners were so friendly and engaging with the customers that it brought the Legendary Service score up to 5 Stars. The register partner came out from behind the counter to describe to the secret shopper, in depth, all the decaf whole bean coffees available (that was the knowledge question). That made a big impression, despite the messed-up condiment bar and half-empty pastry case.

Coffee Kid

My manager got so mad at a secret shopper that he jumped the counter and just throttled that guy. Beat the tar out of him. When the secret shopper was screaming no no no my manager whipped out his thing and peed on the floor right in front of a family. The mom said ewwwww or something so my manager slapped her and spit in her kids hair.

We got like a 58 and 3 stars.

Matt Jameson

1. The stars have nothing to do with the percentage. They are based only on the list of things that go into legendary service, which are listed on the first page.

2. A really good secret shopper probably won't be doing Starbucks assignments...they'll probably find themselves at restaurants and hotels. That said, we did have a secret shopper once who actually came in with a clipboard and sat staring at Barista's hair and eyes and then recording something on her clipboard...duh...

Partner 1139XXX

I've always been tempted to blow the cover on a secret shopper...what would they do if you asked them if they were one? or if you tried to converse with them about secret shopping...interesting thought...


Secret Shopping for Starbucks is pretty nice in the scheme of secret shopping. You get paid 30 bucks a pop for 45 minutes of work. You can do 8-10 stores in a day. Not bad if I must say. True secret shoppers will do a variety of stuff because there is only so much to go around. Starbucks is one of the better ones as well.

if you blow the cover the store gets snapped again. it costs the store more money. I've seen it done in other places because the secret shopper was not good.

Starbucks Partner

Hey... why don't you take this conversation to your manager... to your district manager... or call someone at Starbucks in Seattle and ask these questions directly to them?

We don't have such a culture that you can't get honest answers to these questions... Do we? I've read most of these answers... and you're getting what you should expect from a rumor site... Rumors. Most of the answers are 'sort of' correct...

I'm not sure that the Starbucks Gossip site is the right venue for these conversations... Sure... I guess it's interesting for outsiders to see Starbucks inner workings...

But if you honestly want to know the answers to these questions... ask the people in charge of the program.


Why is it "too suspicious" to ask for a receipt on a cash transaction? I am a frequent business traveler. I always ask for a receipt at Starbucks when I've paid with cash so that I can get reimbursed by my company.


I think perhaps Bill Maher is one of these secret shoppers...


To give you an idea how easy it is to pick out the mystery shopper, I never worked at starbucks but I worked in retail four years ago where we frequently had mystery shoppers come into our store. It was always easy to pick them out. I have been in line in starbucks and have picked out the mystery shopper before. It's almost as easy as picking out undercover security.


In cafe snapshots are one thing. Drivethru snapshots are another. We have a drivethru at my store, so not only do we get cafe snapshots, but dt ones as well. Although those ones are only star ratings and not percentages. It does really suck when some idiot pours pop or dumps their trash in the dt lane a car in front of the snapshot driver though.


Sure, it is only a snapshotof ten minutes in the store. But in theory, the store should always be clean, and customers should always get their drink to standard. We all know, of course that the store will not always be clean. However, if you use a 10 minute bus timer and get out there once every ten minutes, you can beat the snapshot. If the shopper sees you doing a bus and the store is then clean, you instantly redeem the snapshot. They must stay in the storefor ten minutes,check the bathrooms,ask a question, order a tall drink (latte, cappucinno, mocha, white mocha). They will not put a lid on their drink and tend to leave quickly after getting the drink.


So, if I want good service, I should walk in, inspect the joint, ask for the bathroom, look the baristas up and down, scribble some notes, then order a tall drink?!!! Pity it wouldn't 3 to 4 days a week at my regular haunt.

BTW, is it okay to write store locations on this board?


"Why is it "too suspicious" to ask for a receipt on a cash transaction?"

Because that same person will also have to ask a question to check barista knowledge, and it's too easy for them to add 1+1. Maybe not you, though....

I work for Starbucks and previously worked for Banana Republic. BR used a snapshot system for guaging the quality of the store but then decided that
a)hired pros would not respond to the store in the same way as actual customers and
b) five minutes are not a great reflection of the typical experience.
They started a system that randomly selected customers for the opportunity to win a free gift certificate if they completed a short survey over the phone. Starbucks could probably save money and get a better read on the pulse of its customers if it did the same thing. They could also target "loyal customers" through the starbucks cards.


Mystery shopping is actually a hobby of mine. i am neither a drunk nor unemployable. If you treat people right on a regular basis, you have no reason to fear a mystery shopper. And when I shop you, I promise you will not know who I am because I take all of my notes down after I've left the store. And I will give you a good review as long as your store is not a pigsty and you treat me with respect. Really, I don't ask for much.


I've been a mystery shopper for years, and have done a wide variety of shops. "Really good" secret shoppers don't limit themselves to restaurants and hotels. Maybe it's not as glamorous, but the better money is in the shops you can do quickly. Give me a 7-Eleven over Applebee's anyday! The money and freebies are nice, but very few shoppers can make a living at this. Please don't gag - I also do this because I truly hope my work helps improve customer service. Phone surveys? There's no reliability. Most people I know just keep hitting 1 so they can get that coupon code as soon as possible!

As for blowing my cover, go ahead and try, I'm ready for you. Shoppers are supposed to be ready for such questions. I've only been asked one time - and it was when I wasn't doing a shop!

I don't shop Starbucks because I don't drink coffee. But if you want to shop Starbucks, go to www.secondtonone.com. For most mystery shopping, you shouldn't have to pay out any money, but for Starbucks, you'll be out $35 for the equipment, which they can take out of your first checks. It's refundable if you decide to quit shopping Starbucks. Have fun!


HAHAH! that link "www.secondtonone.com" is a link to "Website of the b-boy crew and record label" the link you want is "www.second-to-none.com"

QC Latte

Why is it too obvious to ask for a reciept?
Business travellers?

Well, maybe in the markets you frequent, but the only folks we get on business in this market are pharmaceutical reps and industry (like John Deere) sales reps. Anyone with any time in this market knows them all and knows they all order far more than one drink at a time. There are so few other business travellers here (at least ones that pay with cash) that asking for a receipt in this relativly rural market would tag you as a shopper in just about any setting.

Secert Shoppers, give me a break! Just another name for a person that has nothing better to do but wake up and say "OK, whose day can I ruin today?" I personally pride myself in my knowledge of the coffee and beverages that I serve but, when someone comes in and deliberately changes their order after you make it or makes the order difficult for the sole purpose of seeing how you respond to them, that to me is taking secret shopping to a different level. If the purpose of a secret shopper is to test knowledge and beverage standards, testing someones patience is a whole different thing.

I do believe that if I fill out an application for employment and accept the position then I am accountable for standard corporate service, but I also belive that I did not sign on for abusive and rude customers. I'm sure no one out there can say that they have ALWAYS had pleasant customers.

It is true, that as the consumer, they deserve courteous service but the consumer is paying for the coffee at a major chain and that does not give them the right to look down their nose at the server. We aren't all idiots that can't find anything else to do for work, maybe like some of those secret shoppers we are between jobs.

BTW, another thing to watch out for, they aren't just reporting on your knowledge and beverages, they have also been known to report on conversations you have with team-members and other customers. I think "Spy Shopper" is the better term.

"BTW, another thing to watch out for, they aren't just reporting on your knowledge and beverages, they have also been known to report on conversations you have with team-members and other customers."

Yes, this is true. All casual conversations (good or bad) with customers or other partners will be observed and reported. We had a snap come in who reported the barista working the bar was complaining to another barista about how long she had been working the bar. A big no-no, of course.

Our district also has other store managers come in to spy and report back to the manager. Oh, and we have a DM with super-hero-like hearing. One negative word whispered can be picked up from 30 ft. away!

Baristas - remember to keep your private conversations PRIVATE! Big brother is watching.


"Snapshots" are used in just about every kind of retail store, and even if there's a shift changed or a new employee working bar there shouldn't be a change in the quality of drink. It reflects how we are everyday because you don't always know if that person is actually ordering that decaf tall mocha or if they are working for Starbucks- if you treat all your customers to "legendary service" then you shouldn't have to worry about it! Just treat the possible snapshot like any other customer, if you have to worry about it, then it's not that the company shouldn't be doing it, maybe it's that you need to work on meeting the standards that Starbucks sets for us. I work near Seattle, we get tours of important company people and the next person walking into the store could be THE big boss man, but we don't worry about that because we treat everyone like we would treat him, and we consistently get our 5 starts- Moral of the story? Treat everyone like they're a snapshot and you won't have to worry about which one is! :)

Mystery Shopper


The above is a link to a message board discussion on the shops.

Veeeeerrryy interesting!
Will check it out - thanks:)


Anyone know how much a DM would start at?

Secret Shopper

For the most part, being a secret shopper was an intereting position. Although I only tried that three or four times, because it was rediculously boring. The interesting thing was that only Starbucks got a bad review. I don't know why but some of the employees are just rude. Bad attitude at most requests, whether it is being asked to do something by a coworker or being rudely impatience at a customer.

Secret Shopper

For the most part, being a secret shopper was an intereting position. Although I only tried that three or four times, because it was rediculously boring. The interesting thing was that only Starbucks got a bad review. I don't know why but some of the employees are just rude. Bad attitude at most requests, whether it is being asked to do something by a coworker or being rudely impatient at a customer.


Just to clarify to those who are complaining: The purpose of secret shopping is to provide an accurate and objective picture of an sales interaction. A good secret shopper wishes to catch you doing your job well. We are not sadistic people who live to hurt you. I have a non-Starbucks shop where I hand out gift cards to the employees when they do their job correctly. I love doing those shops.

I have done shops, Starbucks and others, were employees represented their company well and I have noted that in my report. I have done shops where the employee has represented the company poorly. In reality, what I report is not my choice.

Starbucks has specific questions for me to answer. I have to answer them. If I see that the condiment bar needs cleaning, I must report that. Further, good shoppers provide detailed information on events, conversations and behavior that occurs at the time.

You agreed to respresent Starbucks when agreed to take their money (paycheck). Why shouldn't they want to know how you are representing them?

One last thing. Mystery shoppers are required to interact with you in a specific way. If they order Tall Latte, it is because that is what the shop scenario says must order. If they change the order, it is because the shop scenario says they must. If they ask a question about coffee beans, it is because the shop scenario says they must. So if you are upset with what we put you through, it is your Starbuck's fault.

Patti Ann

I would love to know where the $30 and $50 dollar shops are. Try 1/3 the pay guys, and yeah, you get your drink paid for. Big deal, Tall Latte is not my favorite! Give me a good old Vente, NF,SF Quad Decaf Vanilla Latte, with 3 S&L and I would be happy.
Also as a mystery shopper, I would rather get a great shop then one that has problems. We have to explain every "no" on the questionaire and if you do a good job, you make our job easy. We are not looking to catch you in something, we are looking to report that you are doing your job. I think mystery shoppers do a job that is neccessary. Our society has allowed the 'McDonald's-ization' of corporations. We all give McDonald's a second chance because we know that they hire first time workers, so we tend to allow McDonald's employee's to slip on their customer service. But this has spread to other business'. There is poor customer service in many other stores, and instead of consumers demanding the right to be treated right, consumers are just backing off and saying, "oh, you can't get good service these days. It is like McDonald's". I see this in banking, grocery, retail and everywhere. As a society, we have let customer service slip, we make excuses for bad service, ie: McDonald's--everyone is a first time employee, give them a chance.
With Mystery Shopping, your company cares enough about customer service to try to make a difference. Be happy about that. You work for a quality company.
Also you all have a lot of the specifics wrong on who is a mytery shopper. I am not going to tell you any specifics because it would make MY job harder. I agree with the person who said, just treat all the customers right and your won't have any problem. I have a company that I work with, that gves out bonus' to employees who get great scores. And like every single company in the world, there are good and bad mystery shoppers. Before I was a mystery shopper, I was one of those customers who would tell your manager if I got good service or not. I have just extended my job now make sure that the good employees are rewarded, and the bad employees are weeded out. There is one store that I started mystery shopping and they were horrible. Now 3 months later, they have gotten their stuff together. They still don't know I am the mystery shopper because I am careful not to give myself away. I don't take notes in front of people, I don't stare, but because of a hearing problem, I do look others square in the face to read their lips. I have done that forever and not just since becoming a shopper.

Joe W

I can only say this.I wish there were more secret shoppers. I have been to a lot of Starbucks locations over the years and have noticed a lot of partners complaining about all the gossip that goes on in their stores ,not only that but they whine and bitch about the customers too at the coffee bar where they foolishly think that no one can hear them. I've had several people I know go to a non- Starbucks coffee bar and stay there simply because they are tired of all the b.s..

tipping point

Good choice Joe W. What you should really ask yourself though is why is there all of that BS? Happy workers don't act like that, do they?

You know what? You really shouldn't worry about the mystery shoppers. I am one, and what I am supposed to report on is so basic, almost every shop I've done has come out with flying colors. There's nothing tricky about it. The orders are simple, the questions are simple. The only thing that has ever been a "problem" is debris on the tables. I've only run across that once and while I did report that it wasn't cleaned up while I was in the store, I also mentioned that it was "crazy busy." I didn't really say, "crazy busy" but you know, you try to put things in context. Starbucks is Starbucks. In all my years of frequenting Starbucks (as a regular customer) the service has always been at least fine, and usually great. I suppose there's always the chance you're going to get some psycho, wierdo, vindictive shopper, but that's just life. Those kinds of people can pop up anywhere. For the most part, just do your job as you usually do, and you'll probably fare very well.


On our snapshots, even when the shopper puts qualifying remarks, like that the condiment bar was messy but there was a line out the door, we still get counted off for it. But thanks for trying.;)


Gossip & rumors, no matter the subject, are not reliable. I have never been given corporate directions to shop Starbucks with a gift card, to change my order midstream, or to always order decaf. Often shoppers are rotated, and ordering details are changed monthly.
Mystery shoppers are not negative people who have nothing better to do than get you fired. We are encouraged to find the good, NOT dwell on the bad. If your service & attitude are nasty, you deserve a nasty write up, but we have to be "objective". You were trained to do a job...do it properly & you needn't fear the mystery shopper that you THINK you can spot.

Kevin P. Ward

Could you please email me the receipts for Egg Nog Latte, Peppermint Latte, and Pumpkin Latte. I'm a devoted and loyal purchaser of your products but I just recently purchased my second Barista Machine.

Thank You Another Satisified Customer

Kevin Ward


Could someone please email me a copy of the secret shoppers form. I would like to see what is on this (I manage a coffee shop of my own, and I am looking to start a similar program)


Thank you!


none of the recipes are secret. ask a freakin barista. it is just coffee..

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search Site

Ads (2)