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Almost every mystery shopping assignment you work on will have some timing component involved. Some assignments will simply ask for you to take note of the time you entered the site location, and then also indicate the time you left the site location. Other assignments, however, have far more complicated timing requirements. They may ask you to keep track of how long you were in the site location before you were greeted, how long you waited in the fitting room before someone came to check on you, how long you waited at a table for a waiter to take your order, how long it took you to receive your food, how long you stood in line to checkout, and more. Inevitably, these more detailed timing assignments want timing in very detailed formats, which may include timing not just down to the minute but rather down to the second!

When you factor in that these detailed assignments generally want to you be able to calculate timing of various mini-events at the site visit down to the second, that there are generally several of these mini-events that you will have to take note of during a site visit, and that you have to watch the clock and calculate timing down to the second all without the employees catching on to what you are doing, you can see that these timed assignments need some extra care and attention on your part. Here are some ways to make these assignments just a little easier for you:

Develop a Strategy. When you read through your assignment requirements before your site visit, you will know what the timing requirements are. Once you know what components of the site visit need to be timed as well as how detailed your observations about the timing need to be, you can then develop a strategy for completing your report. You should do a mental walk-through of the assignment in your head and really try to figure out how you will not just take note of the time at each and every point in the site visit when  you are supposed to, but you will also need figure out how you will remember the various times that you need to keep track of. It’s one thing to remember that something took three minutes and 42 seconds, but it’s another thing entirely to try to calculate that three minutes and 42 seconds in your head with separate start and end times, and all the while a store clerk is trying to communicate with you.

Get the Right Equipment. Every mystery shopper has a different way they tackle these tough timed assignments, and often it all boils down to having the right equipment on hand. Some mystery shoppers will use a basic wrist watch with a second-hand, and they will simple use their amazing memory skills to keep track of the times. Others may need more help, and they may try to sneak in writing down notes on a pretend shopping list. Still others may opt for better equipment, and often a stop watch that has multiple event features will work great. One such watch would be a watch that athletes wear that has a lap feature. You can dictate that “lap 1” will be for the time that it took you to be greeted in the store, “lap 2” will be how long you stood in line, and so forth. It can get confusing to use such a watch during a site visit, and so you really have to know how to use your watch and how to use its features in an incognito way so that it gives you the information you really need. Generally, some practice may be in order before you do your site visit.

These timed assignments can truly be tricky, but if you have a plan and the right equipment, you can get through them with relative ease.