Smile Project Winner #11: Lena, Walmart, Watertown, New York


Hello shoppers…


Watertown, New York, July 1st, 2010


Same location, 24 hours later


People who live so close to Canada have no right to be so happy.

They do. They are.

I was in the Watertown, New York area over the weekend to meet the staff at Service Plus Automotive, a new Buyosphere training client.

Watertown (pop 27,000) is 7 degrees colder than Des Moines, 16% more expensive and doesn’t have AE dip.

Yet all these people do is smile. Nutjobs.

Wherever I went - Stewarts gas station, Taco Bell, Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppe, McDonalds, Microtel – the employees always greeted me with a grin, and a “Hi, how are you?” Even the non-employees were sweet. I accidently cut off a guy as I was trying to navigate the city’s narrow, confusing streets. His response? He smiled, and waved me through.

It got so bad (good) that when I turned on the local AM radio station, I heard Clark Howard, nationally syndiated talk show host, tell a caller, “I’m so very glad and thankful that you have chosen to call me today. Please tell me how I might be able to possibly help you!”

In Iowa, we get Rush Limbaugh: “You’re next on the Rush Limbaugh Show, hello.”

This was confusing to my narrow, uninformed, stereotypical view of northeasterners as cold and distant.

So I visited the capital of cold and distant: Walmart. If I was going to find a frowning and ambivalent employee, it would be here.

Instead I found Lena - the smiling, engaging greeter at the Leray (just outside Watertown) Walmart.

The retail area was full of potential Smile Project winners. But Lena  – as one of the first Walmart greeters who has a) greeted me, and b) meant it, seemed especially worthy.

The worthy got worthier.

“I moved here from Florida,” Lena told me.


“It’s taken some getting used to,” she admitted, with the first really good understatement of 2011. “My son and daughter-in-law are in the Army and stationed at Fort Drum (nearby), and I wanted to be closer to them. So I came here.”

Okay, I get it. But still…this woman didn’t deserve $25, she deserved sainthood, and a show on OWN.

I gave her the $25, told her why and asked her why she was so happy, in an area plagued with it.

“I guess it’s the only way I know how to be,” Lena said. “I just love greeting and helping people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t stand here for eight hours a day, doing it.”

I give up. These upstate New Yorkers are crazy (happy). And Lena is their leader.


Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.       


Ways to contact Jonnie:


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Phone: 515-480-4190 

Smile Project Winner #10: Kirby Stolen, Kum and Go


Hello shoppers…

Welcome back from a glorious Christmas holiday, blanketed in postcard-perfect snow. (And here come 40 degree highs by Wednesday to get rid of some of that postcard stuff. YESSS!!)

If you’re feeling a little post-holiday rump-dragging sluggish this morning from munching on one too many (insert fav cookie/cake/pie/candy here), I’ve got a present for you: a visit to the Kum and Go at 1301 8th Street in West Des Moines.

The weeble-ey Monday after Christmas...

That’s where the infectious smile and engaging way of Kirby Stolen, Smile Project Winner #10, will pick you up before you’ve drug your keister to the counter to pay for your coffee and newspaper.

The 22 year-old Sioux City native has only worked at this Kum and Go since July, but she’s already taken ownership of her customers’ happiness and satisfaction.

“I just love taking care of people,” she told me last week, after I told her she’d won $25, and a place alongside 9 other winners.

She blew my mind when I came in two days earlier (I’ve been a regular there for about a month) to find her at the counter, holding a caffeine-free diet Pepsi in one hand and a Kit-Kat in the other.

The Jonnie Breakfast!

“I’ve got your breakfast right here!” She said with a huge, knowing smile.

Wow – now that’s service! (and slightly disturbing, to think somebody has me pegged that soon, who isn’t my girlfriend)

I came in Christmas Day, and there was Kirby, working by herself, greeting every patron with a smile and a “Hi!” She thanked everyone who came in for stopping in, and wished them a Merry Christmas as they left.

Wow II.

I asked her why she got stuck with working on Christmas Day.

“I volunteered to work it,” she replied. “I wanted Chris, the manager, to be able to spend today with his family.”

Wow I can’t count that high. 

Kirby (who also waits tables at Raul’s Mexican Restaurant, just down the street) says that Kum and Go “really pushes making a relationship with the customer,” and that she and Chris are “working hard to learn customer’s names.” And making a name for themselves, in the process.

Chris told me he’s trying to get this extraordinary woman, promoted. Good call; you never know when some crazy customer service trainer might come along and try to steal Miss Stolen.

But then, who would be there with a smile every morning, ready to hand me my soda and candy bar? :)


Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.       


Ways to contact Jonnie:


Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Facebook page    

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Click to be taken to Jonnie’s blog    

Click to email Jonnie (    

Phone: 515-480-4190

Smile Project Winner #9: Bryan Bjorklund, Cinemark Movies 12, Ames


Hello shoppers…

Happy stinkin Columbus Day

I woke up this morning owing my hair a perm and Bryan Bjorklund $25: being in debt is no way to start a Monday.

I’m in arrears to the happy 17 year-old Ames High School senior because a) he smiled at me Saturday night while working the 8:40pm snack bar shift at the Cinemark Movies 12 in Ames, becoming winner #9 in The Smile Project (click here to read about more winners), and b) I didn’t have two tens and a five on me ($25 being part of The Smile Project’s award, along with being showered with blogging accolades) but told Bryan I’d hit a nearby ATM after watching the highly touted David Fincher flick, The Social Network.

Roger Ebert lied and so did I; forgive my terrible customer service, dude. I walked out and forgot all about you, blowing you off like I worked at American TV and Appliance.

(BTW, the performances in the very good but not epic biopic about the inventor of Facebook were solid (especially Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake) and Trent Reznor’s soundtrack was stunning but Aaron Sorkin’s script played a little too loose with the truth and the subject matter wasn’t quite as interesting as the movie wanted it to be.)

Bryan’s stand-out performance warrants repeated viewings.

The son of a career Navy man offered a quick and easy smile and naturally engaging manner at the snack bar, plus a reasonable explanation for both (not the snack bar – it’s pretty self-explanatory).

“I think kids that move a lot have to make friends faster,” said the 17 year-old, who has already called Hawaii and Maryland home. “You just learn to be happier around people.”

New Buyosphere recruitment philosophy: Hire happy transients. Train skills.

Bryan enjoys band and Boy Scouts, and has a particular affinity for swimming, which he hopes to parlay into a scholarship, albeit to a college smaller than Iowa State.

He’s already cashed in on that grin.

“A lady tipped me $5 because she said that nobody smiles anymore.”

Here’s another tip, Bryan: Keep the smiles coming, and the size of the paydays will keep growing.

Sorry for my bad memory, Bryan. Be happy you’re young. Wait – looks like you already are. :)

Meantime, check’s in the mail, kid and I’m the mailman – see you tonight.

(Note to self: write more notes to self) 

Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.       


Ways to contact Jonnie:


Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Facebook page    

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Click to email Jonnie (    

Phone: 515-480-4190

Smile Project Winner #8: Manny Patel, Super 8 Motel


Hello shoppers…


If you’re a fan of Iowa, Iowa State, University of Northern Iowa and/or Drake football, you probably looked like this on Saturday.


If you’re a fan of warm, sunny, dry Iowa weather, you probably looked like this on Sunday.






If you’re a fan of presents, you’ll probably like what Jonnie’s got for you…


I hope it’s okay if I already unwrapped it.

“It” is Manny Patel, the owner of the Super 8 Motel on 5900 Sutton Drive in Des Moines, and the 8th winner in the Smile Project, which was started in May (click this sentence to read more about why, other than what I’m about to tell you) to reward any employee who smiles at me when I encounter them while they work. (Click this sentence to read about other Smile Project winners.)

Manny not only smiled at me when I met him at the Motel’s check-in counter, he also picked up my name off my sign-in info and then used it throughout our conversation, smiling all the while.

I was impressed and told him so, and mentioned how rare it is. He responded with a simple yet powerful explanation for all the glad-handling.

“When you greet people with a smile and their name,” said the Alabama native, “it gives them a welcome feeling that makes them comfortable. That makes a big difference in their stay with us.”

Indeed, Manny has been making a big difference in his Super 8’s overnight crashers’ experience since he started smiling, greeting, engaging, thanking and following up with them in 1997 (which also happen to be The Five Pillars of Great Customer Service which also also happen to be the foundation of my customer service training program – read more about it by clicking this sentence).

While this is no secret to his loyal patrons (“I’ve learned a lot of names over the years because a lot of people keep coming back here”), what is a mystery is Super 8’s Mystery Shopping program, which is done once a year at every Super 8 location in the country

“We usually score very high,” Manny said with a huge grin that never seems to leave his face, even when he’s not smiling.

Also smiling? Your Super 8 Corporate bosses and your loyal patrons, who know first-hand about your incredible warmth and kindness, Manny.

Now others do, too, on a day when we needed some good news.  

Thank you for the wonderful gift. :)

Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.      


Ways to contact Jonnie:


Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Facebook page   

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Click to email Jonnie (   

Phone: 515-480-4190    


Smile Project Winner #7: Kay Roberts, Cambridge Court Apartments


Hello shoppers…


…and welcome to the start of the work week.

While we may be less than thrilled at the idea that next weekend is five times further away than the fun-filled one we just finished, there is light at the end of our tunnel – and you lucky blog readers don’t even have to wait till the tunnel ends to get it…

May I present the non-stop smiling face of Kay Roberts, Smile Project winner #7.


I met Kay – who has been renting 1, 2 and 3 bedroom dwellings for Cambridge Court Apartments in West Des Moines for about a year – while searching for a new place to call home; I didn’t have to get any further than CCA’s office to feel like I’d found it.

That’s where Kay greeted me yesterday with the sort of ingratiating smile, warmth and genuine desire to please that one normally associates with someone who is paid to sell a house, not rent out a 900 square foot two bedroom apt with cat deposit and optional garage. (Click to see how often Des Moines real estate agents smiled during similar visits.)

When I let the cat out of the bag and told her she’d just won $25 for doing what she likely does naturally and for free, Kay wasn’t buying – at first.

“Is this for real?” she asked.

I let Jackson and Lincoln answer for me.

Kay was equally surprised when I told her I’d only been smiled at seven times by someone in retail, since The Smile Project began four months ago. (Click to find out how it got started.)

“I can’t believe that.”

Tell me about it. (Click to read about previous Smile Project winners.)

What’s equally hard for the world’s unsmilers to understand is the complicated process which Kay uses to ensure that potential renters will see, feel and experience her grin.

“It’s easy. I just smile.”

I hope all retail frowners are taking notes.

Meantime, your endearing smile and contagious joy is enthusiastically noted here, Kay, on display for the blogging minions to see and not just those stopping in, seeking a place to call home.

For them, the garage may cost extra. But Kay’s smile is on the house. :)


Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.      


Ways to contact Jonnie:


Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Facebook page   

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Click to be taken to Jonnie’s blog   

Click to email Jonnie (   

Phone: 515-480-4190    


Smile Project Winner #6: Bill Jack, Borders


Hello shoppers… 




Did you think that last night – while you were people-gawking at half-price night at the Iowa State Fair or relaxing in your backyard barbecuing while the kids threw around a frisbee or guffawing with friends watching Family Guy – was the last time you’d see a smile for a while, either on your own puss or someone else’s?   

Ohhhhh! It’s SO much fun when I get to give you a happy Monday morning present that blows all of that stuff up! 

May I present the non-bookish smile of book store employee Bill Jack, service manager for Borders at 4100 University Avenue in West Des Moines and Smile Project Winner #6. (Click to find out how the The Smile Project works, and how it got started.) 


Stop by Borders and enjoy Bill's "bookish" smile, that's anything but

I had the pleasure of being greeted by Bill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning grin while shopping at Borders for a bathroom/bedroom reader (short chapters for quick potty breaks, extra heavy to fatigue arms for rapid decent into sleep before scary closet monsters emerge). 

If you believe (as I did, until yesterday) that book store employees are mostly quiet, contemplative, unsmiling intellectuals, then you clearly don’t know Jack.

When I told Bill he’d just won $25 for doing something that is relatively rare in retail (only 60% of respondents to The Des Moines Customer Service Survey said they are smiled at while shopping) the Davenport native was pleasantly surprised, and wonderfully humble. (Click this sentence to take The Des Moines Customer Service Survey.) 

“It’s just the way I am, I guess,” Bill said. “I like to greet people with a smile because it makes them smile, and that makes me feel like I’m doing my job.” 

Bill has been doing his job at Borders for just under a year, and his philosophy about working there may have something to do with his Sharin o’ The Grin.  

“I’m happier at work than away from it,” he admitted. 

We’ll try to keep that a secret from your bosses at Borders, dude, just in case you’d ever want to negotiate a raise. 

As for keeping the rest of your feel – good smilin’ story buried in the discount stack, Mr. Jack? Too late – it’s now on everybody’s Monday best seller list. :) 


Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.    


Ways to contact Jonnie:


Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Facebook page 

Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Twitter page 

Click to be taken to Jonnie’s blog 

Click to email Jonnie (

Phone: 515-480-4190  


The Smile Project Winner #5: Meet Jim Kidd


Hello shoppers… 


"Welcome to raTget"

(Click picture to find out what “raTget” means.) 


A tourist’s trip to London usually involves a visit to Buckingham Palace, where attempts are made, sometimes successfully, to get one of the otherwise stoic Palace guards to laugh. (Click inside these parenthesis to read a clean but funny top 10 list of “Things You Don’t Want To Hear At A Tattoo Parlor,” that will make you laugh.) 

A shopper’s trip to Hy-Vee Convenience Store on Mills Civic Parkway usually involves a visit to the check-out counter, where any attempt to get the jovial Jim Kidd to frown will be an utter waste of time. 

Stop in and try it. I (fresh-baked) double dutch (cookies) dare ya. 

It will be particularly difficult now that Jim has been officially declared winner #5 in The Smile Project.  

As soon as I stumbled through the entrance to the Hy-Vee Gas Station at 665 South 51st Street in West Des Moines on Monday afternoon, temporarily blinded by the twinkle reflecting off Jim’s constantly exposed toofers, I figured we’d have a winning grin. 

All Jimmy had to do was keep his chortles super – charged, until I grabbed a snack and sashayed towards the counter…  

47 seconds and a counter-clockwise jaunt around the convenience store later, Kit-Kat and Diet Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi firmly in hand, Whoomp! There it was! The big ole grin of big ole Jim!   

As he smilingly scanned my Kit-Kat bar, Jim said, with a voice that must be what Santa Claus sounds like if he ever stayed long enough to chat on Christmas Eve, “These are really fresh. I just put them out.”  

He could have told me they’d been air-dropped out of a helicopter that left Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory earlier that morning, and I’d have believed him.  

I quickly whipped a twenty and a fiver out of my wallet’s secret IN CASE OF SMILE compartment (To paraphrase Foghorn Leghorn, fortunately I keep my money numbered, for just such an emergency.), put the cash on the counter, and told Jim why I appeared to be overpaying for my candy bar and soda by $21.89. 

“You gotta be kiddin,” Jim Kidd(ingly) said through a smile that did the seemingly impossible, and actually increased in size. 

He turned and looked behind him at store manager Mike Barger, who was watching and listening in, wearing a pretty good-sized grin of his own. 

“Is this legal?” Jim asked the boss. 

“Sure it is,” Mike smartly replied, without feeling compelled to crack open the Hy-Vee manual, under Weird Blogger: Contests.  

I asked Jim what his title was. Before he could answer, Mike chimed in: “Chief smiler!” 

That’s a management position, Michael. Jim, I’m thinking that’s at least a 40% pay hike. How about you?? 

Jim told me he’d managed quite well in previous customer service positions, but that “this” – meaning “this greet for show, smile for dough” dealio – was something new. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before,” he explained. 

It hasn’t happened to anyone, Jim, other than the smiling 4. (Click this sentence to read about winner #1.) (Click this sentence to read about winner #2.) (Click this sentence to read about winner #3.) (Click this sentence to read about winner #4.

Now watch, and enjoy, winner #5. 



Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT.     


Ways to contact Jonnie:


Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Facebook page  

Click to be taken to Jonnie’s Twitter page  

Click to be taken to Jonnie’s blog  

Email Jonnie at:   

Phone Jonnie at: 515-480-4190   


The Unsecret Shopper Doesn’t Go Shopping – And Finds A Smile (Project Winner)


Hello shoppers…

This particular space, on this particular day and at this particular time, is traditionally reserved for the semi-agitated (fully agitated, if it’s about raTget) evaluatory musings of your friendly neighborhood Unsecret Shopper, in the form of a detailed Secret Shopper review of a randomly selected local business.

With our nation’s birthday so close you can taste it (I’m tasting grilled burgers and brats with double slices of melted real, sharp cheddar cheese, sitting atop bakery-fresh buns, loaded down with all the fixins and parked in their summertime reserved space, alongside their dear friends – homemade potato salad, baked beans, Ruffles potato chips, AE Chive and French Onion Dip and hand-cranked homemade ice cream, all consumed under a shaded picnic table, assisted by 189,320 suddenly appearing out of nowhere flies – how about you?) however, I thought it might be an appropriate time to put down the uber-critical attitude, move slowly away from the ‘puter, and take a blogging breather from busting on good, hard-working folks, just because they don’t cough up a smile within 1.4 seconds of my appearance. (That program will return at its regularly scheduled grumpy time, next Thursday.)

In its stead, this week? Admittedly, nothing was coming to mind (probably cause me mind was on fooooooood) until 9:37pm last night.

That’s when I stood at a check-out counter at Dahl’s Foods, 5440 NW 86th Street in Johnston.

I’d just placed my reasonably priced package of whole baby-bella mushrooms on Dahl’s trademark crazy-cool semi-circular rotating check-out counter, and was watching it slowly being transported towards a set of obviously skilled, scanning hands, when I happened to notice they were connected to the arms, which were attached to the torso, atop which sat the head, which possessed the face, upon which appeared the most beautiful, warm, unwavering, pleased-to-be-checking-me-out, nobody-has-any-business-being-that-happy-that-late-at-night smile, of Beth – who immediately rescued me from painful writer’s block, by becoming The Smile Project winner, #4.

Instead of trying to explain to Beth why I was about to hand her $25, I tried to explain to her boss, Store Director Kenny Kane, why I was about to hand one of his employees, $25.

As Ricky Ricardo once said, he didn’t need much ‘splainin.

Kenny, in fact, had read the Secret Shopper review of the Dahl’s on E.P. True Parkway, and so was familiar with my blog.

“Didn’t the night crew do better than the day staff?” Kenny asked.

Somewhat pensively, I replied, “Uh, yeah.” I hope you’re not married to someone who works there.

Apparently he wasn’t, because he didn’t punch my lights out. Instead, Kenny was lights-out gracious, even finding another employee to take over for Beth, so I could give her the good news, and the cash.

She accepted both with an even bigger smile, if that’s possible.

What Beth represents – to Kenny, her co-workers, the customers she serves, and all of us – is all the possibilities that come with being happy, and choosing to serve that way.

Thank you for making that choice, Beth. This is for you.

Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT. Email Jonnie at

Monday Morning Reaction: 20 Reasons To Smile


Hello shoppers… 

Another glorious late-Spring weekend, along with today, another day that bids adieu to it, and the promise of many more of each, as we quickly approach Summer’s official appearance at the party.

Welcome to Monday! 




Your friendly Unsecret Shopper’s usual M.O. on day 1 of the new work week is to bombard you with reader reaction to the prior week’s blog posts. That would include Thursday’s Secret Shopper review of Best Buy, for which there are many comments to share.

Let’s move all of that into next week, shall we? All of that “Best Buy rocks and you stink, Jonnie” or “Best Buy stinks but you stink less” feels out-of-place to my heart, following a happy weekend that felt like a Santa’s gift bag stuffed full of fun toys.

Especially when we have two more winners in THE SMILE PROJECT!



Whoo! Whoo! Whoo! Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!

The Smile Project began two weeks ago today, as a way to acknowledge and reward those happy people working with the public, who share their joyful spirit with the customers they serve, in the form of a smile. 

Anytime I see someone working in a retail setting who smiles while they’re engaging me, they get $25 cash, on the spot, along with a photo taken of them and their pearly whites, which is then shared with you. 

After 14 days and dozens of encounters with retail staff, I’d not seen a lot of smiling faces – only one, actually, profiled the following day, Tuesday May 25th, in First Winner In The Smile Project And Customer Service Quiz II. 

Then, on Friday of last week, and again yesterday, Sunday, it was BOOM! and then, again, BOOM! 64 pearly whites, spread out inside two happy mouths, attached to the beautiful faces of Katie, who works at Casey’s in Norwalk, and Kim, who is employed by Hy-Vee on Grand. 

The reaction of both young women, after being told they’d each just won $25, and why, was as fun to watch as you’d imagine. I’m going to try – wait…Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Okay, I’ll just make sure it gets done…to video capture and download reactions of future Smile Project winners on the trusty Blackberry, so you can enjoy them as much as I, and they, do. 

For now, here are the girls, effortlessly recreating their smiles. 


Katie, at Casey's in Norwalk, showing every Casey's employee at every store, how it's done


Kim, showing a helpful Hy-Vee smile on Grand that could cover every aisle, all by itself


When I told Katie she’d just won $25, she wasn’t quite buying it, at first.  

“Is this serious? Am I on Candid Camera or something?”  

She became a believer when I put a 20 and a 5 on the counter. 

After I’d left the store and drove off, I remembered I’d forgotten something and went back for it. Before I entered the store again I snuck a peek through the glass door and sure enough, there was Katie, smiling away at patrons, something she’s probably been doing without knowing she was doing it, since she was hired. 

Now everyone knows it, Katie. :) Great job! 

At Hy-Vee on Grand, I didn’t immediately tell Kim but went first to Mike, a store manager, who couldn’t stop smiling after I explained everything to him. 

He put up a “This Register Closed” sign so Kim could come over and hear the news. 

“This is such a great idea,” she beamed. “I love this!” 

Probably as much as lucky Hy-Vee customers love seeing your incredible smile, Kim. And I promise you, none of them take it for granted. :) Awesome job!

When and if you visit the Norwalk Casey’s, or the Hy-Vee on Grand, look for Katie and Kim, who are happy to help you, and happy people, period. 

Besides Katie (1) and Kim (2), here are 18 more reasons for all of us to smile today, at work, at home and at all points in-between. 



3. Because somewhere, someone is thinking about us, and smiling. 


4. Because life is so silly that sometimes, we’ve just gotta smile.  


5. Because somebody who is watching us, may really need a smile.  


 6. Because as someone once said, “The world always look brighter from behind a smile.” 


7. Because if she can smile, so can we.  


8. Because a smile goes so good with a good joke, like this one: 

“A scientist who was successful at cloning frogs, cloned one who could talk. But soon the frog began to swear. The scientist tried everything he could think of, but the frog would not stop swearing. Then one day he clacked two spoons together and the frog jumped off the table and “croaked.” Soon after, the frog police arrived and arrested the scientist. 

The charge? Making an obscene clone fall.” 


9. Because smiling relieves stress, boosts our immune system, lowers our blood pressure, releases serotonin, makes us look younger and seem more successful.  


10. Because if we smile, we live longer.  


11. Because you can make $25 by doing so. 


12. Because we’ve got limited time on Earth, and unlimited smiles while we’re here. 


13. Because when we get home, he/she will be waiting for us.  


14. Because something worth smiling about is going to happen today – so why not get a jump on it? 


15. Because this hippo just got the joke from #8. 


16. Because as someone once said, “There are thousands of languages in the world. But a smile speaks them all.” 


17. Because if he can smile, so can we. 


18. Because a smile makes us look more attractive.  


19. Because life just seems more fun when we smile. 


20. Because you may have forgotten how – but you still can.  



Smile. God loves us.  



Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at 





First Winner In The Smile Project And Customer Service Quiz II


Hello shoppers…

We’ll get to The Customer Service Quiz II in a jiffy.

First, major kudos to the first winner in the Smile Project, which was launched in Monday’s post.

Every time an employee smiles at me – be they checkout clerk, salesperson, government agency employee, bill-paying kiosk attendant or the like, I’ll pay them $25 in cash, on the spot. Ask for my name and use it, or say it off my debit card, and they also get $25.

The purpose of this is simple – reward employees for two rarities for shoppers in local retail, getting a smile and hearing our name, at least according to the latest results from The Des Moines Customer Service Survey. (I’ll give you results this Friday.)

Today’s winner is Gentrie, who, yesterday, was the only employee who engaged me with a smile, along my retail travels during the day – 14 opportunities in all.

Here she is, reenacting the moment…

Here's Gentrie, trying not to get fired



Gentrie asked me not to say where she works – corporate company policy. That’s okay – she owns her smile, not “the man.”

I look forward to losing more cash, and gaining more great retail experiences this week – I’ll keep you posted.


So you think you’re pretty smart about this secret shopping stuff? Feel like you’ve got the whole rules of customer service dealio down pat? Ready to graduate with honors, with your PhD in Customerology?

You are, you do and you already have - as long as you can pass The Customer Service Quiz II.

Long-time (okay, so the blog’s only been around for five months) readers of The Unsecret Shopper may remember the first CS Quiz, back in March – click anywhere in this windy sentence to be magically transported to it.

This quiz is similar – a 10 question mix of multiple choice and fill in the blank, with a healthy dose of pop culture references tossed in for fun.

Yet each question also reflects a point of training that I perform with employees. Some of it is based upon widely accepted research, some of it is based on the research of my eyes and ears. All of it, every question, should feel vaguely familiar to you, as a human being who both shops and, in all likelihood, serves the public in some capacity, as an employee. It is from our experiences on both sides of that ledger – and our feelings generated from them – that the science of customer service has been created.

Our understanding of how we want to be treated by people – in retail or otherwise – comes from how they make us feel, which is terribly reasonable. Somebody does something that makes us feel good, bam! That goes into our “I like that!” column and we look for it again, from others. Somebody does something that makes us feel bad, wham! We leave Target and head to Wal-Mart, where their in-store music soothes us.

It’s just getting started, folks.

Smart business owners pay attention to what makes us feel good, and try to offer it as part of our retail experience inside their stores – the right-brain feelings turned into unwritten left-brain guidelines. I say unwritten because the vast majority of business owners believe they don’t need to write them down, as rules to be followed. “Sure my employees smile at everyone! Everybody smiles, just like everybody poops – don’t they?”

It’s that assumption that allows you to walk past 20 employees in a big box store and never be acknowledged by any of them – because somebody left it to chance.
“Chances are…that I wear a silly grin” is a great Johnny Mathis song but a lousy customer service policy.

Here in the world of The Buyosphere, there is no “chance,” although there’s plenty of Johnny Mathis songs, coming out of the PA speakers overhead.

Otherwise, chance is kicked to the curb, replaced by rules and tips and guidelines and regulations and reminders, supported by the beautiful cold war axiom: Trust, but verify.

So trust what you know and let’s verify it – with The Customer Service Quiz II.

Email me your answers if you’d like – at Or just take the quiz in your mind – I’ll still know.

I’ll post the correct responses on Friday, with explanations for each.

Good luck!

1. There are four basic things that an employee should do when they encounter a patron – we refer to these as The Four Pillars of Customer Service. Name two of them.


2. Name the popular Doors song whose first line embodies elements of the four pillars of customer service – with one particular question that is almost never asked of customers, by employees in a retail setting.


3. Most of us know how to shake someone’s hand. Yet there’s a more advanced, more powerful, more effective way for an employee to shake a customer’s hand, that we train. Describe it.


4. Speaking of the four pillars of customer service – there’s a fifth one, often ignored by retailers (to their detriment) but embraced by specific business categories, including the automotive industry. What is it?


5. Which one of these phone calls demonstrates the most effective customer service?

A. “I’m going to put you on hold for a few minutes while I check that information.” (music plays)

B. “I’m going to check that information – it’ll take me a few minutes and might sound quiet but I’m still right here.” (silence)

C. “I’m going to put you on hold for a few minutes while I check that information.” (silence)

D. “I’m going to check that information and call you right back – it’ll just take a few minutes.”


6. Which one of these statements would be considered most appropriate for a cashier to say to a customer?

A. “You’re the third customer who has bought these pizza rolls today. I better try them.”

B. “Oh you’ll love these frozen pizza rolls. My boyfriend and I tried them last night and they were delicious.”

C. “Hmmm…pizza rolls. Never seen these. I’ll have to try them.”

D. “Wow – looks like you’re going to have a great dinner tonight, with these pizza rolls.”


7. When BP says there are 5,000 gallons a day leaking from the ruptured oil pipeline in the Gulf, but there’s actually 247,102, 594, it’s a twisted example of this customer service principle:


8. The “Gap” retail philosophy is:

A. Always get customers to try as many of your products as possible

B. Always have more than one sales person assisting a customer

C. Always compliment the customer’s choice, even if it’s terrible and you know it

D. Always connect one product to another – “link it” – so customers feel compelled to purchase more


9. What percentage of revenue do most businesses lose, on average, due to poor customer service?


10. Which of these actions by an employee will generate the most revenue for a store?

A. Getting the customer’s contact information

B. Smiling at the customer

C. Using the customer’s name

D. Mentioning sales/discounts going on in the store

E. Giving something away in return for the purchase


11. What is a retail store’s biggest competitor?

A. Big box stores

B. Customer ambivalence

C. The Internet

D. A new store that just opened down the street, selling the same thing


12. “Engage a customer like you would engage your _____________”


Hope you had fun. Look for the answers in Friday’s post. And keep those smiles and name greetings going – for it is cash that I have, and shopping that I have to do.


Jonnie Wright is a customer service trainer and evaluator, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of “The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show,” Saturday mornings 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at