Disclosure: Heuer was given a $500 gift card from Izea on behalf of their client, Sears, to participate in their campaign and “grant a wish” for someone (turned out to be me) then to share the experiences shopping at the retail store. There is also a contest you can enter with details on Heuer’s blog to grant perhaps one or more of your wishes. From our perspective, we see this as getting paid to provide our feedback more then getting paid to write a blog post (or two now), but as we have seen over the last few days with regards to Chris Brogan and his involvement in the K-Mart campaign, everyone has their own perspective.
I won’t fib, I had mixed feelings around the Sears gift card, Izea and the kerfuffle it could cause – however – I thought it was worth the ‘risk’ knowing Heuer and I know could be completely open and honest about our experience (whether it was good or bad) – so we jumped in the car and headed to Sears to try and grant my Christmas wish for a karaoke machine and a Wii. Now mind you, I don’t shop normally at Sears, but being in a couple of their stores in the past, I did have some idea of what to expect.
I won’t go into details here about what we did, what we bought and our overall experiences as Heuer spells it all out extremely well in his post, and while we didn’t end up with anything we set out for, I have to say I loved the ‘mystery shopper’ aspect of it. I had done something like this before for my sister’s business where I was sent out anonymously to 10+ retail stores and report back on my experiences with her personnel and the overall atmosphere of each location. The only difference to me between my sister’s project and the one from Sears, is we got to keep the items we purchased at Sears. Sure that makes for a pretty big difference, but as long as we can share our experiences openly and honestly, I don’t see why that should change the value of our posts. I love having the opportunity to crawl inside a business, evaluate their products and services and the expertise of their employees and then provide feedback – all in an attempt to ensure a pleasurable experience for everyone. In fact, I think that is why I pick the roles I do in my career as they are all related to listening to our customers and finding ways to better the relationship.
So I am happy we did it, and hope we get more opportunities in the future to dig into someone’s business like this. Being a simple observer can get you a bit of information, being an actual consumer opens up a whole lot more to you to evaluate. And for me – it doesn’t matter whether they allow me to keep the items I purchased, or paid me a flat fee to experience this all first hand – it is compensation for feedback and as my prior employers can tell you – I don’t hold anything back.
I would be curious to know the reaction from people had our experiences been different and we gave Sears a glowing response. Would our community trust that information? I would hope so as Heuer and I have spent our careers building reputations we can be proud of and are not the type to add a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down any easier. We strive to live openly and honestly in everything we do – work included – so when we share our experiences, we expect people to believe in it.