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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

First Person

Natalya Recherechko, 36, mystery shopper:

I've worked as a mystery shopper about three years. The questionnaire is our instrument. We rate the shop's appearance, how we were advised, how goods were sold to us.

"You have to do a lot of preparation. For example, most recently I checked the quality of service at a French cosmetics chain. First I had to learn about the products so I'd know whether what the salesperson told me was accurate. Then I had a dialogue with the salesperson -- you ask about price, they have to be able to work out what you need.

"The worst place? We once checked a cafe. No one greeted us at the entry, our order took a long time, they brought what we hadn't ordered, it was dirty, and we had to ask them to clear away the food.

"I rarely start arguments, but there are occasions when you have to find out more. For example, if they bring food that's supposed to be hot, it may be, but I have to see how they react to my request to heat it up.

"I'm never in disguise. I should look natural, but there are cases when you have to dress correspondingly. If it's a simple food store I wear jeans and trainers, for posh restaurants I wear expensive clothes. I once bought business suits to be a businesswomen -- it was an evaluation of restaurants serving business lunches.

"The most important skill is being attentive -- there are lots of little details you need to notice that you wouldn't in normal life. Did they remove the ashtray in time? You never take notes while you're there -- it's our job to be natural.

"I've never heard of someone being fired from work because of my evaluation, and I hope it won't happen. I have heard there were training sessions, or that they changed the brand colors.

"A small visit, 20 minutes, earns 150 to 200 rubles. A big visit, maybe for 1 1/2 hours, can be 1,500 rubles.

"When I was younger, I first wanted to be a cosmonaut, later a stewardess. I worked as a saleswoman for a technology company, then I was a housewife, then I received a psychology degree.

"Is there something strange about work where I have to be anonymous, to have a secret life? From the point of view of psychology, each of us has secrets."