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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Secret Shoppers: UF students help to improve on-campus businesses

<p>UF freshman Christina Lynch, left, purchases a textbook at the UF Bookstore inside the Reitz Union on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2011.&nbsp;</p>

UF freshman Christina Lynch, left, purchases a textbook at the UF Bookstore inside the Reitz Union on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2011. 

Maryanne Long has been secretly evaluating businesses on campus for four semesters, but she isn’t just looking for merchandise. 

The 32-year-old UF doctoral student is one of more than 100 students who have volunteered to be part of UF Business Services’ secret shopper program.

UF Business Services hosts the program to ensure operations on campus are giving customers positive experiences, said Jenn Moyer, a UF Business Service spokesperson.

Moyer said the program consists of the four main operations that are under Business Services: Gator Dining, UF Bookstores, vending and Gator 1 Central. Shoppers evaluate each operation based on customer service, speed of service, cleanliness and overall satisfaction.

The program, which lasts one semester, has a different time commitment for each operation. Gator Dining is the longest, and it includes four phases and 12 meals. 

Shoppers complete a survey after each meal at Gator Corner Dining Center, Fresh Food Company and a retail location. Each time shoppers complete one survey from each of the three locations, a phase is complete. Shoppers then repeat the process three more times throughout the semester, Moyer said.

The UF Bookstore’s survey has two phases, Moyer said. One survey asks questions about the students’ shopping experience. The second survey asks about employee knowledge of the textbook or apparel section.

Moyer said the vending and Gator 1 Central surveys are much shorter than the others. The vending survey asks students about the purchasing experience, cleanliness of the area and quality of the product that was bought.

The Gator 1 Central survey has shoppers request a new Gator 1 Card and describe their experience getting a new card and describe the customer service they received.

The reward for being a shopper at Gator Dining includes 12 free meals. Four of these meals can be obtained at the Fresh Food Company, another four at the Gator Corner and the last four may be used at retail locations across campus, Moyer said.

If students choose to be a secret shopper at the UF Bookstores, they receive a $20 gift card to be used there. Students participating in the Gator 1 Central survey receive a new Gator 1 Card for free and a free meal of their choice at the Fresh Food Company or Gator Corner. For the vending survey, shoppers receive $40 to use in the campus vending machines.

During her time as a secret shopper, Long said she commented on the fact that some of her food at Gator Corner was not hot, and staff told her they would make changes to the equipment.

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“My favorite part about the dining program was the post-dining meetings that were held by the UF Dining Business Services staff,” Long said. “The reason for this is because I sincerely felt that I was heard about my concerns as a diner. It was also an opportunity to share what went well and hear from other secret diners.”

Gator Dining marketing manager Jill Rodriguez said Gator Dining has been a part of the secret shoppers program from the start. She said the program helps all operations have the opportunity to continue to improve for customers.

“The program has been, and continues to be, very helpful,” Rodriguez said. “Secret shoppers provide insightful feedback that enables us to make changes.”

Wilcley Lima, an associate director for Business Services, who oversees ID card services and assists with contract management like the UF Bookstores, Gator Dining and vending, said this program is one of the best ways the division can get feedback from students.

“With this program, we can get specific feedback on very detailed questions that we ask people to look at for us,” Lima said.

UF freshman Christina Lynch, left, purchases a textbook at the UF Bookstore inside the Reitz Union on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2011. 

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