Welcome to the Skinner Box: Corporate industrial psychology, consent-free operant conditioning of Hennepin County residents, "mystery shoppers" & mental illness

Hennepin Skinner.jpg

"Now you never know… the owner sends people to buy things here and see how you act…."

Oone-dimensional-man.jpgne pernicious pattern in our modern age is the application of Industrial & Organizational Psychology to control the masses. Arguably the I/O Psych modern trend started in the 1920s, with strategies like Ed Bernays' Propaganda approach. Gradually this converted a nation of independent & frequently militant people into pacified corporate consumers through "massification" (PDF) of egos & identity, as left-wing scholar & intelligence specialist Herbert Marcuse put it. (see One-Dimensional Man text)

Let's look at abusive industrial psychological practices in Hennepin County for a moment. Some people are trying to take action, and it appears a pervasive but latent social control conflict is spilling into the open. [Photo illustration courtesy Ulya Aviral]

Local examples of abusive psychological programs run by government and corporations abound, but they lack broader context and scrutiny. A recent one: In April-May 2012 a number of Minneapolis activists discovered a program called Drug Recognition Evaluator training (DRE) was enticing people to take drugs and possibly receive drugs from law enforcement, without any Institutional Review Board or informed consent paperwork involved. This was documented by us in 'MK Occupy Minnesota'. It continues to be unraveled in a federal lawsuit handled by my friend, attorney Nathan Hansen (more info here). [And don't forget pro sports as mass mind control & the illegally financed Vikings stadium…]

Today's case is but a small example of the total social control system, an unexpected window into how corporations manipulate individual employees. While activist circles fear & loathe government and corporate informants, everyday employees, including independent contractors and those working on sales commissions, are conditioned by trained corporate managers to fear another type of encounter: the "Mystery Shopper" or secret shopper. Mystery shoppers are people hired to pose as regular customers, and then they test the behavior of the employee or contractor without their explicit consent. This provides an opportunity for the corporate managers to punish the employees for supposedly failing on some point of behavior.

Arguably, one desired effect of the mystery shopper system is to trigger mental illness. It exists to cause anxiety & create more uncertainty: after all, if one cannot be sure if a fake persona is going to try and manipulate you at work while you are selling Comcast cable boxes or lawnmowers on commission, you will certainly become more anxious. In a higher state of anxiety, is it easier to control all the employees and keep them subjugated, as well as create new levers to demote and punish them. Weirdly, it feels like a commercialized version of the FBI's anxiety-inducing informant system.

Hennepin County will soon be releasing a new plan for handling mental health, and the conflict here is between those who want psychologically abusive corporate tactics to be regulated, vs those who do not want this issue formally acknowledged by the county.

In Hennepin County, this system is currently a free-for-all, which enables corporations to develop large programs to psychologically traumatize and control their employees through generating more stress and mental illness. Another point: whenever a mystery shopper eats up the time of an employee or contractor working on sales commissions, it prevents them from earning commissions from legitimate customers.

A few members of an obscure citizen volunteer board in Hennepin County have been looking into this, conducting extensive research on the industrial psychology of secret shoppers with an eye to compelling these organizations to be regulated, since there are certain statutes and county rules that in theory could subject the corporations to some kind accountability. [Notes below - in Nevada mystery shoppers have to be licensed under private investigators!]

The Adult Mental Health Local Advisory Council (LAC) meets on the third Thursday of each month from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. at the Hosmer Library, 347 E. 36th St., Minneapolis. [more official info PDF] On August 21st it seems the issue will actually get addressed, though this has been in question.

Here is a message from volunteer Hennepin County Local Advisory Council Adult Mental Illness consumer member Neil Elavsky earlier today about pushing for licensure for industrial and organizational psychologists.
Below the fold...

Dear Empathetic Citizens,

Very rare is the opportunity to cure thousands of cases instantly. No medication, therapy, or tax dollars required.

On August 21st members of the Hennepin County LAC on Adult Mental Illness will be given this opportunity by considering the licensure of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists and Mystery Shoppers to American Psychological Association Standards.

State statute obligate us to Cognitive Improvement and as the first paragraph of our handbook states in bold print, " The legislation of 1987 and 1989 made it a matter of law CONSUMER AND FAMILY VOICES HAD TO BE HEARD.

When a member of the mental health council identifies a variable within the borders of Hennepin County that a behavioral scientist would reasonably conclude causes Cognitive Decline it is not only within the scope of the mental health council but it is also our statutory obligation to address it.

In my first year on the council I worked within the chain of command of the council to explain how Secretshopper.com in Golden Valley, Bestmark.com in Minnetonka, and Comcast create new cases of mental illness every day. It is as simple as blocking free enterprise and violating case law associated with The Interstate Commerce Act. They also subject human beings to involuntary behavioral experimentation and behavioral modification.

I have found it nearly impossible to speak with the administration of the mental health council on a Psychology 101 level in terms of behavioral science, the scientific method, and the law. In their consistent policy of violating the law to silence Consumer and Family members of the mental health council, recently, they have overidden board resolution to take voice away from consumers and families. In the Tuesday LAC Executive Council meeting Martin Marty and Co-Chair Pat Croal both openly stated they will override board resolution anytime they want.

Diplomacy, behavioral science, the law and reason have failed to prevent the new cases of mental illness that are being created everyday by these companies and other Hennepin County unregulated psychological practitioners. When the Hennepin LAC administration and Executive Committee ignore behavioral science and the law to the detriment of public safety, it is time time for the vigilant citizen to work toward reason.

It has long been the obligation of government to protect the life and property of its citizens. When corporate corruption creates new cases of mental illness, takes food off of families' tables and roofs off of families' heads, we all pay the price. The mental illness that is being created by Secretshopper.com in Golden Valley, Bestmark.com in Minnetonka, and Comcast not only conclusively drains the resources of our mental health system, but the problems we cannot diplomatically solve through science and reason conclusively taxes the resources of our hospital, police, and school systems as well.

Marty and Jennifer cannot be reasoned with on a Psychology 101 or legal level to prevent mental illness. When our government cannot be reasoned with to protect life and property we are all in danger.

A year of behind the scenes diplomacy has failed and been met by repeated attempts to silence Consumer and Family health concerns including labeling me as a bully when thousands of Hennepin citizens are bullied by Secretshopper.com in Golden Valley, Bestmark.com in Minnetonka, and Comcast everyday.

I will vigilantly defend the mental health of the citizens of Hennepin County. If this results in repeated threats by Jennifer and Marty for my removal from the council so be it. I don't get paid for this work anyway.

I ask empathetic citizens to ask themselves, would you want your company to block you from doing your job, block you from feeding your family, perform unlimited and unregulated psychological experiments on you and work to involuntarily modify your behavior on an unlimited basis?

When reason leaves government, we are all in danger. I beg of you, please vote on August 21st to license Industrial and Organizational Psychologists and Mystery Shoppers to American Psychological Association Standards. It will protect the mental health of someone you know.

Best Regards,

Neil Elavsky
Consumer Member
Hennepin County Local Advisory Council
Adult Mental Illness


Earlier on July 23rd, Neil noted that the leadership on the board was trying to block evaluating whether the industrial psychology industry should be regulated. Here is his message in full:

Dear Empathetic Members of the LAC,

A very rare opportunity to cure thousands of cases of mental illness instantly, will be given to the LAC on August 21st. No medication, therapy, or tax dollars required.

To prevent involuntary behavioral experimentation and involuntary behavioral programming from being conducted by unregulated psychological practitioners in our county, we want to ensure that licensing of I/O Psychologists and Mystery Shoppers to APA Standards is included in the County Plan. To this end, The Open Forum Committee's choice for next month's Open Forum Topic is "Why We Regulate Psychology."

However the Executive Committee of the LAC voted to block your consideration of this information until after you have voted on the County Plan. It was argued by me in yesterday's meeting it is better for you to have information before you vote. The Executive Committee insisted on scheduling Open Forum after your vote that you may not have the information of how new cases of mental illness are being created everyday in our county before your vote.

Over the last year and a half, three Hennepin County officials have repeatedly threatened my removal from the LAC for bringing you this information. This same threat was repeated by Jennifer DeCubellis last week and by Martin Marty yesterday. Martin Marty has repeatedly blocked distribution of information and admitted to substantially editing information to be distributed, to change the context of the information. When asked for law enforcement help from the county, this county official said he had no connections with Law Enforcement and stated he would not make this effort.

Earlier in the year, complaints by more than one member of the council of silencing consumer voice was brought to the attention of county official Jennifer DeCubellis. Her response was to bring a workplace bullying document to the next meeting to further silence Consumer and Family voice. This is the tactic used by the county to silence consumer and family members with mental health concerns. If you advocate for the daily victims of psychological torture in our county, the county labels you a bully.

The leading co-sponsor of the Open Forum resolution to bring free speech to the LAC, Barry Peterson has since resigned from the LAC in frustration. In my conversations since with Barry, he has expressed his frustration with the LAC's lack of concern with consumer health and told me this continuous problem has existed for at least the last six years. Barry is coming back for one meeting to vote in favor of licensing unregulated psychological practitioners.

Martin Marty and Pat Croal said at yesterday's Executive council meeting they will over ride a council resolution to stop Open Forum any time, as they did without notice at this months' meeting.   

The LAC administration has done many things in the last year and a half to protect unregulated psychological practitioners rather than protect the victims. About a year ago, they blocked a proposed resolution by a consumer member from consideration of the general council. They also obstructed the formation of The Open Forum Committee by consumer and family members.

To explain how new cases of mental illness are being created by everyday by Hennepin County companies such as Secretshopper.com, Bestmark.com and Comcast before you vote, I will be required to send you a series of emails covering The 4 Goals of Psychology, How Classical and Operant Behavioral Conditioning is used to artificially control behavior, Cognitive Decline, Post Traumatic Stress, I/O Psychology, Mystery Shoppers, and the Law. This is because the executive committee has scheduled this Open Forum information after your vote to protect unregulated psychological practitioners rather than protect the victims of involuntary behavioral experimentation and involuntary behavioral programming. In the short term I will again provide 2 links to illustrate the dangers and what the American Psychological Association has done to try to protect people.



We are obligated by state statute to "Improve Cognition", I hope your understanding, empathy, and vote will prevent cognitive decline, protect victims of torture, and cure mental illness.

I hope we can work together in easing the pain of any illness we find.

Best Regards,

Neil Elavsky

Consumer Member

Hennepin County Local Advisory Council

Adult Mental Illness


Here is a message from another person involved with the Hennepin County Mental Health Advisory Council, Barry Peterson, from July 23rd.

This note is to indicate that my primary reason for opting to resign after my leave of absence period was up in August is correctly attributed to the facts that Neil Elavsky has stated. There were one or two other reasons, but frustration with Kathie Prieve, and other co-chairs was my primary factor.

Having worked with the Hennepin County Adult Mental Heath Advisory Council from March 2012 to recently, and into August, I find that the thoughts and opinions of consumers members have been subject to consistent passive aggressive bullying by those who believe that their statuses as professionals or advanced academic degree holders provide them with the entitlement to condescend to our consumers. I interviewed a former consumer member during at the last civil election period at Minneapolis Ward 6, Precinct 3, in November 2013. He also indicated combative and disrespectful actions on the part of non-consumers members to consumer members dating back six years. I don't know his name. Our conversation was casual outside the polling site.

The "Minnesota Nice" manner putting off consumer member desires in the following areas lead me to remove myself from the gauntlet that has been seen in several of our meetings since I joined the leadership process: co-chairs voting against an open forum, non-consumer/family member appointees being allowed to run for co-chair positions; threats to Neil Elavsky to have him removed because his his verbal manner is pointed, intent, and consistent did not sit well with staff who wanted to have a pleasant atmosphere in a political setting where tones of voices do normally exceed conversational tones during periods of conflict; failure of elected co-chairs to abide by decisions of past legislators and governors regarding electing and training consumers to ascend to rolls of leadership, and to be trained for such, per the Handbook's directions; the overwhelming marginalization by several non-consumer members to consumer members (Kathie Prieve, Pat Croal, Sharon Switt, Kim Lutes); the lack of professional training by neutral authorities to co-chairs and executive committee staff; the biased nature against upholding laws of the United States, State of Minnesota, County of Hennepin by some members of Hennepin County's staff.

These are my opinions. As I have concluded that I have made mistakes during my time on the Council, I am making a strong statement against any presumption that the parties inferred in my indictment are/were aware of the potential damage to personal and societal psychologies their leadership voices may have or would have caused in our Council and community at large. That is, I am not in the business of attempting to vilify people, as I develop my leadership and communication skills to higher level of professional credibility; I am trying to target people whom I personally believe have been misguided and mis-entitled to serve in specific positions on the Council. The spirit of the nascence of these statewide Local Area Councils have been to promote enlightenment and leadership by and for those who experience mental health issues which severely and persistently deprive consumers of mental health nurturance of a healthy life for which they may live to more greatly achieve a better life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as was extended to us in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence, in 1776 C.E., by founding members of this nation.

My hope is that the Hennepin County Adult Mental Health Advisory Council will re-establish itself to more closely abide by the mission that our state's legislators and governors slated for us when the Councils were first established.


Barry N. Peterson
Consumer Member - 2012 - 2015
Member of the Executive Committee
On Leave Until August Sessions 2014


Here is the official info for the board via Hennepin.us. It is weirdly difficult to copy-paste this PDF but I recommend looking at it. One might consider contacting Department Liason Martin Marty at martin.marty@co.hennepin.mn.us, Minneapolis, MN 55487 - 612-348-8124 to let them know that abusive industrial psychology is a public health concern. Also David Barrett - 612-596-1775 david.barrett@co.hennepin.mn.us is the Committee Contact.

Hennepin County Citizen advisory boards info here. LAC Recruitment info for Mental Health Advisory Board here. (A series of blog posts about it & the LAC tag as well, Hennepin Co tag)

Required as part of the Comprehensive Mental Health Act of 1987 and Children’s Comprehensive Mental Health Act of 1989, the State Advisory Council (SAC) and Local Advisory Councils (LACs) are designed to ensure that the mental health system is responsive to the people who use it. Providers, State and County staff, individuals and family members are all included.

Because funds for mental health services are distributed to counties and regions, the Local Advisory Council is a key place to be heard. Counties and regions determine how funds are best used to serve their communities. Mental health local advisory councils (LACs) or Adult Mental Health Initiatives (AMHIs) are established in each county or region to guide decision-making around the use of mental health funds. Per Minnesota state statute, each LAC or AMHI must include at least one individual living with a mental illness and must submit an unmet needs report to the County Commissioner. Over the past four years, MHAM has assisted these LACs and AMHIs in meeting state statute and including people living with mental illnesses in the decisions that impact their lives.

Individuals living with mental illnesses are in a unique position to weigh in on which services are most beneficial to their overall health and well-being. Moreover, we believe that when individuals are directly involved in the decision-making that affects their lives, the outcomes are stronger because the services that are actually needed get funded.

Executive Director Ed Eide has worked with over twenty of Minnesota's Local Advisory Councils and Adult Mental Health Initiatives. We work to boost interest and attendance in these meetings, bringing important updates about policy developments, fostering better governance and structure within the meetings, and prioritizing the unmet needs reports that help steer the direction of mental health funding.

Background info from MentalHealthMN.org on this: Moving my experience forward to create change by Kim Lutes.

Secret shopper reference info:

Creepy secret shopper reference info covers Bestmark and other key players: How to Find a Secret Shopper Job - Jobs.Answers.com

Comcast Mystery Shopper Jobs | Secret Shop Comcast Second To None

Mystery Shop for Comcast

Help improve Comcast customer service in your city!

Comcast works with mystery shoppers across the U.S. to evaluate customer service quality at its customer service centers and within retailers selling Comcast products and services. This is a great way to earn extra cash by completing quick jobs that fit into every schedule. Comcast mystery shoppers are not required to be a Comcast subscriber in order to complete these jobs.

Join the Comcast Secret Shopper Team.

Become a Comcast Mystery Shopper Today.

Comcast mystery shoppers are scheduled and paid through Second To None, an official Comcast supplier partner.

Work is made available on an assignment-by-assignment basis and you have complete freedom in deciding to accept or decline assignments as they become available. Second To None offers Comcast mystery shopping assignments across North America and we welcome you to join our national independent contractor network. You do not have to be a Comcast subscriber to complete these jobs.

Apply Now - Become A Mystery Shopper

What Makes a Successful Comcast Mystery Shopper?

We seek men and women across the U.S. with an interest in improving customer service, and who:

Have excellent observation skills and can remember details.

Have good written and verbal communication skills.

Have internet access and check email often.

Have reliable transportation.

Have a smartphone camera or digital camera.


The Dark Side Of Video Mystery Shopping--Mystery Shopper, Mystery Shopping, Secret Shopping - mysteryshoppercoach.com

The company then assured Stan that all employees that would be shopped had signed a release saying they consent to being videotaped for the purposes of evaluation. Sounds familiar? …..

However, a nagging feeling about the employees' privacy kept eating at him. So Stan asked the mystery shopping company to please send him copies of the releases that the employees signed, so he could put to rest his concerns once and for all. That's when he discovered that releases were never signed. Feeling that he had been lied to, and uncomfortable with the idea of taping people without their consent, he turned down the rest of the assignment and returned the video equipment.

The moral of the story? You need to do your own verification that all the proper releases are in place and that what you are doing is legal, before you take on an assignment. Ethical issues aside, if you are not careful you could be breaking licensing laws (video mystery shopping borders on private investigator work in many states) or civil laws. Sure we all love a good-paying assignment, but before you let the dollar signs dance too much in your head, know what you are getting into!


Mystery Shopping Laws including that for California and Nevada. Importantly, Nevada basically defines mystery shopping as a subset of the licensed private investigator industry, which might be a reasonable way to reform the situation in Minnesota.

Industrial Psychology Consultants: Mystery Shopping – a must do for every organisation

Academic study: The Use of Mystery Shopping | Rima Courseworks - Academia.edu (Total Quality Management, June 2005)

2009 post indicates that in a weird meta-twist, mental health practitioners are themselves getting mystery shopped! Mystery Shoppers Make their Way to the World of Mental Health

Minneapolis - St. Paul Mystery Shopper - Secret Shopping Jobs Minneapolis - St. Paul, MN:

Mystery Shoppers Needed in Minneapolis - St. Paul - Secret shopping jobs available. Hiring new mystery shoppers in Minneapolis - St. Paul for various retail and restaurant assignments. Get Paid to Shop. Earnings up to $28.00 per Hour - Mystery shopping jobs open to American citizens over the age of 18. No Experience Required.

Update: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 8 New Mystery Shoppers Needed Today

The Trade Association! MSPA | Mystery Shopping Providers Association - Home

The Bête noire of the local scene, Bestmark: Minnesota Mystery Shopper Jobs - Secret Shopping | BestMark

The wikipedia page on mystery shopping has a bit of info on ethics. There is a code of ethics PDF here but nothing about what happens to the employees psychologically is considered relevant apparently. Also this is BS: "I will not disrupt the normal business flow of an operation in the process of performing a shop (do not cause a scene);" because of course they are cutting off a employee's opportunity to being able to earn real commissions from real customers.

The wiretapping laws (one party or two party consent) are also relevant here, see this.


Side note: mystery shopping kind of resembles a employee level commercial version of something called "gang stalking", a longtime Stasi-like phenomenon cited by people called "targeted individuals" who feel like they are getting spied on by coordinated groups of people.

Sometimes this can be attributed correctly to mental illness, but anyone who's experienced life with an FBI informant knows that it can be all too real. See What is “Gang Stalking?” | Fight Gang Stalking // Urban Dictionary: gang stalking // ‘Gang-Stalking’ And Electronic Mind Control Community Spreads Online « CBS Atlanta // Gang stalking - Kiwipedia


Anyway it's an odd topic, but one totally worthy of close consideration. Let's see what happens at Hosmer Library on August 21st! Will industrial & organizational psychology practitioners, the group behavior specialists of Comcast and others have a free hand to induce cognitive decline & mental illness in their subjugated employees? Time will tell...

Commenting on this Story is closed.

Tags for Welcome to the Skinner Box: Corporate industrial psychology, consent-free operant conditioning of Hennepin County residents, "mystery shoppers" & mental illness