Business Dictionary – M

Machine Code

    Also known as Machine Language. A computer language, which consists only of numbers, that can be read and interpreted by a computer’s central processing unit (CPU).

Macro

    In a computer, a single instruction which results in a complete series of more detailed instructions being put into effect.

Magic Bullet

    A simple effective solution to a serious or complex problem, especially in medicine, for example a cure for a disease. The simplicity is for users, not necessarily for the developers.

Magalog

    A catalogue which appears to be a magazine, used for marketing purposes.

Magnetic Media

    Disks and tapes which are used to record and store computer data.

Mainframe

    Also known as ‘Big Iron’. A large powerful central computer to which a network of smaller computers are connected, used commonly by large organisations.

Mainstream

    A term applied to activities, ideas, products/services, etc., that are used/followed/supported by most people. Mainstream basically means ‘commonly used by people’. Mainstream as a marketing term is the opposite to ‘niche’ or specialised. Interestingly while ‘mainstream’ seems like a relatively modern word, it’s actually existed in this sense since about 1830.

Majority Decision

    A decision that represents the wishes of the largest group as shown by a vote, for example, in a board meeting or a shareholders’ meeting.

Majority Interest

    Owning more than 50% of the total shares in a company, and therefore more than 50% of the voting interest.

Majority Vote

    A decision that represents the wishes of the largest group as shown by a vote, for example in a board meeting or a shareholders’ meeting.

Makegood

    In advertising, a free advertising slot given to a company by a TV station, magazine, etc., if the company’s advert was previously run incorrectly.

Make or Buy

    A decision on whether to produce goods internally or to buy them in from outside the organization. The goal of make or buy is to secure needed items at the best possible cost, while making optimum use of the resources of the organization. Factors influencing the decision may include: cost, spare capacity within the organization, the need for tight quality and scheduling control, flexibility, the enhancement of skills that can then be used in other ways, volume and economies of scale, utilization of existing personnel, the need for secrecy, capital and financing requirements, and the potential reliability of supply.

Make To Stock

    In manufacturing, products which are made and stocked before customers orders have been received.

Maladministration

    In business or government, the act of incompetence or running a system in a dishonest way.

Managed Economy

    An economy in which goods, allocation of resources and prices are determined by the government.

Managed Hosting

    A type of Internet hosting in which the hosting supplier deals with technical issues and problems related to the website, in addition to the basic hosting of the website.

Management

    The use of professional skills for identifying and achieving organizational objectives through the deployment of appropriate resources. Management involves identifying what needs to be done, and organizing and supporting others to perform the necessary tasks. A manager has complex and ever-changing responsibilities, the focus of which shifts to reflect the issues, trends, and preoccupations of the time.

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the emphasis was both on supporting the organization’s administration and managing productivity through increased efficiency.

    Management Accounting

    The application of the principles of accounting and financial management to create, protect, preserve, and increase value so as to deliver that value to the stakeholders of profit and nonprofit enterprises, both public and private.

    Management accounting is an integral part of management, requiring the identification, generation, presentation, interpretation, and use of information relevant to formulating business strategy; planning and controlling activities; decision making; efficient resource usage; performance improvement and value enhancement; safeguarding tangible and intangible assets; and corporate governance and internal control.

Management Audit

    A structured review of the systems and procedures of an organization in order to evaluate whether they are being conducted efficiently and effectively. A management audit involves establishing performance objectives, agreeing the standards and criteria for assessment, and evaluating actual performance against targeted performance.

Management Buy-In

    When a management team from outside a company acquires more than 50% of the company, so they become the majority shareholders, and then manage the company themselves.

Management Buy-Out

    MBO. The purchase of all or part of a company by the company’s existing managers.

Management By Exception

    A management style in which managers give employees the authority to run projects, etc., by themselves and managers only become involved if the employees fail to meet certain criteria or standards.

Management By Objectives

    A method of managing an organization by setting a series of objectives that contribute toward the achievement of its goals.

Management By Results

    A method of managing an organization by setting a series of objectives that contribute toward the achievement of its goals.

Management Information

    A computer-based system for collecting, storing, processing, and providing access to information used in the management of an organization. Management information systems evolved from early electronic data processing systems. They support managerial decision making by providing regular structured reports on organizational operations. Management information systems may support the functional areas of an organization such as finance, marketing, or production. Decision support systems and EISs are types of management information system developed for more specific purposes.

Managerialism

    Emphasis on efficient management, and the use of systems, planning, and management practice. Managerialism is often used in a critical sense, especially from the perspective of the public sector, to imply overenthusiasm for efficiency, or private sector management techniques and systems, possibly at the expense of service or quality considerations. The term is also used to describe confrontational attitudes, or actions displayed by management toward labor unions.

Managing for Value

    An approach to building the long-term value of a business. The term is most frequently used by businesses that are implementing the balanced scorecard approach and emphasizes the need to make financial and commercial decisions that build the value of the business for its stockholders.

Mandarin

    A high-ranking and influential adviser, especially in government circles.

Mandate

    Technically a legal or official document giving an order or instruction. More loosely it refers to a permission or approval. In politics or democratic situations such as trade unions it refers to an authorisation for leadership to act based on election or vote. Derived from Latin mandatum meaning ‘something commanded’, from manus (hand) and dare (give). Mandate is also a verb, meaning to empower someone to take action.

Marginal

    1. Finance

    Producing very little benefit in relation to the amount of money spent

    2. Operations & Production

    Nearly unable to cover the cost of production when selling goods or when goods are being sold

Marginalization

    The process by which countries lose importance and status because they are unable to participate in mainstream activities such as industrialization or the Internet economy.

Marginal Pricing

    The practice of basing the selling price of a product on its variable costs of production plus a margin, but excluding fixed costs.

Marginal Productivity

    The additional output of a product, etc., which is produced as a result of adding one unit of a resource, for example labour input, in the production process.

Margin of Error

    An allowance made for the possibility that something has been miscalculated or that conditions change.

Mark Down

    To make the price of something lower.

Market-Based Pricing

    A price based on the value of the product in the perception of the customer.

Market Basket

    A way of measuring the cost of living. A collection of products or services which consumers buy on a regular basis, and the prices which are paid for them.

Market Clearing Price

    The price of a product or service at which the level of demand equals the level of supply.

Market Control

    A situation in which the quantity and/or price of goods or services is influenced by buyers or sellers.

Market Economy

    A situation in which businesses operate in a free market, i.e., they are in competition with each other and are not under government control.

Marketface

    The interface between suppliers of goods or services and their customers.

Market Forces

    Influences, such as the availability of raw materials for the production of goods, or customer numbers, which affect supply, demand and prices of products and services.

Marketing Mix

    A set of marketing tools used by a company to sell its products and/or services to a target market.

Marketing Myopia

    When a business is being shortsighted regarding the needs of its customers, only focusing on its products or short range goals and missing marketing opportunities.

Market Leader

    A company or brand which has the highest sales of a particular product. A best-selling product.

Market Orientation

    A business strategy whereby a company focuses on meeting the customers needs and wants regarding products and services.

Market Position

    The place held by a product or service in a market, usually determined by its percentage of total sales. An ideal market position is often predefined for a product or service. Analysis of potential customers and competing products can be used with product differentiation techniques to formulate a product to fill the desired market position.

Market Research

    The process of gathering and analysing information about customers, competitors, etc., in order to make decisions and solve problems connected with selling products or services.

Market Sector

    Competing businesses which produce or buy similar goods and/or services. The customers for which certain goods and services are marketed.

Mark-up

    The amount a producer, retailer, etc., puts on the price of the goods or services they are selling in order to make a profit. To raise the price of an item which is for sale.

Marxism

    A system of economic, social, and political philosophy based on ideas that view social change in terms of economic factors. A central tenet is that the means of production is the economic base that influences or determines the political life.

    Under Marxism, outdated class structures were supposed to be overthrown with force (revolution) instead of being replaced through patient modification. It held that as capitalism has succeeded feudalism, it too will be removed by a dictatorship of the workers (proletariat) called socialism, followed quickly and inevitably by a classless society which governs itself without a governing class or structure.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

    Developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943. A fundamental motivational theory describing five stages of human needs which must be met in a particular order.

Mass Production

    Large-scale manufacturing, often designed to meet the demand for a particular product. Mass production methods were developed by Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. Mass production involves using a moving production or assembly line on which the product moves while operators remain at their stations carrying out their work on each passing product. Mass production is now challenged by methods including just-in-time and lean production.

Master of Business Administration

    A postgraduate qualification awarded after a period of study of topics relating to the strategic management of businesses. A Master of Business Administration course can be taken at a business school or university, and covers areas such as finance, personnel, and resource management, as well as the wider business environment and skills such as information technology use.

    The course is mostly taken by people with experience of managerial work, and is offered by universities worldwide. Part-time or distance learning Masters of Business Administration are available, so that students can study while still working. There is an increasing number of graduates in the course, as a Master of Business Administration is seen as a passport to a better job and higher salary. For many positions at a higher level within organizations, a Master of Business Administration is now a prerequisite.

Master Franchise

    Allows companies or individuals the right to purchase a sub-franchise business which can be developed in a particular area or country.

Master Production Scheduling

    A technique used in material requirements planning systems to develop a detailed plan for product manufacturing. The master production schedule, compiled by a master scheduler, takes account of the requirements of various departments, including sales (delivery dates), finance (inventory minimization), and manufacturing (minimization of setup times), and it schedules production and the purchasing of materials within the capacity of and resources available to the production system.

Material Facts

    1. Information about a company that has to be disclosed in a prospectus.

    2. Information that the insured has to reveal at the time that the policy is taken out, for example, that a house is located on the edge of a crumbling cliff. Failure to reveal material facts can result in the contract being declared void.

Material Requirements Planning – (MRP)

    The use of computer software to plan and manage a production process, for example the amount of materials or parts required, calculation of workload, delivery schedules, etc.

Maternity Leave

    The time a pregnant employee is entitled to take off from her job before and after the birth of her baby. Entitlement to Maternity Leave depends on how long the woman has been with her employer.

Maternity Pay

    An employee benefit paid to pregnant women when they take time off from their job to have their baby. Entitlement to Maternity Pay depends on how long they have worked for their employer and varies from country to country.

Mates Rates

    To sell a product or service to a friend or family member at a discounted or reduced rate on the normal price.

Matrix Management

    Also known as Dotted Line Responsibility. A system of management in which people from different departments in an organisation work together, so that each individual employee has two bosses, one functional and one operational. This is common in project management.

Matrix Organization

    Organization by both vertical administrative functions and horizontal tasks, areas, processes, or projects. Matrix organization originated in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly within the US aerospace industry, when organization charts showing how the management of a given project would relate to senior management were often required to win government contracts. A two-dimensional matrix chart best illustrates the dual horizontal, and vertical, reporting relationships. Matrix organization is closely linked to matrix management.

Matrix Structure

    A form of organizational structure based on horizontal and vertical relationships. The matrix structure is linked closely to matrix management, and is related to project management. It emerged on an improvised rather than a planned basis as a way of showing how people work with or report to others in their organization, project, geographic region, process, or team.

Maven

    An expert, often self-proclaimed, in a particular field.

Maverick

    An independent thinker who does not conform to accepted opinion on certain matters and takes a stand from other people.

Maximum Inventory Level

    An inventory level, set for control purposes, which actual holdings should never exceed. It is calculated as follows:

    Reorder level + Economic order quantity – Minimum rate of usage × Minimum lead time

Mediagenic

    A tendency (for a person or activity, etc) to convey a favourable impression when reported by the media.

Mediation

    Intervention by a third party in a dispute in order to try to reach agreement between the disputing parties. Where a commitment or award is imposed on either party the process is known as arbitration.

Meltdown

    A situation in which something, or someone, suddenly dramatically ceases to function properly.

Meme

    Originally a biological term referring to a behavioural characteristic which transfers non-genetically between people, meme increasingly refers more widely to other non-human characterstics or examples which arise as imitations of or variations on a particular theme.

Memorandum and Articles Of Association

    A legal document drawn up when a company is formed containing details such as company name, type, objectives, and number and value of shares, etc.

Memorandum Of Understanding – MOU.

    A, sometimes informal written agreement between two or more parties which establishes each party’s responsibilities and requirements.

Menial (work, job, task)

    Unskilled typically poorly paid work.

Mercantile

    Relating to trade or commerce.

Mercantilism

    Body of economics thought popular during the mid 16th and late 17th centuries. It held that money was wealth, accumulation of gold and silver was the key to prosperity, and one nation’s gain was another’s loss. Supported by economists it exhorted governments to maintain surplus of exports over imports through tariffs (duties), colonialism, and other such measures.

    Mercantilism’s demise was initiated by David Hume, Adam Smith (who coined the term), and other classical economist who saw it as serving only the merchant class and argued that real wealth was to be equated with full employment through greater production of goods and services.

Merchandising

    The practice of promoting and selling goods. Commercial products which are associated with a film, pop group, TV show, celebrity, etc., such as toys, clothing, food products, household items, etc.

Merge-Purge

    The process of combining two or more lists or files of names and addresses etc., typically databases, and removing duplicated and/or unwanted items, to produce one new clean list or database.

Merger

    The joining of two or more companies, organisations etc.

Mergers and Acquisitions

    A blanket term covering the main ways in which organizations change hands.

Meritocracy

    In business, a system in which people advance because of their abilities rather than their connections or wealth, etc.

Merit Rating

    A payment system in which the personal qualities of an employee are rated according to organizational requirements, and a pay increase or bonus is made against the results of this rating. Merit rating has been in use since the 1950s, and examines an employee’s input to the organization (for example, their attendance, adaptability, or aptitude) as well as the quality or quantity of work produced. In merit rating programs, these factors may be weighted to reflect their relative importance and the resultant points score determines whether the employee earns a bonus or pay increase.

Mesne Profits

    Compensation or penalty charges instead of, or ‘in lieu’ of, rent claimed by a landlord against a person illegally occupying land or property and subsequently evicted, commonly arising from a court order.

Meta/Metatags/Metadata

    Meta means an additional useful part of the whole thing, usually data or communication of some sort, and usually hidden or underlying and coded. The original sense is from the Greek word meta, loosely meaning ‘with’ and arises now commonly as a prefix in computing and communications terminology, for example referring to meta tags (increasingly ‘metatags’) within website or computer code, which are typically hidden in normal use but which carry useful or vital information about the material or functionality concerned – specifically useful for computerised automated functions and analysis, data search, retrieval, organization and display, etc.

    The similar term meta data (increasingly ‘metadata’) refers more generally to information or code which is usually hidden in normal use or communications but which carries important meaning towards understanding or using the whole message or instruction, or other form of data.

Method Study

    The systematic recording, examination, and analysis of existing and proposed ways of conducting work tasks in order to discover the most efficient and economical methods of performing them. The basic procedure followed in method study is as follows: select the area to be studied; record the data; examine the data; develop alternative approaches; install the new method; maintain the new method. The technique was initially developed to evaluate manufacturing processes but has been used more widely to evaluate alternative courses of action.

Metrics

    The standards used to measure or quantify the activities and success of an organization.

Microblogging

    A type of blogging allowing users to post or broadcast pictures and/or short messages or articles typically in the range of 140-200 characters.

Microcap

    In the US, small companies on the stock exchange that have shares which are very low in total value.

Microcredit

    The loaning of very small sums of money to entrepreneurs, especially in the developing world, typically enabling the start-up of small business activities, especially social enterprise. See small business start-ups.

Microeconomics

    A branch of economics which studies individual parts of the economy, such as households, industries and businesses, and how they make decisions about spending money, use of goods and services, etc.

Micromanagement

    A style of management where a manager becomes over-involved in the details of the work of subordinates, resulting in the manager making every decision in an organization, no matter how trivial. Micromanagement is a euphemism for meddling, and has the opposite effect to empowerment. Micromanagement can retard the progress of organizational development, as it robs employees of their self-respect.

Microprudential Regulation

    Supervision that focuses on the stability of the component parts of a financial system.

Microsite

    A small separate part of a larger website which is designed to be used for a particular purpose, e.g., advertising or selling. Often co-branded or ‘white label’, i.e., run by a larger website organisation for a smaller website acting as an agent or affiliate.

Middle Class

    Social class usually comprising of white-collar (non-manual) workers, lower-level managers, and small business owners, often constituting about one-third of the employed population of a country. The income of this class is higher than that of the working-class but lower than that of the upper-middle class (doctors, engineers, lawyers, middle-size business owners) and upper class.

Middleman

    A person who arranges business or political deals between people, usually for a commission or fee, or, more generally, any person or company buying goods from a supplier and selling them to customers, usually at a profit.

Middle Management

    In organisations and business, managers who are in charge of small departments and groups of people while reporting to upper management.

Mindshare

    In advertising, the development of consumer awareness of a product or brand.

Minimax Strategy

    In Game Theory and strategy generally, a method which seeks to minimise the maximum potential losses, which usually equates to ‘playing safe’.

Minimax Regret Criterion

    An approach to decision making under uncertainty in which the opportunity cost (regret) associated with each possible course of action is measured, and the decision-maker selects the activity that minimizes the maximum regret, or loss. Regret is measured as the difference between the best and worst possible payoff for each option.

Minion

    A low-ranking loyal and often favoured servant or worker.

Minimum Stock Level

    An inventory level, set for control purposes, below which holdings should not fall without being highlighted. It is calculated as follows:

    Reorder level – Average rate of usage × Average lead time

Minority Ownership

    Ownership of less than 50% of a company’s common stock, which is not enough to control the company.

Minutes

    An official written record of the proceedings of a meeting. Minutes usually record points for action, and indicate who is responsible for implementing decisions. Good practice requires that the minutes of a meeting be circulated well in advance of the next meeting, and that those attending that meeting read the minutes in advance. Registered companies are required to keep minutes of meetings and make them available at their registered offices for inspection by company members and shareholders.

Mirror Site

    On the Internet, an exact copy of a popular website. This is done so that some of the traffic can be diverted from the original website to the Mirror Site when the original site becomes very busy. Alternatively a copy website whose purpose is to attract and direct additional visitors towards the original site, regarded as unacceptable SEO (search engine optimisation) or ‘cheating’ by most search engines.

Misery Index

    Created by economist Arthur Okun, an economic indicator of a country which adds the inflation rate to the unemployment rate.

Mission Creep

    Originally applied to military operations, a gradual expansion of a project that goes beyond original aims, so things turn out differently than planned, often resulting in undesirable consequences.

Mission Statement

    A brief statement which sets out the activities and objectives of a company or organisation.

Mitigate

    To make something less severe or dangerous, e.g., using ‘Mitigating Circumstances’ as an excuse to try to make an offence seem less serious than it appears.

Mixed Economy

    A country’s economic system which has both private and state owned enterprises in operation.

Mnemonic

    A technique or mechanism for helping to remember something, such as an acronym or rhyme.

Mob

    A crowd of people – usually unruly and agitated. Mob is actually a shortened version of the full Latin phrase, mobile vulgus, meaning excitable crowd. The term was abbreviated in English first as ‘mobile’, in the 1600s. In more recent times the meaning of mob has become much wider – notably slang for gangsters (hence ‘mobsters’), and in modern times to expressions such as ‘flash mob’, whose full technical meaning (aside from its earliest underworld meaning) is a secretly planned, surprising and quickly-formed excitable crowd.

Model

    Graphical, mathematical (symbolic), physical, or verbal representation or simplified version of a concept, phenomenon, relationship, structure, system, or an aspect of the real world. The objectives of a model include:
    (1) to facilitate understanding by eliminating unnecessary components;
    (2) to aid in decision making by simulating ‘what if’ scenarios;
    (3)to explain, control, and predict.

Modem

    From MOdulate and DEModulate. An electronic device which is used to connect computer systems using a telephone line for transmitting data.

Moderator

    An arbitrator or mediator. Someone who presides over a debate. On the Internet – a person who presides over a website forum to make sure that rules and guidelines are adhered to.

Mogul

    Also called a tycoon. A very rich, powerful business person.

Mojo

    Magical or special power, referring to a charismatic person, or a product with unusually seductive qualities. Such people can be said to have their ‘mojo working’, an expression popularised by blues singer Muddy Waters in his 1957 hit song ‘Got My Mojo Working’.

Mom-and-Pop/Mom-and-Pop Shop

    Chiefly and originally an American term for a small shop or business (e.g., Mom-and-Pop Business) that traditionally was and frequently nowadays still is run by a married couple, who are often the main staff too. These small businesses are characterized typically as being small in economic terms, and usually old-fashioned, slow to adapt, resistant to change and new technology, ideas, etc., with little or no ambition to grow.

    As such, marketing executives, managers and sales people of much larger organizations tend to regard ‘mum-and-pop’ businesses with a degree of disdain. While plentiful in numbers across many sectors and therefore overall accounting for potentially big market shares, mom-and-pop businesses are extremely difficult to profile, assess, and target in sales and marketing, which combined with a reputation for stubbornness (based often on mom and pop having very good knowledge and experience of their own industries), makes them very challenging for suppliers to reach, engage in dialogue, and to convert to new products and services.

    Small order values and high maintenance expectations commonly associated with mom-and-pop businesses add to the difficulties faced by corporations attempting to sell and serve them. Many mom-and-pop shops/businesses might in more modern times also be described as ‘lifestyle businesses’, where the owners quite intentionally maintain a small simple and easily manageable scale of operation, so as to fit with a happier work-life balance.

    Some suggest this adds to the (arguably envy-driven) resentment which can be felt and displayed by large corporations and staff trying to market to mom-and-pop shops.

Monetary Base

    The total amount of a country’s currency which is in circulation, for example, coins, notes, etc. – held by individuals and in bank deposits.

Money Spinner

    A product or project that generates a lot of earnings.

Monopoly

    A situation in which one company or organisation has complete control of all, or nearly all, of the market for a particular type of product or service.

Monopsony

    Also known as Buyers Monopoly, a market in which there is only one customer for a product or service being sold by several sellers.

MOOC

    Acronym for ‘Massive Open Online Course’ – conceivably the future of most higher/further education globally.

Moody’s

    A US organization that rates the reliability of a debtor organization on a scale from AAA to C. It also issues ratings on municipal bonds, running from MIG1, the highest rating, to MIG4.

Moonlighting

    Undertaking a second job, often for cash and in the evenings, in addition to a full-time permanent job.

Moore’s Law

    Founder of Intel Gordon Moore’s theory that the power of computing has the potential to double every two years (often quoted as every 18 months).

Moral Hazard

    The situation in businesses and organisations when people are protected, e.g. by insurance cover, so they are more likely to take risks.

Mothball

    In business, to stop using a piece of equipment or building, etc., for a period of time, but keep it in good condition for when work can resume.

Motherboard

    Also known as the Logic Board. The main circuit board of a computer which has all the components to make everything in the computer work together, such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, DVD drive, etc.

Motivational Research

    A type of market research used to investigate the reasons why people buy specific products or brands.

Mountweazel

    A fictitious entry in a reference source or listing, traditionally an act of mischief, but also used to catch copyright cheats or those who obtain and use a database without a licence or a fee. Logically mountweazel entries are
    removed from legitimate authorized versions.

    Mountweazel is supposedly named after a false entry Lillian Virginia Mountweazel in the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia. Also called a nihilartikel, from the Latin nihil meaning nothing, and the German word artikel. A fictitious ‘trap street’ is the equivalent used to combat map copyright theft. (NB This is entry is not a mountweazel, probably..)

Mouse Potato

    Amusing modern slang term for a person who sits for long periods in front of a computer, especially using the internet, instead of engaging in more active and dynamic pursuits. Mouse Potato is a clever adaptation of the older 1970s slang ‘couch potato’, referring to a person who spends too much time sat watching TV, eating and drinking too. Both terms originated in the USA, although these lifestyles are certainly not restricted to the USA.

Multilateral

    Involving or agreed upon by three or more groups, nations, companies, etc. See Bilateral and Unilateral.

Multinational Corporation – MNC.

    Also known as Transnational Corporation. A company which operates in several countries outside the country in which it is based.

Multitasking

    The practice of doing more than one activity or task at a time.

Murphy’s Law

    Humorous saying: Anything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong.

Mutual Company

    A type of organisation, business, etc., which is owned by members and has no shareholders. The members usually have a share of the profits.

Mulct

    A fine or financial penalty, or the verb form, to cheat or swindle someone out of money or penalize someone by imposing a fine, from the Latin word multare, to fine.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – (MBTI)

    A psychometric questionnaire or personality test in which people answer questions about themselves, which helps identify strengths and personal behavioural/behavioral preferences. See personality styles and models.

Mystery Shopper

    A person hired by market research companies or manufacturers, etc., to visit or telephone shops or service providers anonymously in order to assess the quality of goods, helpfulness of staff, layout of premises, etc.