Mystery shoppers are like secret agents. They’re on a mission, and they’re invisible to the general public. They swoop in, size up the situation, gather the info, and vanish. You’d never know a mystery shopper was on the scene.
Except when she announces her presence to the world, or at least, the store she’s surveying. In the swirling aftermath of a post-Christmas sale, I heard the loud clear tones of a woman telling someone that she was “here to do a mystery shop, you know, look at everything and report about customer service and whether the store is clean.” Her voice carried like a referee’s announcing a first down. The woman standing closest to her, pushing a packed shopping cart, had mistaken her for a store employee, so she was busily explaining a mystery shopper’s tasks. “I look at everything, and if someone’s not wearing a name tag, I write it down,” she said. “Later I’ll go to the food court. Last time I mystery shopped here, the pizza was cold.” The woman with the cart asked a question and our mystery shopper replied, “Oh, the money isn’t great but I get to buy things and I can keep those. Plus they’ll reimburse me for the food. I mystery shop for [another store] too. It adds up.”
She might have continued but her cell phone summoned her. “I can’t talk, I’m mystery shopping,” she told her caller. By now, several store employees were nearby. They adjusted their facial expressions from “when’s my next break?” to “how may I help you?”
The temptation to grab her and deliver a lecture on the do’s and don’ts of mystery shopping was too great. I left the store with increased respect for mystery shoppers who Do It Right, never even THINKING to behave as Miss Loud did. Hey, when there’s one like this on the loose, the high road is the only place to be.
As you consider your choice of a mystery shopping company, ask lots of questions about how they choose their shoppers and how they train them. It may mean the difference between a successful mystery shopping program or a failed one for your organization.