You can be calm, cool, and collected one minute, coasting through your site visit without a problem. But one slightly odd look from a salesperson can lead you to feel extremely nervous and anxious. Perhaps the look was a little longer than it should have been or there was a slight raise of the salesperson’s eyebrows. For whatever reason, your mystery shopper radar has been put on high alert, and you feel as though your cover is about to be blown!
Whether you’ve done a hundred mystery shopping assignments or just a few, mystery shopping paranoia can strike at any time. Whether your feelings are founded on fact or emotion, there are a few steps you can take when the paranoia settles in.
Take A Deep Breath. First and foremost, you absolutely should remain calm. If you feel nervous and anxious, the staff will likely pick up on your feelings. If you aren’t suspicious to them before, you certainly will be if you start darting your eyes around the store and making too much eye contact with them. Even if the thought never entered their mind that you are a mystery shopper, your strange behavior may cause them to keep a close eye on your. As a former retail worker myself, suspicious behavior was watched more closely for the person being a potential shoplifter rather than a mystery shopper. But you can rest assured that any behavior out of the normal will certainly be watched more closely. So take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand - blending in!
Get Back In Your Role. Whether your role was to shop for a birthday present for little Sally or try on a new pair of shoes to match those pants you just bought, keep your task in mind. Commit yourself to playing out that part. Chances are, if the salesperson caught your eye, they will head over and ask if you need help (or additional help). Take the opportunity to solidify your reason for being in the store, such as asking if a toy is appropriate for a five year old girl, or if a pair of shoes comes in a size 7. There may have been a moment of tension or awkwardness, but you can recover from it by re-focusing your attention.
Take A Mind Break. There are a number of “safety zones”, so to speak, in almost every public place. Whether it’s a bathroom or a fitting room, you can retreat to a safety zone and collect yourself. If you find yourself in one of the few venues that don’t have a safety zone, simply grab your cell phone and look at it as though you received a vibration signally a text message. Step outside or to the side of the store for just a quick moment to collect yourself before continuing on with your site visit. Often, a minute or two of time spent gathering your thoughts is all that you need to calm yourself and to think through the events that led to your mystery shopping paranoia. You will have time to rationally think through the events to determine the best course of action.
Any time you walk into a mystery shopping venue with a secret agenda, the simple fact that you are on a covert assignment can cause any little movement, look, or gesture from a salesperson to make you feel a little paranoid. So just re-collect yourself on-site if you can, or take a little breather if necessary before you complete the rest of the assignment.