When you enter a store to complete a shop, your big objective is to shop according to the requirements provided without being discovered as a mystery shopper. Oftentimes to complete the requirements, you have to play the role of someone you are not. For instance, you may have to act like an avid soccer fan or a lover of fine wines. For some shoppers, this is incredibly easy to do, and they have no problem pretending to be someone they are not or asking questions about a shirt they are really not at all interested in purchasing. For others, it is very difficult to pull off a role-playing scenario without giving off suspicious hints to the store’s staff that you are not who you say you are.
Be Confident! First, understand that your average salesperson has absolutely no reason NOT to believe you are really interested in a blue men’s shirt for your father-in-law’s birthday. And if the salesperson asks if he prefers a button-down collar, you have free range to make up whatever answer you want and believe in that answer. When you believe what you are saying, the salesperson will believe you.
Now, if you are playing the role of a wine connoisseur in a liquor store shop and don’t know the difference between a merlot and a cabernet, there are two ways to approach this. First, salespeople come into contact with all kinds of people every day. They certainly have spoken to people before who believe they know everything there is to know about wine, but who really don’t. So you can certainly go in and play the role of the know-it-all who really doesn’t have a clue. Or you can revise your role and choose the role of someone who is having a dinner party and doesn’t know the first thing about wine. Choose your role carefully, and be sure the role you choose is one that you can confidently pull off.
Follow Through! Whatever role you choose to play, just as an actor on stage doesn’t step out of character during his performance, you shouldn’t either. From the moment you step into the store until you walk out again, you are the biggest soccer fan that ever lived or you are the hard-pressed woman searching for the perfect gift for the father-in-law who has everything. Just know that some nosy salesperson may ask you where your wedding ring is since you are obviously married if you have a father-in-law. Or your salesperson may be the second biggest soccer fan around and may want to talk to you about the big match last night.
Once you walk into the store claiming to be the person you are, you can’t switch your cover story in the middle of the performance. This would surely cause suspicion. So be sure you are up to some small-talk chit-chat about your topic. Be ready with a cover story saying you “missed that soccer game last night because you had to take your wife out to eat for your anniversary.” Luckily you TiVoed it, and you don’t want to hear any details about it!
Act Natural! Whatever requirements you need to meet in the store, such as checking each display shelf, making sure the shoe boxes are sized correctly, or visiting each and every department in the store, be sure you don’t stand out while you are completing them. Certainly walking from one display shelf to the next, and then on to the next one after that will likely seem suspicious. How many shoppers go systematically through the store looking at each and every display? Or if you walk up to the salesperson and ask for their name and job title, and to list out the day’s promotional items, you are going to raise a red flag. Find a way to meet the requirements of the shop without stepping out of character as a typical shopper. Do you really need to walk right up to that display shelf, or can you casually check it out while looking at the stack of shirts nearby? Instead of directly asking about the promotion, an indirect question about if this particular shirt is on sale will most likely lead the salesperson into their sales pitch spiel.
The key to keeping your cover as a mystery shopper is to remain low-key and not act out of the ordinary. Ordinary is of course variable, depending on the role you are playing. So be sure you can pull off the role before you start the act. If you have questions about your ability to play that role, think about other ways you can pull off the shop. If you can’t act like an avid soccer fan, maybe you are married to a soccer fan and you yourself don’t know much at all about the sport. Choose wisely, and follow it through to the end of the shop.