If you have ever gotten that email in your inbox saying you have been identified as a mystery shopper on your last assignment, you know that sinking feeling in your stomach. Thoughts race through your head as you ask yourself what you possibly could have done to lead the store employees to thinking you were a mystery shopper. In some cases, unfortunately you as a mystery shopper did everything right, and an unfortunate set of circumstances led to you being identified. In other cases, however, you may have unknowingly left a series of clues that identified you as a mystery shopper.
The good news is that in many cases your clues, or “tells”, are fairly standard with those other mystery shoppers leave behind. If you are aware of your “tells,” You can help avoid being identified on future assignments.
The Devil’s In The Details. In many cases, you won’t be identified as a mystery shopper until after you have left the store and completed your report. How can this be? There are times when a mystery shopper connects emotionally in some way with the salesperson, to the point where the details you provide in your report make the salesperson recall your identity. For instance, if you have a conversation with a salesperson about finding that perfect gift for your great-Aunt Millie who happens to collect figurines of ballerinas and you provide the details of your ballerina-conversation in your report, the salesperson may recall such a conversation as being particularly unique. Or perhaps the figurine collection reminded them of their favorite relative and you stuck out in their minds.
Unfortunately, a salesperson may have a connection with you based on your conversation without letting you know about it. That salesperson may not have told you their great-Aunt also collected figurines. So you unknowingly turn in a report that has a “tell” all over it. The only way to avoid this “tell” is by keeping your conversation with the salesperson somewhat vague, or by keeping your report somewhat vague. Mention to the salesperson only that you are looking for a gift for your aunt. Or in your report, mention only that the salesperson attempted to help you locate a gift for a relative. Providing extra details can be a big “tell.”
Shifty Eyes and A Trench Coat. OK, you probably aren’t wearing a trench coat unless it’s particularly cold outside. But your demeanor in the store can cause you to become a suspicious person. If you are asking a lot of questions that seem out of context with your actions, or if you are walking systematically through the store from display to display and shelf to shelf, the store’s staff will almost certainly have a heightened awareness of you.
Keep your actions and your conversation low-key and off the radar. Any interactions you have with the salespeople should be casual and not seem forced in any way. If you do need to check all of the displays or shelves, walk down an aisle or two, and then hit the dressing room. Then return to check the rest of the aisles. Or ask a question that you need to about items on the other aisles that would give you a reason to actually be going down those other aisles.
What’s That For? There are quite a few assignments that require the purchase of an item. Many of these assignments allow you, or require you, to return that item. Some mystery shoppers believe that since they can, or must, return the item, it makes very little difference what small item is purchased. Remember, the key to not being identified as a mystery shopper is to keep a low profile at all times. Don’t blow a low key visit at the last moment by purchasing an off-the-wall item that will raise eyebrows. If you grab the first thing off the shelf without paying attention to it, you may just end up at the checkout counter saying a size 14 pair of jeans are going to look great with a shirt you just bought at another store, but unfortunately the salesperson may see that you are only a size 6. This will look especially odd when you return the item saying the pants didn’t fit quite right. This is sure to be a transaction the salesperson will remember.
It may be easier to say the purchase is for a friend or family member. However, even then, be sure that the pants you are purchasing for your great-Aunt Millie look appropriate for a woman old enough to be a great aunt. So be sure to pick out a purchase that makes sense for you or your scenario.
On your next assignment, objectively pay attention to how you portray yourself to the sales staff. Watch for any signs you are giving off that a keen sales person may pick up on, and make adjustments to improve your performance as a mystery shopper.