Mystery shoppers often find themselves in situations that they cannot control. As a mystery shopper, your job is to fulfill your assignment requirements during the site visit and make unbiased observations. Yet when performing even the simplest of mystery shopping assignments, mystery shoppers can find themselves in hot water during their assignments. Anything can happen on a site visit, from other would-be customers like you finding your behavior suspicious to store employees who catch on that you are a mystery shopper.
When your cover as a mystery shopper is in danger of being blown, you have entered into a situation out of your control as a mystery shopper. What’s worse, you may not be able to complete the job requirements as specified in the instructions, and this means that your paycheck may be in danger of being lost. When a situation like this arises, what you need to do is think fast if you want to save your cover AND your paycheck.
Proper Planning. With each mystery shopping assignment you complete, take some time to read the requirements thoroughly well before you site visit is planned. Think about if you need to come up with a good cover story for the assignment or if you can just be yourself. For some assignments, you really need to take on the role of someone else to complete properly, and this is something that needs to be decided well in advance of your site visit.
Whether you take on the persona of someone else or not, you also need to consider a strategy for actually walking through the assignment. Consider if you have to visit multiple assignments, if the restrooms need to be checked, what food items you may need to order, and so forth. Before you go in to do your site visit, have a clear plan of how you complete all of the requirements. When you know what you need to do and how you plan to do it, you will be less likely to draw attention to yourself.
Act Confused. When you cover is about be blown, you may need to act confused or even play dumb if you want to save your paycheck and your cover as a mystery shopper. Anyone who has worked in the realm of retail or dealt with the general public in their job knows that there are a lot of unintelligent questions asked, and while these questions may stand out in the course of an employee’s day, they won’t set off a red flag to a store’s staff. And the fact is that asking a dumb question or playing the part of a confused shopper at an opportune time may just save your cover as a mystery shopper. If you think that your cover may have just been blown, throw out a quick line like, “What? I thought these items were on sale?” or “I’m sorry. My mind was somewhere else. I don’t think I heard you right.” When you time these questions right, you can essentially use them to erase your last action or statement and make it seem less suspicious to store staff and even to other customers if necessary.
Take A Break. If you time to regroup and refocus your thoughts, head to one of the safe zones in a restaurant or store. These safe zones keep you on-site and doing “normal” customer things but away from the eye’s of store staff. Consider heading to the bathroom or fitting rooms if you need to think about how you want to proceed with the rest of your site visit. These safe zones come in handy when you need a quick break.
Use these strategies to keep out of hot water on mystery shopping assignments!