There are a large number of mystery shopping assignments that require you to reveal yourself to the store staff and manager as a mystery shopper during your site visit. However, more assignments require you to keep your identity hidden. In most mystery shopping assignments, you will walk through your entire assignment without revealing your true intentions, objectives, and identity. However, even in these masked assignments, your identity can still become known to store staff.
What Happened? If you are working on a mystery shopping assignment that requires your identity to remain hidden, but your identity becomes known to the store’s staff and manager, your mystery shopping assignment has been compromised. This can occur under any number of circumstances. Perhaps the store’s staff has become alert to your activities in the store because of your own actions. For instance, the store has been “shopped” previously, the staff may be alert for certain shopping scenarios, such as asking if an item is available in another color.
Also, if you have completed the assignment at that location previously, the staff may remember your face. Some assignments won’t permit you to complete an assignment at the same location within a certain number of months. Other assignments don’t have a specific time frame requirement. However, unless the store is one that has frequent repeat customers, such as a grocery store, it’s a good idea to avoid shopping the assignment more than once every six months or so.
What Can You Do? How you handle having your identity revealed depends largely on the circumstances. If you believe the question of your true identity is unwarranted and misguided, you can throw the questioner off-track by denying and even playing dumb. Don’t just say, “No, I’m not a mystery shopper.” Instead, question the reality of mystery shoppers by saying, “Is that even real? I thought that was an urban legend.”
If you have truly made a large enough error that your identity has been fully compromised, it is best to exit the store as soon as possible. On your way out the door, still refrain from acknowledging that you are a mystery shopper. Instead, contact your provider as soon as you can to let them know what has happened. You can get instructions from them on whether to re-enter the store and complete your assignment or not. In some cases, the provider will not be able to pay you for your efforts and will cancel the report. While this is a possible scenario, it actually occurs very irregularly.
In most cases, you don’t want your identity as a mystery shopper revealed to the store’s staff and management. However, if you have made every effort to avoid being revealed and are still revealed, it is time to call it a day and leave the store. Even if you don’t get paid for that assignment, take heart in knowing that you have learned from whatever mistakes you have made, and use this as an experience to grow from.