How To Handle Sticky Mystery Shopping Situations

Often, a mystery shopping site visit will be a fairly “textbook” event. You shop around, casually interact with salespeople, and make your purchases. But occasionally mystery shopping assignments turn into more than a mystery shopper bargained for. Perhaps it is due to complicated assignment requirements, or maybe a salesperson is on to you. For whatever reason, these complications are a good reason to stay on your toes while you are on a site visit and be prepared for any situation that may come up.

Those Pesky Details! Sometimes situations arise with a mystery shopping site visit that are caused by burdensome requirements. For instance, you may have to memorize photos of several display shelves and then ensure you find each of the display shelves at the store and that they are all laid out according to the photos. This can certainly take a great deal of concentration on the part of a mystery shopper.

Or perhaps the requirement is for something seemingly small, but yet turns into a major ordeal. For instance, a requirement may be that you absolutely need to get a salesperson’s name, but the salesperson is not wearing a name tag. Sure, you can ask for their name, but unless you handle the situation very carefully, you may stand out like a sore thumb to the salesperson and pique their awareness of you.  There are any number of situations that can arise. The trick is to read the requirements well ahead of your assignment date and think the assignment through in detail, including seemingly small details like names. Be sure you have thought of how you will handle various scenarios that pop up so you are prepared to act quickly if a situation arises.

Play The Part! Almost any mystery shopper can handle almost any assignment. A 70-year old man can handle a mystery shopping assignment at a children’s store, and a minivan driving mom of four can pull off a motorcycle dealership assignment. There are so many different scenarios you can create, such as looking for a gift for a grandchild or neighbor. Perhaps you have hit a middle age crisis and want to walk on the wild side a bit. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the products the store sells, you can pull it off simply by acting like you are shopping for a gift for someone who loves that product, but unfortunately you just don’t know a thing.

Plan your story out ahead of time. Really think through your story and be prepared to answer almost any question. What is your grandchild’s age? Have you taken a motorcycle safety course yet? If necessary, do just a little bit of general research on the store and the product or service via the internet before you do your site visit. If necessary, be sure to dress and act the part. For instance, don’t pull up to a car dealership in a two-seater Miata and say you are a mother of three shopping for a minivan. The obvious question would be how you and your three kids go anywhere at all in the Miata right now. If nothing else, say you just found out you are expecting and will have to get a bigger car.

Play Dumb! There are times when every mystery shopper fumbles a little bit and gets lost in their own story. Perhaps you said your nephew was four, and then later you said he was eight and the salesperson caught your mistake. When in doubt or when you think you’re about to get busted, simply apologize and play dumb. “Wow! This allergy medicine has got me all mixed up today!” Or try, “My daughter is visiting with her newborn and I’m just frazzled from having a baby at the house!” You may want to create your own standard “cover line” that you can use repeatedly. If you have a line ready and waiting in the back of your mind, you won’t have those few second of blank stare while you quietly think to yourself that you’re about to get busted. You simply have to throw your cover line out there to save the day.

While you can’t plan ahead for every situation, you can be prepared to handle any situation with a little bit of forethought.