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.
This article was great. I found being confident about my role along with being prepared with a few nosy questions always help. You might want to play the scenerio out before you go. Especially since more places are empty these days due to ecomonic conditions salespeople have even more time to hang around you and talk, more idle chit chat is necessary. So be prepared.
Some shops require an enormous amount of detail. Writing scant notes on promotional circulars has been an idea suggested by other shoppers; is this also obvious, or is it acceptable without blowing my cover?? The checkbook writing proved to be somewhat inconvenient!! Thanks.
I do a lot of shops about things I have absolutely no knowledge of, like electronic gizmos. I’m always Grandma looking for something for my children or my grandchildren. And Grandma has to have notes so she can relay the information to everyone concerned. Sometimes I carry my PDA and some times I just carry things listed on note paper. Different approaches for different shops.
And if I haven’t gotten a name of a sales associate for some reason I ask a simple question…”when I come back are you going to be working?” Immediately they will give me their name and the hours they work.
The only thing I don’t do or have never had to do is mention something I have absolutely NO knowledge of in general conversation with a sales associate.
I don’t think I have been spotted yet as a mystery shopper.
Who suspects a little ol’ lady shopping no matter what kind of notes she may be taking.
A trick I use to get names is asking if the sales person works on commission. I tell them I want to come back and ask for them so they get the commission. I also say they look like someone I worked with at another company 10 yrs ago or someone I went to school with etc. When I pretend to be shopping for a man’s gift I generally say I’m shopping for my boyfriend that hates shopping for himself. I also wear a gold band on my thumb that I place on my ring finger when I need to pretend to be married.
I try to keep my roles as close to the truth as I can, I’m less likely to slip up that way.
If my knowledge for a shop is less than nothing and I haven’t time to find out I suddenly “adopt” an in-law who has a passion for that subject, and plead total ignorance…HELP! It works everytime!
A little acting ability helps a lot, and I have a son who is a consummate actor and never minds coaching me. His advice: “Keep it as real as you can, Mom.”
I’ve found a of way of getting a salesperson’s name when all of the usual methods don’t work…
1) Saying something like, “Are you Susie’s younger sister? Boy you look like her!”
2) …or, “I’m so embarrassed but I have to ask…are you Jenny from our Church? Then where do I know you from? School?”
Playing the “I know I know you from somewhere and I’m so embarrassed that I have to ask your name” scenario is extremely effective. They usually pony-up their name pretty quickly in the course of conversation. And, just about everybody can relate to seeing someone out of context and not remembering their name — leaving me time to really fix their dscription in my mind so that I don’t have to take notes. The really great part is that it *IS* embarrassing to have to ask someone’s name so I’m sure I’m putting off all of the “embarrassment vibes” which totally fits the scenario, as well!
Frankly, I find Mystery Shopping a fun hobby that puts a LITTLE money in the bank (or free groceries in the fridge)…but I no longer take the poor-paying jobs, nor do I continue working with companies that deny me payment for a silly inconsistency that they could have cleared up in a simple email question — some of those questionnaires are ridiculous! I’m afraid they’re going to aske me to count nose hairs, soon!
Another thing I don’t understand, why can’t a company post all of the information you’ll need about a job so that the shopper can really evaluate whether or not the job’s a fit?
Sorry — just venting…
I must say that I agree with everything that Lisa said. I know this wasn’t exactly the forum for it, but what the heck, this can be a very frustrating way to make money. I won’t do any jobs that pay less than $15.00. It’s a waste of time. I just can’t believe that there are still companies out there that pay $4, $6 or even $8. per assignment. It costs me that much just to start my car.
I learned a lesson the hard way this past week about role playing…my daughter knows what I do for “work” when we go “shopping”…BUT, she is 5…lol my role was going into various US cellular stores to gather info and see the selling techniques of the agents… you have to pretend to know nothing of the company. easy enough. however, I took shops very far from home and made a day trip out of this…hitting some 15 stores roundtrip of about 120 miles. You obviously have to live in the area of the store or be moving there to make it sound good why you drove 100 miles to get info…lol I happened to mention I was moving to the area and we were looking into new cell coverage. My daughter pipes up, “WHAT??? WE ARE MOVING? WE’RE LEAVING OUR HOUSE?” the agent chuckled and kept going thank goodness…but I was forced to tell my daughter a fib about it and then try to explain in the car that we are NOT moving and she would not be leaving her house…lol
be prepared for anything is now a motto i follow to the T …