Should You Stretch the Truth in Your Mystery Shopping Reports?

With many things in life, there are some gray areas. Mystery shopping is certainly no different, and many times mystery shoppers will be confronted with gray areas that force them to make a decision one way or another when there just isn’t any clear right or wrong. One of the most common times when this will come up is with the reports that are required with each assignment that you complete.

Some mystery shoppers have noticed that some of their providers prefer for reports to take a positive spin even when the site visit was a clearly negative experience. Other providers have asked their mystery shoppers to make smaller and yet still untruthful statements on their reports. Then there are other times when the mystery shopper must make a decision to report the straight facts of the assignment when it was obvious the employee was having a bad day, or when the mystery shopper experienced some negative things during the site visit but the report doesn’t ask to report on these events. With these events and other things that can pop up during a site visit, clearly there are some unique instances that create gray areas on the job. So just how should you handle these things?

Are You Spotting a Pattern? If a provider is consistently asking you to alter your reports to a point where you are uncomfortable, you should make an effort to put a stop to this pattern. If the changes are small enough that you don’t have an ethical dilemma making the changes requested (and you don’t mind constantly having to go back and adjust your reports), then there really is not an issue. However, if the changes are large enough that you are having conflicted emotions with it, you may want to consider ending your relationship with that provider. There are plenty of providers out there who you can work with and who will not ask you to make dishonest comments in your report.

Does One Answer Affect Another? Many reports that you complete as a mystery shopper have questions that tie into one another. To determine how it is best to answer one question often involves reading through all of the questions on the report. You likely can find a tactful and truthful way to answer the questions that represent your full experience during the site visit by providing small details about the event in various different sections of the report. Sometimes a provider may become overwhelmed by a particularly negative answer to one question, but if you give smaller amounts of detail spread across various questions on the report, you end providing a truthful account that even picky providers are more willing to accept.

Is Something Truly Relevant? If you witnessed something during a site visit that you feel is a one-time thing, you may be torn about reporting it. This is particularly true if the report doesn’t exactly call for details on that aspect of your site visit. Many mystery shoppers can find their way through such a gray area by first asking if as a consumer they would have been turned off, insulted, or had some other negative reaction to the event, or if they would have felt compassion or understanding. This can help you to determine if you should mention it. Further, if the report doesn’t specifically ask you to provide details on the event and you feel that the event will not be repeated, you can use your best judgment here. There are times when not everything needs to be reported if the provider isn’t asking for it, but this truly is a judgment call. If the report asks for such details, however, it is best to be truthful.

As mystery shoppers, our job is to go into a site location and make observations on certain specified things. We truly have to take our emotions out of the site visit in most cases and report the straight facts. While this sounds like it should be a black-and-white affair, the fact is that many times we do need to make a judgment call. Keep in mind during these times that your comments on the reports you write do have ramifications, and honesty does matter. Our reports are pretty much worthless to the client if they don’t represent actual and factual experiences and observations.