Mystery shoppers living in areas with relatively low populations and far from major metro areas may seem like they are at a disadvantage as compared to urban mystery shoppers. Their income potential may seem to be less, and they may be more likely to be identified as a mystery shopper if they know most of the people in their small community. The good news is there are steps a rural mystery shopper can take to avoid being spotted on a mystery shop assignment.
I Think I Know Your Husband’s Cousin. A small community is usually intricately woven, with relationships developed over the years between many of the families not just in the community you live in but also in nearby communities as well. So a mystery shopper may not be able to complete a mystery shop in many of the locations in their own community or many of the nearby cities you frequently visit.
Or maybe not! If you have kept your job as a mystery shopper very incognito, hopefully your cousins and friends don’t even know you are a mystery shopper. If this is the case, you have free range to do that grocery store shop even if the best friend of your cousin works there. Most mystery shop requirements just say that you cannot have family that works there, rather than that you cannot know anybody. So you are likely fully within the mystery shop requirement’s to complete the shop, provided nobody there knows you are a mystery shopper.
Now, if your cousin’s best friend doesn’t know you are a mystery shopper but still knows who you are, this limits your ability to concoct a “cover story” for your identity.” So if you are buying a pair of running shoes and haven’t stepped foot in the gym in twenty years, you may need to spend some time thinking of a creative story that fits into your own life and is not too far-fetched.
Oops! I’m A Blabbermouth! If you have told a couple of friends and neighbors you are a mystery shopper, unfortunately it may be safe to say that much of the town is aware of your side job. People in general are not known for the indiscretion, and the very nature and mystery surrounding this job make it one that people enjoying talking to others about. So word of your mystery shopping gig has probably traveled farther than you are aware. Anyone who knows your name and face could possibly know you are a mystery shopper. The only solution in this case is to complete shops in locations where you know absolutely nobody, which likely may mean driving a little farther out.
The More The Merrier. With rural mystery shops, if you regularly complete an assignment for one location, you have a higher likelihood of being identified as a mystery shopper. This is even more true if you write very detailed reports. The staff receives the details of a mystery shop report and may begin to associate your name with the details you mention in your report.
In urban areas, stores and restaurants typically have much higher customer volume, so if you write in a report that you saw the employee talking on his cell phone while eating a cheeseburger, an urban employee may not recognize that you were the one in the store when that event occurred. In a rural location, you may have been just one of a handful of customers that day, so you have a higher chance of being identified.
Just the Facts. Rural shoppers may want to be especially cautious about the details in their reports. While you are required to provide details about your experience, there may be instances when you can provide the right combination of details to satisfy the shop without providing so much detail that the store employee recalls you specifically after reading your report.
Less Than Frequent. Many shop providers have requirements that you cannot have completed a mystery shop assignment in the same location within the last 60 or 90 days. As a rural shopper, you may want to set your own requirement of perhaps 3 or 4 months to further avoid being identified. When you visit locations less frequently, you will have a reduced possibility of being identified as a mystery shopper.
While rural mystery shopping can be a bit trickier, there are steps you can take to help avoid being identified as a mystery shopper. By following these steps and use your own best judgment, you should be able to safely complete many shop assignments in your area.