Using Fake Names on Mystery Shops

Question from a mystery shopper:
Do I have to use my real name when I am doing a mystery shop? I would prefer not to give my true information as I don’t want to be identified as the shopper or get sales calls later. Is it illegal to use a false name?

There may be times when you want to use a name other than your own on a mystery shop, or even when the client requests that you do so. It is perfectly legal, but there are some things to keep in mind when using a name other than your own.
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How Should I Dress for Mystery Shops?

Mystery shoppers need to be professional in appearance and attitude, so how should we dress when we are doing mystery shops? Should we dress in business attire, or is it fine to wear jeans and a t-shirt? As with so many of the other questions surrounding mystery shopping, the answer is “it depends.”

The most important consideration is how other customers dress. Mystery shoppers need to look and act like other customers of the business. We need to blend in and not stand out because we are very under- or over-dressed. Let’s look at a few examples.Continue Reading

May I Use Coupons on a Mystery Shop?

couponsQuestion from a mystery shopper:

I am scheduled to do a mystery shop at one of my favorite restaurants next week. Because we enjoy eating there, I am always looking for coupons to use there and I have a ‘buy one entree, get one free’ coupon that I was planning to use on the shop. Then I got to thinking that maybe I shouldn’t use a coupon on a mystery shop. What do you think? Should I use the coupon or not?

The answer to this question, as with so many others is, it depends. The issue of coupons may come up on many types of shops, from restaurants to retail to grocery to eyeglasses and more. Beyond whether you are allowed to use a coupon on a shop there are also questions about whether or not you want to use a coupon. Here is what you need to know.
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How to Take Photos of Your Food on Restaurant Mystery Shops

Empire-cafeMore and more often, restaurant mystery shop assignments include a requirement that you photograph your food. Although it might seem that taking pictures of everything would out you as the mystery shopper, it doesn’t. In fact, so many people post pictures of everything they eat to their blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, that you will probably not be the only person taking photos.

If you are not used to photographing your food, here are a few tips to help you get better quality photos and look like your standard-issue social media junkie and not a mystery shopper.
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Note Taking Tips for Mystery Shoppers

Customer Impact posted the above video with eight tips for taking notes on mystery shops. The tips are also listed below, with my comments.

  1. Pretend to make a telephone call and jot down notes while on the phone. Pretend you are taking down directions, or noting info from a voice mail.
  2. If the table has a tablecloth, take notes discreetly on your lap. Don’t spend a lot of time with your hands in your lap, though, or you might attract some unwanted attention!
  3. Go to the restroom and write down notes. This is always useful on mystery shops. Go in to a stall where you won’t be seen and you can make notes, check your shop tip sheets, etc.
  4. Bring a crossword puzzle and write notes in the spaces. Do this at fast food establishments and not fine restaurants. Other possibilities are newspapers, magazines, day planners, textbooks and other places you might reasonably make notes.
  5. Put a tape recorder in your jacket or purse. See this post about mystery shopping with a digital recorder.
  6. Send a quick text message to your partner, or have your partner send you a message. Or use a note-taking app on your phone.
  7. If you have a Blackberry, PDA or similar mobile device, jot down a note or two quickly and discreetly. There are a number of note-taking apps for smart phones, and you may even be able to find a way to take notes with other phones.
  8. Practice these methods when not a mystery shopper. Practice makes perfect! The first time or two you do this, it helps not to have the pressure of a real shop. If you mess up, it won’t matter, but you will know what not to do next time.

What is your favorite way to discreetly take notes on a mystery shop?


Is It Normal to Be Scared to Mystery Shop?

scared-to-shopWe have all heard of “stage fright,” but is there such a thing as “shop fright”? Some people who are interested in mystery shopping tell me that they are too afraid to take their first assignments and get started. How can they get past the fear and launch their mystery shopping careers?

Any time you do something new, it is normal to be a little nervous. You were probably nervous the first time you got behind the wheel of a car. (If you weren’t, the person teaching you to drive was probably very nervous. :o) ) After a while, though, driving became second-nature. Mystery shopping can be that way, too.
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Can a Mystery Shopper Take Home Leftovers?

fine-dining-mystery-shopI recently got this question from a mystery shopper:

I just got my first fine dining assignment, and I can’t believe how much food we have to order! The instructions say that the mystery shop is for two adults, and we have to order an appetizer, two entrees, two side dishes and dessert. We usually share one meal, so I know we can’t eat all of that! Can we order one of the meals to-go? Would it be okay if we brought home a doggie bag?

First of all, congratulations on getting the fine dining shop assignment. They can be a lot of work, but you usually get to enjoy a really good meal in a nice atmosphere. It beats the heck out of a lot of jobs I have had in my life!

As you know, it is important that you follow all of the guidelines. That means that you need to order all of the required items, even if it is more food than you would normally order.

So can you get some of the food to-go, or take home the leftovers? Of course, the answers depend on the specific guidelines for your shop assignment, but here is how most restaurant mystery shops handle this.Continue Reading

Mystery Shopping On the Road

A shopper asks:

I am getting ready to retire and my spouse and I want to hit the road and travel across the country. Is it possible to mystery shop while we are on the road? Anything we need to watch out for?

Sure, you can mystery shop on the road, whether you are on a one-week vacation, you regularly travel for your job, or you have become a permanent road warrior.

There are a few things you may have to do differently to make mystery shopping while traveling work for you. Here are some things to consider.
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