Do Mystery Shoppers Get People Fired?

fired_man.jpgOne of the things many people believe about mystery shopping is that reports are often used to fire employees. In fact, employees may believe that secret shoppers have it as their goal to find bad things to put in their reports, and they arbitrarily add negative comments to mystery shop reports in order to “get” employees.

Employees may fear or resent secret shoppers because they think that if the shopper is in a bad mood and gives them a poor report, they could lose their jobs. You can see these ideas and attitudes on many of the employee sites that discuss mystery shopping.

So are employees correct? Are shoppers out to get them, and could they lose their jobs as a result?
First of all, let’s do away with a couple of myths:

Mystery shoppers are not looking for the bad. We are there to provide an objective report of what happened. We do not look for negatives, but record the good and the bad. Most shoppers prefer writing positive reports for two reasons: we want employees to look good, and good reports are easier to write. (The more ‘no’ answers on the report, the more comments we have to write.)

Mystery shoppers do not decide what makes good or poor performance. We are simply evaluating whether employees meet the standards set by their employers. Secret shopping is not opinion research, it is the reporting of facts. And the types of facts we report are based on the questions asked by the client/employer.

Once clients receive our reports, they decide how to use the information. Does that mean they will fire employees who receive reports showing they performed poorly? Probably not. Although mystery shop reports may be used as one factor in employee evaluations, it is unlikely that one poor report would result in an employee being terminated. That would have to be one really bad report.

What is more typical is that the report would be used to counsel the employee to help them do a better job in the future. Most employers use some sort of progressive discipline, involving several steps before termination. If the employee has a history of poor performance, the mystery shop report would be one piece of documentation in the employee’s file, but it would not be the one thing that causes termination.

Most mystery shopping companies advise clients that mystery shopping should not be used as a stick with which they club employees. It is a tool to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of a business, and to determine the adjustments needed to improve as well as recognizing the people who are doing well


  1. coryj says

    Great article. Another thing for potential shoppers to consider – if your application or evaluations demonstrate a shopper either is, or would likely be, looking mostly for bad performance, that shopper will get few, if any jobs.

  2. Sam says

    Wrong. Secret shop reports are used to get people fired! The restaurant policy is 2 shops below 80% in one year and your done. They just let a girl go because she failed a portion of the 6-7 pages the shoppers have to fill out.

    • Cathy Stucker says

      All mystery shoppers do is report what happened. We are not offering our opinions, we simply make observations as requested by the employer. Every employer has standards for how things are to be done. It is up to employees to do their jobs correctly and it is up to employers to be reasonable.

      Mystery shopping providers would not recommend firing someone over a mystery shopping report; however, many employers use the mystery shopping reports as part of the documentation when they have an employee who is not performing up to standard.

  3. W says

    I have had the pleasure of being shopped twice by the same individual. I am a bartender in the corporate restaurant business…this man in particular tries to make you feel uncomfortable by making strange requests such as cutting the fudge out from inside his molten cake! He also ordered a drink which had been discontinued by our restaurant for several years that I didn’t even know about.

    My manager allows us to read the reports and some of it is true, however some things are definitely inaccurate.

    I remembered my shopper from the first time around…so when I saw him sitting at the bar again…I was aware!!!

    Unfortunately, my coworker took the brunt of the negative comments and was terminated on his next shift because of the shopper.

    After reading the report myself, the shopper gave inaccurate times and embellished certain things I said….while I did not get fired as a result and my coworker did, I find it unfair that a business would soley rely upon one man’s word to fire an honest individual who has been with the company for 2 years.

    It is not fair that employees can be terminated as a result of a shopper’s report. I certainly hope this particular shopper can sleep at night knowing he caused a good man to lose his job. It honestly disgusts me and anyone who is a shopper I have absolutely no respect for….bottom line, you get extra incentives by getting people fired….shame on you all!!!!

    • Cathy Stucker says

      If this is really how things work at your employer, wow, they have horrible management.

      First of all, mystery shoppers should not make weird requests (such as cutting the fudge out from a molten cake) unless that is part of what the client (your employer) requires. So, if this guy really is the shopper (he may not be) either he shouldn’t be or your employer has lousy design for their mystery shopping program. (Although a mystery shopping company can make suggestions, ultimately how the program works is up to the client.)

      An employer firing someone for one bad mystery shop report is just stupid. They are setting themselves up for real trouble doing that. Have fun in court, idiots. (It is possible that he was fired because the report was the “last straw” after he had been counseled several times about his performance, although that is clearly not what you were told by your employer or the other employee.)

      Shoppers are not rewarded for turning in reports that show employees in a bad light. In fact, most shoppers prefer to write reports where everyone looks good. First of all, we like it when we can say that everything went well and secondly, well, to be honest, it is easier to write a good report than a bad one.

      I don’t think your experience with mystery shopping is typical. Most employers use mystery shopping as a tool to help the business to improve, not as a club to beat their employees.

  4. byron the Bartender says

    I agree with Secret Shopper and I have passed many.. But I have been fired for a free meal. I worked 4 years at a bar that has high volume next to two stadiums. I have been promoted to head bartender and floor mgr from time to time. On a busy night I had a patron come ask me to fix her drink I did.. a half shot of Bailey’s she was happy I took care of it. she gave me a tip. We as bartenders had our priveledge of ringing in On the Owner tab taken from us so now we have to go find a manager to ring it in Which I did later.. The drink was rung in.. I know have to worry about getting fired tomorrow cause this Shopper said I stole for a bribe tip.. 14 years I have always rung in every drink never stole and now I am possibly Jobless cause of a free meal that a shopper gets for observing a busy night in a bar.. I recently had a shopper say I was an asset to have as an employee behind the bar at the same place. I got no promotion or raise just to keepmy job and now my job most likely is gone Thanks Mystery Secret Shoppers Thank you now my son has to worry about a jobless father at 44 who has to go find a new Bartending gig with owners and mgrs saying I am too old

  5. Buddy says

    I’ve been mystery shopped several times at various sales positions in the retail market. It is standard operating procedure. 1st and foremost, I treat every customer as a mystery shopper and go above and beyond in helping them get what they needed or wanted. I thank them for their business, I ask for referrals, I complement their good decisions and I listen. Mostly, I just listen. I’m not a silver tongued salesperson. I ask the right questions, but mostly I just listen. People want to be helped. People want attention to their particular challenge with sound considerate advice. Our district manager constantly calls me out as once again being given the highest score on a mystery shop and what is my advice. I’m not much of a talker so I just tell them that I treat them like I would like to be treated myself. I don’t worry about getting fired or laid off because I can my skills anywhere – anywhere. Do I make mistakes, yes. Do I sometimes forget something that I was supposed to say, yes. However from the reports that were shared with me, the customer did not seem to notice or mark it against me. They often say that something quirky or funny that we talked about and that I forgot. It is funny what people remember. People seem to remember how I made them feel. Most say that it is like talking to a friend that they have known for years or I knew exactly how they felt. I don’t know if I do that or not, but if you make people feel better than you will probably see better reports.

    • says

      Buddy, you have the right attitude! If the people complaining about mystery shopping spent less time trying to figure out who the mystery shopper is and more time treating every customer well, they wouldn’t have anything to worry about!

      Thanks for sharing your perspective on this.

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