Have you ever had a secret shop report rejected? When a shop is rejected, the client will not pay the mystery shopping company for the report. That means that you will not be paid or reimbursed, and your shopper account may even be deactivated so that you may not shop for that company again.
First, I want to stress that reports are not routinely rejected. I have mystery shopped for more than 13 years, and I have never had a report rejected. You may have the same experience. However, there are times when reports are not accepted, either by the mystery shopping company or the client. Let’s look at some common reasons for rejection, how you can avoid doing things that will get your report rejected, and what to do if your mystery shop is wrongly rejected.
Some of the reasons a mystery shop report may not be accepted include:
Wrong Location. Some companies have multiple locations within a few blocks, or even across the street from each other. Verify the address that you are to visit. Use mapping software or call the location to determine where they are located. Check the address when you arrive to make sure you are in the right place.
Done Outside Allowable Time Frame. Shops may have to be done within a certain date range, or even on a specified day. Some shops may have a time of day requirement, too. For example, a restaurant shop may have to be done between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Or a retail shop may not be completed within one hour of store open or close.
Incorrect Purchase. Some shops may require that you make a purchase of at least a certain amount, or not to exceed a stated dollar limit. Others may require or prohibit the purchase of certain items. For example, you may not be allowed to purchase alcohol.
Scenario Not Followed. When the secret shop requires that you present a specific scenario or ask a series of questions, you must follow the scenario in order to have your shop accepted. Even if you believe it is silly or that following the scenario will alert employees that you are the shopper. Even if anything.
Other Client Guidelines Not Followed. Clients may have other requirements about things such as how many shops you may do in one day, how long you must be in the location you are mystery shopping, whether you may take anyone with you, etc. Be observant of these issues. They are in the guidelines because they matter to the client.
The Shopper was Discovered. If your behavior, or that of your companion, gives away the fact that you are the secret shopper, your report may not be accepted. When someone accompanies you, train them thoroughly so they know what to do and what not to do. Don’t do things on the shop to make you memorable. Use discretion when taking notes. Don’t be obvious when making observations.
Report Submitted Late. Most companies require that you submit your report within 24 hours of completing the shop, but many allow even less time. Although some companies will accept reports submitted late, they may reduce your shop grade. Others will not allow you to input the report once the deadline has passed.
Falsified Information. This is the most serious. When the client reviews the report they may see indications that the shopper falsified the report. Incorrect employee names, a description of events that does not ring true, or other factors may cause them to question the report. Often, they will pull video tape from the location’s surveillance cameras to determine what really happened.
A shopper who falsifies a report will certainly be deactivated by the mystery shopping company. The company may alert other companies about the fraud. In some cases, shoppers have even been sued for submitting fraudulent reports.
The best way to avoid having any of your reports rejected is to carefully read and follow the mystery shop guidelines. The guidelines will tell you exactly what the client’s requirements are, so you will know what you need to do to complete a valid shop.
What if you did everything right and your shop was rejected? It is extremely rare, but it can happen. You followed all of the guidelines, submitted a complete report on time, and the mystery shopping company told you that your shop has been rejected and you will not be paid.
The first step is to ask why. Start with the person who notified you of the rejection. They owe you a reason.
The next step depends on the reason for rejection. Offer any documentation you have that the shop was completed correctly. That may include emails you received from the company, your notes and receipts, or other information that proves you did the assignment as required.
If it turns out you did make a mistake, apologize and ask what you can do to make it up. You may be able to re-shop the location or otherwise make good.
However, if you did the shop correctly, and your report is still not accepted, move up the chain of command. Ask to speak to a manager at the mystery shopping company. If you do not get a response, keep moving up. Mystery shopping companies all have contact information on their web sites, so call and ask to speak to someone with the authority to assist you. Keep good records of each person you talk to, the time and date, and what was said.
Under no circumstances should you ever contact the client. Never, ever, ever. Your contract is with the mystery shopping company. Only deal with them.
Although it is unlikely that you will ever have to deal with an inappropriate rejection of a mystery shop report, if you truly believe that you were treated unfairly, there is a point when it is time to move on. Do you want to continue working for a company that operates that way? It is not worth the energy or the stress required. Instead, focus on doing great work for companies that will appreciate you.