Question from a mystery shopper:
I have been doing mystery shops at the same location of a store once a month for several months now. I think they have figured out that I am the mystery shopper. What should I do?
First of all, they may not have figured out that you are the mystery shopper. You may be misinterpreting a look or a comment, or you may just be a little paranoid! ;o)
You may have heard employees say that they can always spot the mystery shopper. Don’t believe it! Often, the things they pick up on are not things a secret shopper would do, such as being difficult or causing a scene.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you really have been spotted as the secret shopper, and what to do if you believe you were.
Were you doing anything that would give you away? Were you openly taking notes, or could you be overheard recording a voice message or talking with a companion about the shop? Did you have the shop report form with you and pull it out during the shop? Were you obvious about making observations, such as staring at name tags?
Is the scenario one that might tip them off that you are the mystery shopper? Even if you believe the scenario makes it obvious that you are the secret shopper, most do not. Real customers do weirder things than we are asked to do. However, there are some scenarios that seem to push the limits. If you have to go to six different departments and ask questions in each one, then ask to use the rest room, then get the names of four additional employees…well, you can see that there might be a problem pulling that one off.
And sometimes a scenario that works in one location makes you seem out of place at another. For example, I used to do some shops where I was required to spend at least 30 minutes in the store. Most of the time that was easy, but there were some smaller locations where spending 30 minutes meant wandering around or backtracking in ways that a normal customer might not. It was do-able, but it took effort not to draw attention.
Were you unprepared? If you have not studied the shop guidelines and scenario, you may forget to do things and have to go back to talk to an employee again, or immediately return to the location to check something you missed. That will make you stand out, and may cause them to think that you are the secret shopper.
Have you done this shop, at this location, several times? They may have identified you after receiving an earlier report. They can pull transactions and even look at surveillance video to figure out who the secret shopper is. Of course, most places do not do this, but it can happen.
If you truly believe that you were identified as the shopper, you should let your scheduler know. If the cause was the required scenario, give the scheduler that feedback. Remember, though, that the client decides what the shop guidelines and scenario will be, not the mystery shopping company.
Something else to consider if you think you were identified as the shopper: How did they do on the report? If, even after you think they figured out they were being mystery shopped, they did a lousy job, then they do not know that you are the mystery shopper or they don’t care. Either way, it does not appear the integrity of the shop was affected.