When you become a secret shopper, you may want to tell everyone you know about your cool new job. However, letting people know that you are a mystery shopper could have negative consequences.
For one thing, your friends may “out” you during a shop, intentionally or unintentionally. Imagine you are in the middle of an assignment, talking to a salesperson, when your neighbor walks up to say hello. You politely chat for just a moment, then return to the business at hand, saying to your friend, “I’m kind of rushed today, but let’s get together for lunch next week.” Suddenly, a light bulb goes on over her head as she realizes what you are up to. But instead of saying, “Sure. See you later,” she blurts, “Oh, you must be doing one of your mystery shops. I’ll let you get back to work.”
She didn’t mean any harm, she just didn’t think. But now your cover has been blown and you might as well end the shop right there. And forget about ever coming back to this store once they know that you are a mystery shopper.
Being outed in the middle of a shop is only one way being indiscreet about your profession can come back to haunt you. Read on for more, including tips on how to deal with curious friends and family.
Another problem arises when everyone wants to know how they can get this sweet job and start getting paid to go to the mall and out to dinner. We know that mystery shopping is not that easy, but they don’t. Although most of the people who claim an interest in mystery shopping will never follow up (or will not continue once they find out it involves actual work) you may not want to encourage anyone who could become competition for mystery shopper jobs, especially if you are in an area where jobs are not plentiful.
Of course, if they do not know that you are a mystery shopper, they will not ask you how they can become one, too, so that solves the problem before it can even become a possibility. The fewer people who know about what you do, the better.
The best strategy is not to tell anyone, even your best friend, that you are a mystery shopper. If she knows, you do not know who else she will tell. If you have a full time job and do a little secret shopping on the side, you do not need to tell anyone about it.
If you spend a lot of time shopping, or have no discernible income other than from shopping, you may need to have an answer when people ask about your job. Keep it simple. “I do retail audits,” is one possible response. Or, “I work in market research.” Most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear words like audit and research, so they will not ask a lot of questions after that. Just the opposite of when they hear the words “mystery shopper.” If they do ask more questions, simply say that you are not allowed to talk about your clients due to confidentiality, and leave it at that.
There are times when you have to tell others what you do. For example, if someone accompanies you on a restaurant shop, they need to know if about any ordering requirements (such as no alcohol, or that you should share an appetizer). And they have to be aware of what they should do–and not do–so that they do not affect the integrity of the shop.
When you must have someone with you, choose someone who can be trusted not to talk about the shop and who will take the shop requirements seriously. When my husband accompanies me on restaurant shops, he is thoroughly prepared to assist me on the shop and not to do anything that will sabotage the assignment. He knows how important it is that we do the mystery shop correctly, and that he maintain confidentiality both during and after the shop. That means no talking about the mystery shop the next day at work.
Perhaps you told a lot of people about your secret life as a secret shopper, and now wish you hadn’t. You can not put the genie back in the bottle, but you can downplay it. You may not be comfortable saying that you are no longer mystery shopping if, in fact, you are. However, you can give an answer such as, “Oh, there is not anything of interest happening there. That dress is lovely. Where did you get it?” Continue to brush aside questions and turn the conversation back to their favorite subject, themselves.
It has been said that discretion is the better part of valor. It is certainly an important part of mystery shopping.