Question from a mystery shopper:
Several companies I applied to for mystery shops asked for the names of other mystery shopping companies I have worked with. Is this information something I should provide to the new company or is this considered a breach of confidentiality?
First of all, I am glad that you are thinking about confidentiality. Too many shoppers share information inappropriately, either believing that it is okay to do so or because they are just not thinking.
Let’s take a quick look at what you may and may not disclose, and I will share with you how I answer that question.
Each company’s confidentiality agreement will probably be a little bit different that others, but most terms are pretty consistent from one to the next. In general, you should never disclose information about clients: the names of clients, which company mystery shops them, shop requirements, report questions, reimbursement and compensation, etc. For example, if someone on an online discussion board asks if anyone knows who shops Olive Garden, it is not acceptable to give the answer or even to say that you know that they are mystery shopped. Some shoppers seem to think that saying, “I can not tell you who mystery shops them because of confidentiality requirements,” is acceptable, but it is not. You should not even say that they get mystery shopped. (BTW–I am using Olive Garden as an example here. I assume that they probably get mystery shopped, but I honestly do not know.)
So let’s just acknowledge that you should not talk about clients. Ever. But what about the mystery shopping companies? Can you talk about them? Yes, but use your best judgment about what you reveal.
Because we have established that you should never talk about clients, never talk about which clients a mystery shopping company shops. You may talk about the fact you have worked for a company and you may talk about your experience with that company. Going online and whining about how mean the schedulers are or how stupid the editors are probably doesn’t violate a confidentiality agreement, but it would not be wise.
So how do I answer the application question about which other companies I have worked with? I say something along the lines of. “I have worked with many mystery shopping companies since 1995, including…” and I name a few of the companies I work for most often. Giving the names of the mystery shopping companies does not violate confidentiality, but I don’t list every single company I have ever worked with.
What if they ask about your mystery shopping experience, and the kinds of shops you have done? Feel free to mention the types of businesses you have evaluated, without naming specific clients. For example, I might say something such as, “Since 1995, I have mystery shopped a variety of businesses including restaurants, retail stores and many service businesses.”
When you are not sure if you may reveal a piece of information, it is safest not to. You can always go back and reveal it later, but you can’t take it back if you revealed something you shouldn’t have.