Question from a mystery shopper:
I am scheduled to do a mystery shop at one of my favorite restaurants next week. Because we enjoy eating there, I am always looking for coupons to use there and I have a ‘buy one entree, get one free’ coupon that I was planning to use on the shop. Then I got to thinking that maybe I shouldn’t use a coupon on a mystery shop. What do you think? Should I use the coupon or not?
The answer to this question, as with so many others is, it depends. The issue of coupons may come up on many types of shops, from restaurants to retail to grocery to eyeglasses and more. Beyond whether you are allowed to use a coupon on a shop there are also questions about whether or not you want to use a coupon. Here is what you need to know.
First, some clients do not want you to use a coupon when you are doing a mystery shop. Read the guidelines carefully to see if there is any mention of coupons. Some actively encourage you to use coupons, while others say never to use a coupon. If the guidelines are silent on the question of coupons, contact your scheduler to ask. (Although this is a slightly different subject, some clients do not want shoppers to use gift cards. I have no idea why, but if you are planning to use a gift card on a shop, ask first.)
If you find out that you may use a coupon on a shop, the next question is: Do you really want to? When the reimbursement is adequate to cover your required purchase, you may want to save the coupon for another day. Of course, I have done a number of restaurant shops where the reimbursement was not sufficient to cover everything I had to order—at least when I ordered what I wanted and not just the cheapest items on the menu. Using a coupon on one of those shops gives you a bit of breathing room so you can enjoy a great meal and still have the entire cost covered.
Let’s look at another example. Say you have a coupon for 20% off of your entire purchase at a drug store. You decide to use the coupon on a shop and stock up on a bunch of your favorite products. Even after the coupon, you spend $150. That might be a problem, as your shop experience will not be a typical customer experience. For example, it will take you much longer to check out than the person who is buying a bottle of soda and a pack of gum. If that is your plan, you should run it past your scheduler to make sure it won’t be a problem.
The same applies if you are using a stack of coupons on a grocery store shop. Your experience will not be the same as a typical customer’s. I used to do some grocery shops where they allowed us to use a limited number of coupons. They didn’t want us doing the “Extreme Couponing” thing on a shop, but we could use a few store or manufacturer coupons. Some might not want you to use any coupons at all.
I have seen shops for optical shops where the mystery shopping company actively encourages shoppers to use a ‘buy one, get one free’ or ‘get two pairs of glasses for one low price’ coupon. That is a great deal, as you end up getting two pairs of glasses with the cost fully reimbursed.
If the guidelines do not say you may use coupons, do not do so without asking first. Using coupons when not allowed may cause your shop to be invalid. It is always better to ask first.