Although anyone can make a mistake during a mystery shop visit, there are some mistakes that are completely avoidable. Here are ten mistakes that can derail your shopping career, but can be easily avoided with proper preparation and attention to detail.
Failure to read the guidelines and form before the visit. In order to know what you need to do, you need to review the client’s guidelines and the report form you will complete after the shop visit. Without this preparation you won’t know what questions to ask, observations to make, required purchases, etc.
Going to the wrong location. Believe it or not, this happens all the time. There are many clients that have multiple locations in the same area. When shoppers do not verify the address they may end up at the wrong one. Even worse, some shoppers go to a location of another business, not the client.
Performing the shop on the wrong day or during the wrong time frame. Most shop assignments require that you visit within a range of dates. Some may specify a time of day for your visit. If your lunch shop is to be done between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., that means that you should arrive between those times. (You usually are not required to complete the shop by 1:00 p.m., but refer to the guidelines to be certain.)
Changing the scenario. Some scenarios seem odd, and mystery shoppers fear that they will be discovered if they present the scenario as described in the guidelines. The client has chosen that scenario for a reason and changing it will cause them to reject your report.
Drawing attention to yourself. Mystery shoppers should not be memorable. Dress like a typical customer, act like a typical customer, be a typical customer.
Purchasing the wrong products or services. Some secret shop assignments require that you purchase specific items. For example, guidelines for a fast food shop might say that you are to order a SuperDuper Burger Combo, and you are not to make any changes or substitutions. Ordering a SuperDuper Cheeseburger Combo or asking for your sandwich without onions could result in your shop being rejected.
Overspending. Secret shoppers receive reimbursement for required expenses. Do not assume that because you are being reimbursed for at least a portion of your purchase that you should spend like a drunken congressman. Ordering the most expensive item on the menu, buying a lot of items or upgrading services beyond what the typical customer would buy may not “out” you as the mystery shopper, but it may cause your experience not to be typical. That could affect the validity of your shop report.
Checking the bathroom last. Several mystery shopping companies have said not to visit the bathroom as the last stop on your visit because it is a clue that you are the mystery shopper. Of course, if visiting the bathroom is the giveaway and you do immediately before you leave, it doesn’t give them a chance to skew the shop results because they have figured out that you are the shopper. Nonetheless, you don’t want to be identified in case you want to return to that location.
Being obvious about taking notes. It helps to take notes during a shop, but do it discreetly. When you make the bathroom check in the middle of the visit, make a few notes while you are in the stall. If you use other methods of taking notes (e.g., texting) make sure you do it in a way that does not arouse suspicion.
Asking too many questions. Although you will need to ask questions during a mystery shop visit, asking too many questions will raise red flags. Ask only what you need to know to complete your report. Don’t get into too many details or badger employees with questions.
Steven Di Pietro says
I would add another. Avoid the God complex.
Some experienced shoppers fall into the trap of thinking they are retail experts. They fall into the trap of ‘knowing’ how the store ‘should’ have been presented. Just report things as you were asked, not how you think they should be.
Cathy Stucker says
Steven, that is a BIG problem. I plan to address it in a future post about reporting mistakes. The hard part there will be narrowing it down to just the Top Ten Mistakes. ;o)
Denia Mance says
Just be a normal customer…but make sure to read the guidelines even you have done the same shop many times…enjoy and everything will be okay…I always use the bathroom before I leave thats me as a regular customer.
Deborah Chapman says
Just for the record I always use the bathroom after I shop whether I am in BJ’s or a shopping mall. I don’t know how anyone can be suspicious of a customer using the restroom before they leave. I use the bathroom sometimes before I shop and after I shop and that is normal for me as a customer.
I want to know if it is legal for mystery shoppers company to charge an enrollment fee of $2.95 and you have to pay $42.95 a month in the program as long as you are a mystery shopper. Can someone please help me! Thank You Pamela
Cathy Stucker says
Mystery shopping companies do not do that. There are lots of sites that claim to be mystery shopping companies that charge. No legitimate mystery shopping company will charge you to apply or to be a shopper for them. If they try to charge you, run.
Is it legal? Probably. Is it ethical? Probably not.
I am walking thru the manual before I even attempt to try to become a Mystery Shopper. Learning all the Do’s and Don’ts. This is very good infomation as well as the post a Comment Section. Thanks, and wish me luck got a couple of weeks of learning to go. Thanks Again.
Cathy Stucker says
I’m glad the book is helping you. You will have a good understanding of what to expect when mystery shopping. But don’t over-complicate things. You don’t need a Master’s Degree in mystery shopping to get started! ;o)
I believe that the mystery shopping companies that are reimbursement only should pay at least a small fee. Remember the shopper does have to drive to the location and sometimes it’s not just around the corner. What do others think? Maybe I’m the only one. I know some may say just don’t accept these reimbursement shops. Someone has to do them, so I’m speaking for those of us that do.