The thoughts and prayers of the entire country have been focused on California this week, and the horrific fires that have driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Even those who are not directly in the path of the flames are affected by the smoke and ash raining down miles away from the fires.
Obviously, for those who have been evacuated mystery shopping is on the bottom of the list of their priorities right now, as it should be. But what about shoppers in surrounding areas who are not directly affected by the fires? And what should you do if your area experiences a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, blizzard, blackout or other disaster?
During the disaster, the most important thing is to make sure you and your family are safe. Help others if you can. Do not take unnecessary risks, including trying to do a mystery shop in unsafe conditions. That is foolish.
Once the danger has passed, you can begin to think about getting back to normal. That may include mystery shopping, especially if you did not sustain significant damage or loss in the disaster, businesses are operating and others around you are resuming normal activities. In some cases, the damage is contained in a small area, and everyone in surrounding areas can quickly get back to their usual routines.
As soon as possible, notify your schedulers of your status. They will want to know that you are safe. Let them know what is happening. Are you able to work? Are stores and other businesses open? Are the roads safe?
If you are able to resume mystery shopping, ask if they want you to do so. The client may not want to mystery shop if the circumstances are extraordinary–as they may be following a natural disaster.
In some cases–such as a rain storm, blizzard, or blackout–any shut down may be short term. There may be only hours or a day or two where everything is shut down, but that may still affect your ability to complete scheduled shops on time. Let your schedulers know as soon as you can what your situation is and when you can complete your shops.
After the blackout in the midwest a few years ago, a lot of shoppers were concerned that schedulers would not believe them or would not accept that they could not complete their shops. Although schedulers have heard every imaginable excuse (and many unimaginable ones) for not doing a shop, keep in mind that weather conditions, blackouts, etc., are easily verified, so they will know that you are telling the truth.
Although it is important to fulfill your obligations, your safety and that of your family comes first. Mystery shopping companies are aware that disasters happen (they are often affected, too) and they understand.