Even if you are an excellent mystery shopper and make yourself available 24 hours a day, you won’t necessarily get as many assignments as you would like from any one company. To maximize your opportunities, you should apply to as many companies as you can. Mystery shopping companies understand that, as independent contractors, secret shoppers will market their services to many different companies.
That brings us to the ethics of working for more than one company. While there is nothing wrong with accepting assignments from several companies, you must respect the confidentiality of the information you receive from each company.
As part of the application process, you will complete an Independent Contractor Agreement (ICA) that describes the relationship between you and the secret shopping company. ICAs typically include a clause specifying that you will keep any information you obtain about the company and its clients confidential, and will not share it with anyone else.
This means that you should not share information about which businesses get mystery shopped, who shops which businesses, fees, guidelines, report forms, results of mystery shops and other proprietary data. Mystery shopping companies and their clients take confidentiality very seriously, and violating the confidentiality agreement could result in being removed from the shopper data base.
That does not mean that you can not share any information about mystery shopping. For example, when an application asks for what other mystery shopping companies you have worked, it does not violate your independent contractor agreements to list the names of mystery shopping companies. You should not name specific clients you’ve shopped, but it is fine to name the mystery shopping companies. You may also share information that is generally available to the public. For example, many mystery shopping companies say on their home page or other public area of their web sites the types of businesses they shop. Sharing that information (“Mystery Shoppers R Us specializes in shopping restaurants and hotels.”) without naming specific clients or giving out confidential data is fine.
Pay attention to the terms of the confidentiality agreements, or confidentiality clauses of independent contractor agreements, you signed when you applied. At a minimum, follow these guidelines:
- Don’t share information with anyone about a mystery shopping company’s clients, or shops you have done for any mystery shopping company.
- Don’t disclose the names of companies that have mystery shopping programs. Many shoppers believe that it is acceptable to post comments or questions about clients or shops to public forums, as long as they don’t disclose which mystery shopping company has that client. It is not.
- Don’t send copies of blank report forms, sample reports, or completed reports from one company to another.
- Don’t share information about compensation with other mystery shopping companies, clients or other shoppers.
- If a friend asks for advice about becoming a mystery shopper, you may refer them to mystery shopping companies you recommend, but don’t disclose information about the clients they shop, fees and reimbursements, etc.
- Don’t give educational materials or other documents you received from one company to another.
- Don’t gossip about the people or clients of any of the companies you work with.
- Don’t discuss the results of mystery shops directly with the client, unless you have been asked to do so by the mystery shopping company.
- Don’t post proprietary information about a mystery shopping company or client to an Internet message board, chat or forum.
If you are not sure whether it is ethical to divulge something you know, DON’T DO IT! It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Remember that this is a business and you are a professional. Take your responsibilities seriously.