Most mystery shops do not require a specific scenario. You simply visit the business and act like a customer. For example, you go to a restaurant and order a meal, get your hair cut at a salon, or make a small purchase at a retail store. There may be questions you are to ask, or specific items you are to buy, but there is not a detailed scenario.
However, there are shops where as the shopper you must:
- Pretend that you are getting married and need to buy a gown, or a ring or worst case, even homecoming dresses.
- Present yourself as someone who is looking to invest $400,000.
- Say that you are looking for day care for your children, or elder care for a parent.
- Act like you are looking for a new house or apartment.
- Be able to appear knowledgeable about hunting, motorcycles, art or other subjects.
- Represent yourself as a member of a profession, such as an interior designer.
- Give the impression that you are pregnant.
- Be willing to hide your knowledge of technology, financial matters or other subjects.
The important part is not that you actually are what you claim to be during the shop, but that you can realistically present yourself that way. You can do a shop where you claim to have $400,000 to invest even if you don’t even have $400, as long as you come across as someone who would have $400,000.
If the scenario you are asked to use is not your real-life situation, you will need to do a little acting and a lot of preparation. Pretending like this is not dishonest–you are not doing it to deceive anyone, only to do the evaluation. It is simply a form of acting, and you will probably enjoy those occasions when you get to play-act a situation.
Here are some tips for performing scenarios that require you to present yourself as someone or something you are not.
Read the shop guidelines carefully. The mystery shopping company may offer suggestions regarding what you should say about your reasons for visiting the business and they may also suggest answers to typical questions asked by the employee. For example, why are you looking for an apartment?
Anticipate the follow-up questions the employee may ask. One shopper said she was shopping a bridal store and, because she is not married, she hadn’t thought of answers to the questions such as the name of her fiancé, the wedding date, where they were going on their honeymoon, how many attendants she would have and what color they were wearing, etc.
When possible, you should keep your scenario as close to your reality as possible. In the bridal situation, if you are married you may be able to use the details of your own wedding to answer any questions. (You should also remove your wedding ring before doing the shop.)
Dress appropriately. If you are a wealthy investor or a business professional, dress in business attire. If you will be trying on wedding gowns or one of a kind prom dresses, wear clothes that are easy to get in and out of, and don’t forget clean underwear (without holes, please!)
Don’t give answers that will send up red flags. If you are asked where your $400,000 is currently invested and you say, “At my credit union,” that is not a good answer. No one has $400,000 in a credit union.
Don’t make your answers too detailed. First of all, you are more likely to get tripped up trying to remember all of those details. Also, the more unasked-for details you volunteer, the fishier your story sounds. If you ask your kids a simple question and get a five-minute answer, does that get your spidey-senses tingling?
If you are not sure of the answers you should give, consult with your scheduler. The scheduler can tell you if there are things you should or should not say.
There are times when you will need to conceal your knowledge of a subject so that the employee thoroughly explains your options or how something works. For example, you might be asked to pretend that you know nothing about cell phones and are looking for your first phone, even though you are intimately familiar with every phone and every calling plan available. Act dumb when you have to.
Don’t be nervous. Shops involving a scenario can be lots of fun, as you get to be an actor for the day.
What is the most unusual scenario you have ever been a part of? (Please do not divulge client names or other details that would violate your confidentiality agreements.)