School is out for the summer, and you may be planning to take your children with you when you do your mystery shopper jobs. Stop for a moment before you do so, and make sure you are not making a mistake.
Although you may take your children with you while doing some secret shopping, you should not assume that it is always a good idea.
Do not take it personally if the guidelines say that no children are allowed. The fact is that children can be a distraction and create disruptions. Your children may be the best-behaved in the world, but other people’s children are not. Rather than saying that you may bring your children if they are well-behaved, the client chooses to say you may not bring your children.
However, even well-behaved children can be a distraction. If you have to keep one eye on them, or your toddler starts asking for food, or needs to use the rest room in the middle of the sales person’s presentation, you will be distracted. The employee may also be distracted by your children, affecting his performance on the mystery shop, and timings and other measures may be thrown off.
Some shoppers argue that sales people and waitstaff have to deal with children, so taking your children along just tests how they handle that situation. That is not the point. The idea of mystery shopping is to test specific aspects of service in a consistent way. If Shoppers A, D and F have children with them, and Shoppers B, C and E do not, the circumstances of the shop will be different.
There is also the possibility that your children will “out” you as the mystery shopper. When they know about your mystery shopping, they may blurt out something about it or ask inappropriate questions (e.g., “Mommy, did he do that right?”). Even if they are blissfully unaware of mystery shopping, they may blow your cover by asking things such as, “Mommy, how much more coffee are you going buy today? You didn’t even drink the other ones,” when you are in your fifth coffee shop of the day.
It is not the mystery shopper’s job to decide the circumstances of the secret shop. That is up to the client. It is our job to carry out the shop as set out by the client. Keep these guidelines in mind about when you may (or may not) have children along on a secret shop.
You may take your children with you when:
- It is explicitly stated in the secret shop guidelines;
- They are needed to complete the shop; and/or
- It is a place that is appropriate for children.
Never take your children on a mystery shopper job when:
- It is prohibited by the guidelines;
- It is not a place that is appropriate for children;
- They may give away your identity as the mystery shopper; and/or
- They will be a distraction to you.
By the way, these rules apply to taking anyone with you on a mystery shop, not just children. Do not take your best friend if your friend will be a distraction, or your mother if she is likely to inadvertently give away the fact that you are mystery shopping. Never take anyone else if the shop guidelines say to go by yourself.