Question from a Mystery Shopper:
I have been mystery shopping for almost a year, and I love it! I would like to tell my friends about mystery shopping so they can do this, too. Many of them could use the extra money, and I think they would be good mystery shoppers.
Would telling my friends about my mystery shopping experiences violate the confidentiality requirements of the companies I work for?
Giving your friends general information about mystery shopping would not violate confidentiality agreements. However, there are some reasons you may not want to do it. Read on to learn more.
Let’s start with what you may and may not disclose under most confidentiality agreements.
You may tell people that you mystery shop, although you should never talk about mystery shopping or disclose that you are a shopper while you are doing a shop. The exception is when the guidelines require you to identify yourself as the secret shopper, such as on a reveal shop.
You may give the names of companies for which you have mystery shopped. For example, when applying some companies will ask about your secret shopping experience. You may list companies for which you have completed assignments. Or you may share the names of your favorite mystery shopping companies with friends or even in online discussions.
Most confidentiality agreements prohibit giving the names of client companies, or saying which mystery shopping companies shop which clients. You may not share blank or completed report forms with anyone (including your friends), and you may not tell how much companies pay for specific clients or assignments. Never discuss the specifics of any client information, including how a shop is performed, the required purchase or any other information about a client.
Although you certainly may tell your friends about mystery shopping, there are reasons to keep quiet about the fact that you are a shopper. (That’s why we call it “secret” shopping!) The most important reason is that the more people who know you are a mystery shopper, the more likely you are to be discovered on a shop. Many of the people you tell will tell others about you—mystery shopping is fascinating to a lot of people, and they will talk about it.
Imagine that you walk in to a cell phone store to do a mystery shop, and the person behind the counter is a friend of your sister-in-law that you met once. You may not even remember her, but she remembers you. Especially the part where your sister-in-law told her that you are a mystery shopper. Could that affect the integrity of the shop? Absolutely! And you may not even know it, because you have no idea that she knows about your secret shopping.
Have you ever run in to someone you know while doing a shop? For example, I used to mystery shop a lot of grocery stores, and I sometimes saw friends who were doing their grocery shopping. I was never outed by any of them, but it is certainly possible that a friend would ask if you are mystery shopping, or joke to a nearby employee, “Watch out for her—she’s a secret shopper!” They may think it’s funny, but you will not see the humor.
Another reason is a little selfish. If you tell a bunch of your friends and neighbors about mystery shopping, you may have more competition for shopper assignments. Although you are more established, eventually the number of other shoppers will cut into your income. Especially when they tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell their friends…
The best approach is to tell as few people as possible about your work. If you make a significant part of your income from secret shopping, and feel you need to explain where your money comes from, you might say that you are an auditor or that you do market research.
Keep the mystery in mystery shopping!