In a recent post, I wrote about the legality of using a digital voice recorder on mystery shops. In many U.S. states and Canadian provinces, it is legal to make recordings, especially in public where there is no expectation of privacy. But what if you live in a state where you may not legally record conversations without permission? Should you toss your digital voice recorder in the trash, or sell it on eBay? Not so fast—there are ways you may legally and ethically use your recorder to help you on mystery shops.
Sometimes just being able to hear your voice on the recording is a great help. It is always legal to record your own voice. So, set the recorder so that the microphone has minimal sensitivity and range, and you pick up only your own voice. For example, you might try not using an external microphone or positioning the mic in such a way that it does not pick up other voices. Or, set the volume at a low level so that other voices are unintelligible.
One great thing about using a digital voice recorder (DVR) to record shops is that you can use the recording to confirm timings. So, put the DVR in a pocket or purse and set the volume to a low level. Note the time you start the shop, and make a sound that will be picked up by the recorder. For example, you might cough or tap the recorder. Then, each time something occurs that you must time, make the sound again. When you go back to review the recording, you will have your coughs or taps marking each needed time.
You may also use your recorder to make voice notes to yourself about a shop. Some DVRs look like cell phones, so you could hold it as if you are making a call, and record your notes about the shop. Of course, make sure you can not be overheard by the employees. Some shoppers speak in “code” to remind themselves of certain aspects of the shop. You could also do this with the memo feature on your cell phone.
Leave your DVR in the car, and do a “brain dump” immediately after the shop. As soon as you are out of sight of the location, turn on the recorder and start capturing all the details of the shop while you are parked nearby or as you drive to the next shop.
A DVR can be a helpful tool for mystery shoppers. Use it legally and ethically to make shopping easier and your reports more accurate.
Cathy Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.