When a mystery shopper accepts an assignment, that is a commitment to follow through and do the shop. A shopper who doesn’t complete an assignment as agreed risks being deactivated from the mystery shopping company’s data base and receiving no future jobs from them.
Schedulers get frustrated when shoppers cancel at the last minute or just fail to do a shop. It happens more than you might think. In fact, it happens often enough that we have an industry term for it: It is called “flaking” on a shop.
Companies have told me that shoppers flake on an average of 25% of shops. That means that the scheduler has to hustle and find someone else to do the shop at the last minute. If you have ever wondered why you get those emails offering shops that have to be done today or tomorrow, that is often the reason.
Will you be forgiven if you cancel a shop? Maybe. It is not acceptable to cancel a shop or not do it just because you forgot, or you changed your mind, or something better came along. One shopper told me that she made the shop visit, but lost the receipt. She figured she wouldn’t be paid so she didn’t bother to do the report. She also didn’t notify the mystery shopping company. That is a big mistake, and one that is not likely to be forgiven.
So when is it OK to cancel?
Weather and natural disasters can be legitimate reasons not to complete your assignment. No one expects you to go out in the middle of a hurricane or risk dying in a snow storm just to do a shop. In extreme conditions the businesses are probably closed anyway—even if you could get there you couldn’t do the shop. The same is true for earthquakes, floods, blackouts and other disasters. Your scheduler might ask you to reschedule for another day, if that is possible. Or the shop might be canceled.
Health and family emergencies. A sudden illness, an accident, a death in the family and other emergencies can certainly make it difficult or impossible to do a shop. And mystery shopping is probably not number one on your priority list if you are dealing with a serious medical issue or a family tragedy. Most mystery shopping companies will be understanding—after all, these things happen to all of us. Keep in mind, though, that shoppers have lied about these things. One scheduler told me that a shopper canceled shops three months in a row, each time because she said her grandmother had died. Either grandma had more lives than a cat, or the shopper was lying.
When you can’t do a shop because of a true emergency, notify your scheduler as soon as you can. Most will be understanding, but they need to get the shop rescheduled as soon as possible, so the sooner you let them know, the better.
There may also be times when you can’t complete a shop on the agreed-upon day, but could at a later day. For example, your car breaks down on the way to the location. You may not be able to do the assignment on that day, but maybe you could do it the following day. Contact your scheduler immediately to let her know what is going on and see how the situation should be handled.
Do not get someone else to do the shop for you. That other person may not be an appropriate choice for the shop. They may not fit the client demographics or they may be some other reason they would not be acceptable. You may, however, offer a substitute to your scheduler. I filled in for another shopper that way once. She called and asked if I could do a restaurant shop that evening because she was ill and couldn’t do it. I said yes, so she called her scheduler to cancel and also told her that I was available if they wanted me to do the job. The scheduler contacted me with the shop information and it got done on time.
There are companies that will deactivate you for missing a shop for any reason. You could call them from the emergency room while you were having a heart attack and they would still deactivate you. I guess they do not want to be in the position of having to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth, so they just treat everyone badly. Guilty even if proven innocent. You could appeal them for consideration, but do you really want to work with a company that treats shoppers that way? I would mark them off my list and move on.
There is another situation where you may be tempted to cancel a shop. That is when the shop scenario and report are different from what was presented before you accepted the assignment. What was described as an “easy and fun” shop actually involves an hour-long visit, a 17-page report with detailed narratives and 13 digital photos. All for the princely sum of $12.
Should you tell them to take their shop and stuff it, or should you go ahead and do it? That depends on the situation. You might chalk this up to being an aberration and do it. Or not.
You could let the scheduler know that you would not have accepted the assignment had it been described accurately, and that you are not willing to do it for the fee offered. That approach risks being deactivated, but they have violated your trust by misrepresenting the shop. You may not care if they do not offer you more of their lousy shops.
One way to reduce the possibilities of emergencies interfering with your shops is to complete the jobs as soon as you can. When you have two weeks to do a shop, plan to do it day one or two instead of day 13 or 14. That way if there is an emergency on day two, you still have 12 days to get the shop done.