Most mystery shopper reports include a series of questions to be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Typically there is also an ‘N/A’ option.
What does ‘N/A’ mean and when is it the right choice? When should you not answer a question with ‘N/A’?
N/A is the abbreviation for ‘not applicable.’ In a mystery shopper report, that means that the question does not apply. This can occur because the specifics of your shop experience do not conform to the standard structure of the report form. For example, there are questions about the condition of the rest room and the location you shopped does not have a public rest room.
Other examples of when N/A might be the correct answer include questions about exterior lighting on a secret shop performed during the day, or the appearance of the landscaping when the store is located inside a mall.
It may be necessary to comment on questions you answer with N/A. Seeing an answer of N/A may cause the editor to ask why the question did not apply. Explaining can head off a call or email from the editor. I recently had a shop that asked if the employee stood up to greet me. I answered N/A because he was already standing when I arrived, and I included that fact in my comments.
There are sometimes what I call ‘if/then’ questions and the follow-up question may not apply. The report might ask (1) Did the sales consultant meet with you within 10 minutes of your appointment time. (2) If not, were you offered refreshments while you waited? In this case, if your appointment time was honored you would answer N/A to the second question, as it only applies if you had to wait.
Do not answer N/A because you forgot to check something while doing the shop or you are unsure how to interpret the question.
Do not answer N/A because the answer should be ‘no’ but you do not want to write a comment.
Use N/A when the question truly does not apply and therefore can not be answered. Otherwise, stick to yes or no.