Overview: Although there is a merchandising company by the same name, don’t let it confuse you. The assignments that are termed as retail integrity evaluations have nothing to do with merchandising.
As a matter of fact, these types of assignments are different from most mystery shops that you might be used to completing that focus on customer service. Retail integrity evaluations are concentrating on observing cash handling practices and the honesty of employees. Your role will be more of an internal investigator than as a traditional mystery shopper.
Project Variations: The client will usually provide you with several scenarios in which you will engage with an employee. These interactions are set up to test the integrity and/or capability of the employee to adhere to company guidelines and policies.
Visit & Reporting Requirements: Typical time on-site is 15 to 20 minutes. Reporting time is dependent upon how the evaluation went. If there were policy infractions, count on at least 30 minutes to document these issues properly. Otherwise, the reporting time will be half that or less.
Strategies: The beginning of the retail integrity evaluation starts when you enter the store. Note how many checkstands there are, and how many are staffed. As you browse, note how many employees are visible, and if they seem to be aware of the presence of customers in the store or are involved in tasks to the exclusion of everything else going on.
Loiter in front of small items that could be easily stolen by shoplifters. Observe if employees seem to be monitoring your behavior.
Note how long it takes for you to be provided assistance. When an employee approaches to help you, tell them you are interested in small item – usually valued at $20 or less – but don’t have enough money. While still on the sales floor, take cash out of your pocket for less than the item is priced and offer it to the employee. Note how he handles this situation. Hopefully for all involved, he refuses your offer.
Go back to browsing. Choose a small item priced less than $10. Wait until the checkstands get busy. Get in line, demonstrating impatient body language. Throw a $10 bill in front of the checker, saying that you have no time to wait and have to leave. Tell him to keep the change. Rush towards the door with your small item. If the employee is doing his job, he will race after you with your money and tell you that he is not allowed to keep tips or change, and must ring up the sale properly.
Return to the checkout lane. Observe how cash transactions are handled. The cashier should put the customer’s money on the ledge of the register, count the change back to the customer, and then take the cash from the ledge and put it directly into the register. At no time should the money be put anywhere else.
What Others Have to Say: There’s not a lot of discussion on Mystery Shop Forum about these assignments. The comments that have been posted are fairly neutral, with no extreme opinions one way or the other. Some shoppers have expressed that they feel uncomfortable being involved in what a few consider to be a sting operation. Others have stated that although not pleasant, these assignments have an important purpose.
Estimated Pay: Pay can vary from $10 to $15 per visit, but can go higher when bonused. Some also offer reiumbursement for a small purchase.
MSCs: One of the mystery shopping companies that conducts retail integrity evaluations is Service Sleuth.