The Priest and the Mystery Shopper

About a month ago I had a very conversation with an Anglican Priest at a coffee shop we both frequent. He had observed me signing up for jobs on my laptop and was curious what I did for a living. I told him I was a mystery shopper and I explained what it entailed. He thought it was a fascinating occupation and we talked about it some more. At that point I told him I was really more interested in pursuing my professional photography as a career, but I was not having much success at getting jobs. He asked why I thought that was and I replied, “Because mystery shopping causes me to sometimes have to violate ‘Thou shall not lie.’ There are times where I have to pretend to be interested in buying a car, whether it’s a $30,000 Toyota or a $250,000 Rolls Royce…or even a half-million dollar home.”

The Priest smiled broadly and actually laughed. Then he got serious and asked me if I knew the actual wording of the Ninth Commandment. I had to admit that I did at one time but it escapes me now. He said, “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor” which has been shorthanded into “Thou shall not lie.” The lights came on and I saw the difference. Feigning an interest in whatever, in order to do your job, is not in and of itself, lying.

The Priest then asked me the key question, “Have you ever lied in a report, that is have you ever borne false witness in a report that would be detrimental to the person you were shopping?” I was able to honestly answer that question with a firm “No.” He was shocked by the firmness of my reply so I explained that if I came across anything that could be questionable, I always give the target the benefit of the doubt, even though I include an explanation in the report to the MSC.

We chatted for a few more minutes and I left with a better understanding of myself. I now know that God is not punishing me for mystery shopping by putting up roadblocks to keep me from succeeding as a photographer. Rather, those roadblocks are there as challenges to help me improve my craft, to become a better photographer and a better shopper, to be the best craftsman I can be, regardless of whether I’m on a shop or shooting a wedding.

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