Liar, Liar! Honesty for a Professional Liar.

I’ve recently noticed on Mystery Shop Forum that some members are encouraging others to lie about their qualifications, or worse, to lie on reports. Is there ever a situation where this is the right thing to do?

I had a recent shop at an assisted living facility. The shop itself went very well. The targeted associate hit every point. Calling it perfect would be an understatement. Then the bottom fell out of things. It was at the very end of the encounter, and the target asked for my email address. I used one of my miscellaneous addresses from my website. She asked what the site was and I answered, quite honestly, that it’s the site for my business, and that I’m a freelance writer and photographer.

She asked what kind of photography I did, and I [tongue halfway in cheek] replied, “Whatever helps pay the bills.” I did mention that I enjoyed shooting weddings. She then said, “I’ve been thinking about hiring a photographer to shoot Christmas portraits of our residents, and their families, if they are in the area. Would you be interested in doing that?” The only answer I could give was yes; after all, who in their right mind would turn down work. We talked some more and the short version is that I need to come up with some prices for her.

Now the conundrum…do I tell the mystery shopping company?

I looked into my heart and determined that this job offer, coming at the end of the shop, did not influence the report in any way. However, there was still a nagging uncertainty in the back of my mind, so I posed the question to several shoppers on the forum whose opinions I respect, via a PM. I also observed that I did not do a great deal of shops for this MSC, but I enjoyed the shops I did do for them.

As we burned the internet, I worked on the report, getting it completed and submitted. All this while I’m checking back in my account on the forum for replies…pondering the comments, and answering. Perhaps the most striking comment was; what if the mystery shopping company finds out after the fact? The consequences would be severe. Not only that report, but every report I had done for the MSC would them be questioned. As schedulers do talk to each other, my reputation would be called into question with the result being that I could potentially loose my career as a mystery shopper.

I immediately contacted the scheduler to let them know what happened. After consulting the account manager, it was decided to go ahead and forward my report, with the appropriate notation, to the client. My report ended up being accepted, I was thanked for being forthright, and I was asked about doing some shops of the same client in another part of the state. And I might have some photo shoots to help supplement my mystery shopping income in a slow month.

As mystery shoppers, the one and only thing we have to market is our reputation. We give that up and we have nothing. And if you want to believe that schedulers don’t talk to each other, go ahead and live in that state of denial. You’ll undoubtedly make things better for the rest of us.

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