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The 10 Commandments of Mystery Shopping

With apologies to Charlton Heston…

  1. Thou shalt not be memorable. Being memorable, either in appearance or scenario, can restrict your shopping opportunities, especially if you are on a rotation at the same location.

  2. Thou shalt allow the target to lead. On mystery shops we have to give the target the opportunity to lead. We are portraying a “typical” customer, but we are the eyes and ears of the business owners as to how the customers are treated.

  3. Thou shalt report events as they happen. We are not there to embellish or editorialize. At the same time, this does not mean that our writing needs to be dull. I have a Thesaurus on my desk and it comes with me on routes should I have the need to find that one especially descriptive word. If something occurs which you think that someone needs to be made aware of, tell your scheduler and let them decide if the information needs to be passed on up the line.

  4. Thou shalt communicate with thy scheduler if unforeseen problems arise. This really should be a no-brainer, but needs to be mentioned because it is human nature to want to avoid mentioning bad news.

  5. Thou shalt not flake on shops. Emergencies happen. Communicate with your scheduler. Don’t leave them hanging in the dark.

  6. Thou shalt be on time for appointments. Yet another obvious point that is easy to forget. For the route shopper especially, plan so your appointments are covered.

  7. Thou shalt not change scenarios to suit yourself. If you don’t have a dining partner, check with your scheduler—they may be able to get a waiver from the client. While the scenario may not make sense to us, ours is not to question the scenario we have been assigned.

  8. Thou shalt give the target every opportunity to shine. As one MSC says, “Mystery shopping isn’t about finding faults.” And really it isn’t. It’s about giving the target every opportunity to be perfect—and then objectively reporting the opportunities for improvement.

  9. Thou shalt not entrap the target. Entrapment is defined as creating a situation that would encourage someone to do something they would not ordinarily do. For example, I was on a high performance car shop and the salesperson said, “The difference between models X and Y is that Y is for people who don’t car if they get speeding tickets.” I replied, “That’s why I want model X; I’m past the stage of wanting to get tickets. During the test drive, the salesperson took the car to over 100mph on an open interstate. Had I indicated to the salesperson that I didn’t mind going fast, he could have claimed entrapment, that I had encouraged him to exceed the speed limit. My saying that I was past the stage of wanting to get speeding tickets made his decision to exceed the speed limit by 40+mph his own choice.

  10. Thou shalt remember that mystery shopping is not about finding faults—it’s about finding opportunities for improvement. That’s pretty much self-explanatory and sums up why we do what we do.

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