10 Assignments that Scream “Mystery Shopper”

We’ve all had shops that made us question our sanity for taking them because of the “undeniably-obvious -you- must-be-a-mystery-shopper-factor.” If clients could rotate the questions and we did not have to ask for strange requests in hotels, our risk factor at being spotted as a mystery shopper might likely decrease. Here are a list of those shops who just scream Mystery Shopper to most shoppers!

  1. “Your Dining Companion has a Big Mouth.”

You know the one. Your last-minute dining partner can’t make it to dinner, so you ask your neighbor, someone you barely know… from a glance and a wave in the morning when you both getting in your cars to go to work. You are desperate. He knows just a little bit about your mystery shopping from a brief conversation you had in 2006.. You ask him if he can join you? He says yes! You wonder if you are going to regret this... but you let him tag along anyway…. You try to brief him before you get to the restaurant. You finally get to your assignment and he is eager to “help you” …because he thinks mystery shopping is pretty fascinating!

He volunteers to check the men’s restroom (after two strong vodka drinks) and then he comes out, his face flushed. “Wow!” he says, “That restroom was really dirty! I hope you are going to write this down and report it!” He says it loudly enough that everyone can hear…(because the two drinks have now settled in his empty stomach and empty brain) so he has “Drinker’s Ear” now…so his voice is very magnified (because he can no longer hear himself talk) .. the table next to you and the manager both give YOU a funny look. Lesson learned on this one. Try to find someone, anyone, but your neighbor that you barely know …to be your partner on your next mystery shop! You don’t want a loud mouth on your mystery shop!

  1. “How to Spot the Mystery Shopper in the Movie Theater.”

This would be the movie patron who is staring at every register topper to find out what food combos are available. This same person is looking at all the standees, kiosks, tables, game rooms, restrooms, counter cards, movie posters, banners, MPAA rating posters, hallway posters and window clings, birthday party signs, gift card signs, and who never wants a rewards card, no matter what you offer this person! This is the same person who is talking to a manager, trying to get his name but most of what the person says to him is gibberish. This will undoubtedly be the same movie patron using the same restroom twice, hitting all the stalls and checking for soap in the dispenser, over flowing trash, dirty toilets and graffiti on the walls. This movie patron will also be in the arcade and taking pictures of the problems, such as broken gaming machines, dirty or damaged floors, overfull trash cans and debris. Then you see this person go into the movie auditorium where they must capture every ad on the screen, every preview shown, patron counts, and theater checks. All this must be gathered and accurate for this person to be paid. So next time you are in a theater concession listen for this person to say, “I need a receipt for that popcorn” because nobody else standing in line asks for a receipt, except a mystery shopper!

  1. The Cashier Crumples your Receipt and tosses it in the Trash Can.

You are eying the cashier with a steady gaze because she has your receipt and your entire pay-day in her hands. She does not bother to ask you if you want your receipt and in one swift move, it’s in the bottom of a wire trash can. You try to remain composed as you see your dinner fee in the garbage. You say quickly. “Excuse me but I would like my receipt, please.” She looks at you with a blank stare and then begrudgingly bends over into the dirty trash can and hands you the receipt with hair and food particles attached to it. She looks a little sheepish but you can tell it does not really bother her that she never asks you or any other customer if they would care for their receipt? Not much you can do with swift hands pitching it in one quick move…. other than track your receipt with your eyes and tell her without choking her, that you would appreciate your receipt. But asking her to dig it out of the trash screams mystery shopper to most…

  1. The Same Redundant Grocery Store Questions That Never Change

You can only ask the same questions so many times that pretty soon the employees are commenting that they got asked that about the tomatoes yesterday! You wish you could change the line of questions but you are forbidden. Perhaps they can come up with some new ones. So you juggle the questions and try memorize faces so you don’t go back there and ask the same question you asked the week before. They either think you have Alzheimer’s or you are just plain ol’ dumb! But you persevere and keep taking the same grocery shops over and over because they add up to a good amount at the end of the month. If the questions could be rotated it would certainly help from getting outed at the store

  1. Never use your cell phone on a shop or you will be revealed as a shopper!”

You see it every day. A room full of people in the oil-change shop waiting room. Everyone’s head is down. The room is silent. Nobody is talking. What are they doing? They are on their cell phones texting or playing Candy Crush. Some are mindlessly scrolling…. not sure what they are looking for. But “you” are sitting there staring at a Soap Opera on TV, the ONLY one not on a cell phone, because you are not allowed to be on your cell phone because that will make you look like a mystery shopper! Really? So, all the customers are mystery shoppers? My best advice, bring a magazine or read one of their old Car & Track magazines. Trying to blend in makes you less likely to be a mystery shopper…if they would allow you to use your phone while waiting…

  1. Asking a Manager his name…

The Manager is busy. Maybe you are at Best Buy. Or, some other shop where you must get his name and description. What can you say to him to get him to stand there long enough to read his name tag? He is looking at you now, remembering your face, remembering that you want to know his name. ..No other customer in 16 months asked his name. You finally capture his name tag. What if you did not read it correctly? You get the best description you can. He is wondering why you have so much interest in him? You try to casually walk away and you feel his eyes burning holes in your back. Since getting names has always been a requirement.. this is one we have to chalk up to, as part of the business of shopping and just get through it. But getting the name risks you being identified as a mystery shopper!

  1. Asking Hotel Employee his/her names, all 30 of them….

You were excited to take this High End Hotel & Casino Shop. You had no idea what it entailed. You read the guidelines and it said you had to remember the names of all employees you encountered: from the Front Desk to Valet, to the Servers, the Dealers, the Cocktail Waitresses, the Stewards, the Maintenance Man/Crew, the Hotel Manager, the Slot Technicians, the Pit Bosses, Custodians, Engineers, Rewards Club Host, and Casino Cage Associates. You are trying hard, really you are, to get all of those names. You need all of them and all of them must be correct for their departments. Get one name wrong and kapoot goes your shop. Not for the faint of heart. Hopefully, you are texting these names to yourself. You visit the restroom a few times to make sure you have all your ducks in order. But all this name asking… you are asking to be identified as a mystery shopper!

  1. Bothering the Banker…

You go to a bank shop and you need a Banking Representative (not a Teller) to sit you down and tell you all about their bank. You meet your Banker. He looks like something out of GQ Magazine. So polished… with an expensive suit on and well coiffed hair. He has trophies and awards all over his office. He has “Best Banking Representative 31 years in a Row” award on the wall. He has a large selection of family pictures on his desk. He has been working there for 33 years. He goes into excruciating, intricate detail …telling you all about the history of the bank,  offers you a mug and a calendar and even tell you his entire life history. He offers you $100 free, to open an account today. He will start you off with a savings account where you can take 30 days to put your required start up deposit in the account. He asks your birthday so they can send you a birthday card, should you decide to sign up. He takes you on a tour of the entire bank and introduces you to all the tellers and the loan reps. At the end, he smiles wide and asks you if you are ready to open an account? You say “No Thanks” and you say goodbye to him, exiting the bank.” He looks crushed!!! “You overhear the tellers say, “That is the second person since Tuesday that did not want to open an account! Then she says, “That Poor Mr. Sloan, our Banking Representative is batting zeros this week!”

  1. “How long will this cut meat last from the Deli?”

Unless you are blind, you can clearly see the expiration on the package which says, “Use by April 24, 2016.” But you have to ask anyway. Some of the associates have a greater amount of patience with you…. but some come right out and say it, “You see that little white label? It has the expiration date.” Wrong Answer! They are required to say 4-5 days. Not: “Check the label Yourself.” You wonder if they think you are *dimwit …that you can’t read the package and figure it out yourself. I realize they are being tested but some employees have a lesser degree of civility than others….I think they have heard the expiration question hundreds of times….

  1. Carrying around a Large Bulky Item around the store for 10 minutes.

You find a Queen Size Comforter, or a 10 Piece Duvet, Pillow and Matching Sheet Set. You carry it around…and around the store. It’s getting heavy now…You walk by some associates. You make sure they see you. You kind of stop and pretend to stare at something on the shelf. They still don’t ask you if you need a cart. After you look like an idiot carrying something around that big without grabbing a cart yourself, you put it back. “What must they think of you? Then you go back up to the front to get a shopping cart because there is no way you are carrying anything else… because your arms are sore. You walk the aisles again. Nobody greets you or even acknowledges you. You ask where the Raisin Bran Cereal is and they point but don’t walk you to the item. You are frustrated. You have a lot of NOs on your report. You get to the front and the cashier has no name tag on but does have Green Hair. You note that in your description and hope you are believed! But in reality, customers don’t drag large items around too long. It reeks mystery shopper when you do!


In closing, some shops could be more enjoyable and simplified if the questions weren’t so obvious to the store associates. Or changing up the questions and not running the same ones for 2 years. You can only ask so many questions about tomatoes and asparagus. Realize that the store associates are on the look out for odd questions and they equate that with you being a mystery shopper.

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