Mystery Shopping with a Disability.

Mystery shopping with a handicap. It’s different but it’s not different.

Two individuals enter a restaurant. One is a disabled vet in a wheelchair, the other is an older gentleman about 4’5” tall. Do either or both of them get noticed? We all know that one of the key elements to mystery shopping is to fly under the radar and blend in. Sometimes it is hard to go unnoticed, but that’s the challenge a lot of people face every day.

We sometimes feel that mystery shopping with a disability is “different”. However, the more I think about it, the less difference I see. For some of us with disabilities, extreme fatigue is a constant. But what about the teacher with three children who works all week in school and at home grading papers, then shops on the weekend. Fatigue is surely an aspect of their life even if not extreme. Then there is the pain. We’ve all heard the phrases “work through the pain” and “no pain no gain”. At one time or another, I am sure that a lot of shoppers have injured themselves and had to shop through the pain. And then there are those shoppers with something as simple as flat feet where walking through a mall or doing an 8 hour audit is ruled out because of painful feet. I fear doing more than three or four shops in a day, not only because of fatigue but also because of brain fog. Seriously, are any of you forgetful? Is your mind so muddled at times that you can’t think straight? If so, I now dub you handicapped.

Disability is defined as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.”  A handicap is defined as “a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult.” I don’t know about that second definition. I have family members that get in the way of my success!  The federal government guidelines are stricter, defining a disability as having a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. DEATH! THAT’S A BUMMER!

It is the “medical” definition that differentiates a disability from a natural state of being. If a wheelchair individual and a 6’2” female enter a restaurant, the wheelchair individual is immediately recognized as the handicapped person. By formal definition, it is different, but is it different as a mystery shopper? The answer is yes. The transportation challenges are going to be there as a mystery shopper or not, so maneuverability is not the issue. In the case of the two individuals who enter into the restaurant, the one with the disability is more likely to get special treatment. Out of human kindness, people tend to show sympathy on handicapped individuals. This makes it more difficult to evaluate how the client’s employees behave under normal circumstances. Example: I shopped an apartment once while using my cane. The agent seemed to feel so sorry for me that she did not want me walking a lot and so did not show me everything. Now, I carry my cane instead of walking with it, showing the agent I am physically able to endure the entire tour so they will not cut it short.

As for those inward disabilities that can’t be seen, such as pain and mental illness, the difficulty centers around having to suck it up/to bear it without anyone knowing that you are suffering. Mystery shopping can be a good thing in that shops/reports can sometimes be moved out without penalty. Or it can be a bad thing if the shop cannot be rescheduled or the report deadline cannot be moved. But, this is not exclusive to handicapped individuals. Example: Some bar shops are so much fun that they make report writing the following morning extremely difficult, and it has nothing to do with my disability. I’m a lightweight, lol.

I have come to the conclusion, in my mixed up mind, that there is really little difference in mystery shopping as a handicapped individual verses mystery shopping as a physically fit individual. We all have challenges, some more than others. As in all fields of life, the difference is in the attitude. A good attitude will enable an individual to understand their weaknesses so as to transform them into assets. Example: Mystery shoppers should always let the client’s employee do most of the talking in order to find out what they know. Easy for me, I have a muddled brain. I can say nothing for the longest period simply because it is taking me a long time to put my thoughts together. Advantage è Muddled brain.

Two shoppers walk into a leasing office, looking for an apartment. Both shoppers are males with the same build. Each shopper sits with a different sales agent and requests the exact same type of unit. The sales agents are both highly awarded agents in their field. Sales Agent A takes Shopper #1 all around the complex, showing the best aspects. Sales Agent B takes Shopper #2 to one unit but is very polite, gracious, and informative. What’s the difference?

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