How to Deal With Difficult Questions While on Assignment

Last week, I received an email from a MSC regarding [upscale] hotel shops. The gist of it was that if you were shopping a hotel in your general area to avoid mentioning that to the employees if you were asked, as that is one way shoppers were being identified.

Obviously, the desk clerk is going to know where you’re from because you will have to provide an ID upon check-in. So how do you deal with explaining to the desk clerk needing a hotel room for a night, if you’re in your home town?

I encountered that problem on one of my first mystery shops. I used the story that my home was being fumigated. Nice and believable, and it can explain needing to be out of the house overnight. And it’s one of those questions that you need to have the answer ready, in case you’re asked. At the same time, like a good witness, you won’t volunteer anything. Yes, mystery shopping does still believe in “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Remodeling a bath could also be a reason to be out overnight. The tile was set and grouted and it needs to set overnight before it can be walked on. Similarly, having a room painted and you’re allergic [or don’t like] the paint fumes.

But this really leads to a broader question: should you accept hotel shops in your home town? Realistically, the answer is no. Most hotels have policies against renting rooms to local residents. This is for a multitude of reasons, all generally having to do with avoiding potentially negative publicity [affairs, drug deals, etc.]. The hotel that I shopped has that policy but, being in the off season and the hotel was undergoing a remodeling, I was able to get a room for one night.

In the case of my hotel shop, I didn’t have any other staff interactions. Had there been other interactions, I had already in mind that I was driving home to a town about 90 miles away, and I was just too tired to finish the drive today.

As with all shops, the less you say, the better off you are. There are times where you have to answer questions. Just be prepared with your backstory. That’s probably the best lesson I’ve learned from video shopping—have your backstory and know it. And that does carry over to conventional mystery shops. Have your backstory ready. You may not need it, but you don’t want to be caught off guard and be stammering. Then again, I have on several different video shops, gone through the entire shop with a stutter, or hesitation, in my voice. It has to be consistent though, otherwise you run the risk of being disovered.

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