James Montgomery

Mystery Shops Gone Sideways

Best Practices to go Undetected as a Mystery Shopper

“It is my last day working here, I honestly don’t care anymore.” This was the first words from an associates mouth as I began a mystery shop for a mattress company. Don’t be distracted; continue to do a mystery shop even when the associate is not being professional.

Remember you are a trained observer (mystery shopper) not the center of attention.

Clothing should be worn to blend in or match the crowd, not stand out. Dress the part, if you are shopping for a $20,000 watch, Wal-Mart sweats would not be your go to pants.

Working as a server when I was younger, I learned quickly that the best sign of wealth were shoes and how their owners care for them. Even though I treated everyone equal as far as service, I noticed shoes (or other clothing) and so do your mystery shop targets.

Keep accurate time for a mystery shop by using a tablet, phone or digital watch depending if the shop is casually paced or a quick visit. Make sure the phone is turned off before starting a shop. Some shops allow me to benefit from a note app on my tablet. 

Pens should be ball point, click top and black or blue in color (no fancy designs). Liquid or soft tip pens are notorious for leaking in your pocket. Always carry two pens if you are able to utilize them for notes. Restroom stalls are frequent note taking areas.

If allowed by the mystery shop company, a companion at a restaurant can be a huge benefit to your shop as long as you discuss the visit before entering the establishment (not during the visit).

“I know you are a mystery shopper, you got to be, those are the items to be audited and we never get a good audit,” the manager conveyed to me as I turned around in a department store. I calmly walked over to a customer and struck up a conversation. The manager began to follow me through the store. I confronted him and said, “Thank you for your help; I realize I have one of those faces everyone recognizes, but do you know of a good restaurant in the area?”

Another fact finding help is to sit diagonal to a potential high service table in a restaurant such as; numerous children, mature adults in a trendy restaurant, or a couple that is arguing. The information you can receive for a mystery shop without having to say a word can be priceless.

Common Problem Mystery Shop Situations:

  • The mystery shopped associate is an acquaintance of yours or you have shopped the associate before.
  • The location or address is wrong on the shop or at the desired business.
  • The business is closed, under construction, or employee is out to lunch.
  • The scenario can’t be done the way the company has contracted you to do it

Now I need reading glasses, but even when I didn’t they are a great prop for mystery shopping when you think you have been detected as a way to change your appearance.

Keep records and know when and who you spoke with at various businesses in your area. Be aware that associates may work at several stores, fill in for another associate at a different store or move to another store for advancement.

“Hi, what do you think of my new job as a bank manager,” I love it here. I was in the middle of a bank new checking mystery shop, and a friend of mine came over to the desk and shook my hand. I replied, “Congratulations, would you like to go out to lunch today.”

Double check addresses and call a business or nearby business to verify a location before you go there.

Generally speaking too much information is a good thing on a mystery shop. If for any reason you can not finish a mystery shop (Never put your life in danger), politely leave a location and contact the company immediately.

Finally email your scheduler with any questions about conducting a particular shop. They want you to be successful because their job depends on you and your results they send to their clients.

Your Comments:

  1. John Cook says:

    There is a server at our local Denny’s restaurant, who is also a counter person at our local Round Table Pizzeria. Through three different M.S.P’s I have shopped this individual multiple times. The awkward scenario occurred at Denny’s when they had a reveal component of the mystery shop IF this server correctly suggested, as an up sale, various Coca Cola products. The thought racing through my head was if this server is “successful” and I reveal myself, they will “connect the dots” and realize that I have been the source of multiple mystery shop reports on them at both their jobs. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for them, they did not complete the up sale in the manner stipulated by the instructions so I did not have to reveal myself.

  2. Eliza Ann McNair says:

    I used tiny post-it pads with a small pencil to jot down key notes. And blending in with the locale is a key point.

  3. Miranda Heinrich says:

    Everyone is on their phones these days. I send a text message to my own phone number from my own phone number to take notes.

  4. AuburnHarleyMama says:

    I often find using a pad of paper and a pen, in plain sight, also works. For instance, during a 75″ inch Flat Screen TV Mystery Shop, it is not uncommon for the Salesman to have a customer jotting down the information that they are learning about a Flat Screen TV. So, writing down the name of your Salesperson and the information about a particular Flat Screen would not be a red flag.

    However, jotting down notes about your Mystery Shop while sitting at a table in a restaurant would be …

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