What to Do If You Are Outed as a Mystery Shopper
The first rule of mystery shopping is to be unmemorable (unless you are performing that one shop I read about where it is required to be memorable!) Most of the time that means being discreet when taking notes and sounding natural asking questions no real customer would ever ask.
In the hundreds of mystery shopping jobs I’ve completed, I’ve only been called out as a mystery shopper one time. I suspect my local grocery store thinks/knows I am a mystery shopper, because I get GREAT service every time I go in whether I am mystery shopping or not. But so far, no one working has reported me as a mystery shopper.
The one time I was outed as a mystery shopper was fortunately during a phone shop. I started to ask my question and the woman who answered interrupted me and said, in a hostile tone, “Let me guess. You’re one of those shoppers. You guys want know about oil changes and how much they cost.” The call was recorded, so the company could tell exactly what happened. I am lucky I was outed over the phone and not at an in person shop. If I was outed at an in person shop, I would no longer be allowed to shop there again.
Sidenote: How stupid is it to 1. Let the mystery shopper know you know they’re a mystery shopper and 2. Get angry at them for shopping you. If you know the person is a shopper, then give them BETTER service than you would normally. Isn’t that the rational thing to do instead of acting in a way that could get you written up or potentially fired?
Before You Shop Have a Plan
This is good advice before any mystery shop, honestly. Have a plan. Read your instructions and come up with a game plan once you enter the store. This is easier if you’re shopping a place you’ve already been to (as a customer or a shopper.) If you have questions you have to ask rehearse them in your head. Think of follow up questions an employee might ask you so you’re prepared to answer them naturally.
Don’t bring anything with you that will make you look out of the norm. Don’t bring your guidelines with you and don’t access them on your phone where anyone can see them. Try to take notes inconspicuously and quickly. Everyone and their mother is always on their phones, but if taking too many notes on your phone might make you seem unavailable to be provided service.
If something goes wrong and you are asked if you are a mystery shopper, play dumb. “A what?” or “What does that mean?” with raised eyebrows should be enough. Don’t get defensive and if at all possible, don’t appear nervous. Just act confused. Then try to deflect and end the conversation naturally.
Contact Your Scheduler
Your scheduler will want to know that you were outed. If you have enough information to finish the shop, leave and call or email your scheduler from your car. It would be best if you could text your scheduler for immediate advice, but that isn’t always possible. Tell your scheduler all the details and let them advise you on what to do next.
I don’t know what happened to the woman who raged at me for being a mystery shopper. But since it was a recorded phone shop, the exact account was sent to the client. It hasn’t stopped me from being able to shop for them again, but I am now more cautious with how I phrase my questions.