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Thursday, September 16

Mystery Shopping Tip: How to Avoid Being Identified

Yesterday I told you about a husband and wife shopping team who got caught doing their shop. Whenever I talk with other shoppers one of their biggest fears is being identified while doing the shop. If you are identified, you don't get paid for your shop. Most of the time you won't even be able to shop that location again - although, for chains, most companies will let you shop the other locations still.

It's easy to become paranoid. You are completing a "scenario" which has been assigned you, and likely you are playing a role that isn't natural to you. This alone is reason enough to fear you will be exposed. Guess what? Even if employees are looking for the mystery shopper, there's nothing to worry about. You are just another customer and they probably deal with dozens of unique transactions every day.

Here are a few things I do to avoid getting "caught":
  • My mobile phone is my best friend. It is my timing device and the place where I often capture notes. Sure, it might be rude to text a friend while the cashier at the burger joint is serving you, but trust me, a lot of people do it. When you are recording times or jotting down names and descriptions, employees will think you are being just another distracted customer.
  • For low volume restaurants which require a drive-thru and inside transaction, I act completely normal. Maybe in the drive-thru I will wear a hat and glasses, maybe not. Most of the time I do not try to disguise myself. If the cashier recognizes me from eating inside first, I'll tell them my boss or my roommate wanted me to pick us something.
  • Don't overact. Say as little as possible. For example, if the cashier in the above scenario recognizes that I also ordered inside, I will give them a polite but simple explanation and then shut up. Remember, it's none of their business. Have you ever caught someone telling you a lie? It's usually when they ramble about when a simple answer would suffice. Same with scenarios. If you are touring an apartment, be prepared to answer questions, but don't overdo it. Don't be too elaborate. It's okay to say "I'm not sure" when you are asked a question about your preferences.
  • Finally, be confident. Act like a regular. This means ditching "um's" and "you know" and "like" and other annoying vocal distractions. A confident shopper looks like a regular customer to an employee.
I get a kick out of the stories I do hear about shoppers who are exposed. Some have even had the audacity to cause a scene when poor service is given. The LAST thing you want to do is cause a scene. Just continue with the shop, knowing your report will be used to address these problems.

Act normal - chances are good you won't be exposed.


  1. This is a perfect post! I cannot believe some of the things I've heard shoppers do while on an assignment! I guess they forgot that bringing attention to yourself gets you remembered, etc!

  2. Absolutely. An acquaintance told me about a time when he received especially poor service. He had the audacity to ask for the manager and then tell her he could be a mystery shopper for all she knows. Well, he WAS a mystery shopper, until he was terminated after that manager identified him. The best revenge for poor service is reporting a fair, accurate account of your experience.