Handling tricky situations as a mystery shopper

Mystery shoppers are charged with many tasks on each assignment.

Mystery shoppers are charged with many tasks on each assignment. They must stay undercover, coax specific information out of employees, recall minute details and look completely inconspicuous in the process. Often, shoppers will encounter tricky scenarios in which their cover is either totally or almost blown. Here are some tips to think about that will help you work your way through tough moments that could come up during a shop:

Prepare for specific questions
Before embarking on a shop, take a look at the details and try to foresee where you may run into a hiccup. For instance, Mystery Shopper Magazine discussed an issue a shopper might experience during a hotel shop. Since all guests are required to show an I.D. when checking in or renting a room, it may look strange to the employee if the hotel is in your hometown.

Ideally, shoppers should only take on hotel shops in areas outside of their place of residence. However, it's not always an option to simply turn down a lucrative shop for this reason. Mystery Shopper Magazine recommended preparing for a question like this in advance. If the topic comes up, you could say that your home is being remodeled or fumigated. Don't offer this up out of the blue, as it may sound odd and reveal your true purpose for being at the hotel. Just be prepared in case someone asks.

Don't brag about your job
Being a mystery shopper is an incredibly fun and exciting job. Even if it's just a hobby, it may be tempting to discuss experiences or strange occurrences on social media or with friends. Be careful not to reveal too much about your position, the places you secretly shop or how well you think you blend into a scene during a gig. This type of talk can blow your cover indirectly. You never know what connections friends or family have or who they may speak to that would be a potential shop subject.

Under the same vein, learn how to adapt well to unfamiliar situations and simply blend into the background. Great mystery shoppers are able to browse a small store for as long as necessary for their shop guidelines without seeming out of place or giving themselves away. 

Stick to the goals
When in doubt, Mystery Shoppers Manual suggested simply sticking to the guidelines and completing the shop. It's hard to tell if an employee truly thinks you are a mystery shopper just based on questions they ask or looks they give. Again, this requires strong preparation on the part of the shopper. Make sure all goals and tasks are memorized. If you forget to complete an item or two on the task list sent by the business, you'll have to go back to the location and finish those items. Even if this feels strange, be confident and stick to the goals.

Talk to your scheduler
If you believe you were identified by staff as a mystery shopper, it's imperative that you call your scheduler as soon as the shop is over and let them know. Whether or not you are right isn't important at this point; the scheduler needs to let the client know that they may have to re-do the gig to obtain a more accurate representation of business operations. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do. Many employees are told that mystery shoppers will be coming in and may make a game out of spotting who it is. You can only walk in, do your job and write a great report.