Mystery shopping programs provide a wealth of information, from staff performance to competitive intelligence. Having an objective, third party vendor providing this information is more valuable and effective than trying to conduct an in house program.
That being said, there are limits as to what a mystery shopping program can provide. One example is the case of an inquiry for emergency room evaluations. The inquiry seemed simple enough – evaluating the effectiveness of an urgent care triage system. However, the criteria that was to be used required mystery shoppers to feign a medical emergency, ranging from a potentially sprained ankle to chest pain. This went beyond the scope of what is possible on many levels – in this situation, it would require shoppers to go beyond what is typical of a shop and put themselves in an unwanted situation. Furthermore, in the case of medical care, mystery shopping programs cannot interfere with the health of the general public.
Another example is the case of theft. There are times when parking facilities or event businesses that offer valet parking will ask if shoppers can leave money or other valuable items in their car to evaluate if they are still there when they return. Again, this puts shoppers in a precarious situation, especially if their valuables are NOT there upon return, and it also creates a legal situation that goes beyond the scope of mystery shopping.
If there are situations, especially in the case of potential theft or fraud, that are of concern, it’s wise to speak with your mystery shopping provider to determine what can and cannot be done. If it falls outside of the range of the program, the company can offer recommendations in the way of a PI firm or other avenues in which to monitor for these types of concerns.