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We’ve Seen It All In Mystery Shopping….


Being in the industry for over 15 years now, we’ve seen it all. Mystery shopping has many uses, and one of them is seeing things that are happening that you would otherwise have no clue about. These are situations where employees are behaving badly, or doing things that can hurt your business. While we, as a mystery shopping provider, serve as merely the messenger, sometimes we cringe when we have to send reports that detail some alarming issues. Often times we hear from clients that these few shop reports make the entire program that much more valuable.


Some examples from our years in the industry are varied; some a bit comical, others downright disturbing….


1. An appliance retailer was shopping their locations on a regular basis. The program was going very smoothly until an unsuspecting shopper engaged in a conversation about washers and dryers with an associate. The associate discussed features and benefits, but instead of closing the sale, proceeded to tell the shopper to go to their competitor to make the purchase. The associate went on to explain how “awful” this company was to work for, and how the competitor offered better prices and treated their employees much, much better. In fact, he was trying to get a job there so he can get out of “this hell hole.”


2. A mystery shopper went to a bank to inquire about home equity loans. The banker did an outstanding job, and even followed up with a call a few days later. The shopper became nervous when coming home from work one day to find a hand delivered packet of information from the banker in her mailbox. There was a note enclosed about how much he enjoyed their conversation and really wanted to do business with her, and take her out for dinner sometime. He attempted to call a few times after to ask her out on a date as well.


3. One location in a retail chain was not happy about having a mystery shopping program in place. After complaining about it to management with no change, they decided to take measures into their own hands. As reports were coming in, the client was concerned because a shopper listed “Jack” as the employee, but he was not working that day. Another report comes in, and the same thing – “Emily” is listed as the employee the shopper talked to, but Emily was on vacation that week. We had receipts as documentation that the correct location was shopped on the correct day, and interviewed shoppers to ensure they were providing the correct name. After lots of back and forth, it was learned that the employees of this location “banded together” to get rid of the program. They all changed name tags with each other and never wore their own while they worked during this time period – their thinking was that if multiple reports came in with “wrong” names, it would prove that the program was unreliable and should not be used. Those employees were in quite a bit of trouble once this all came to light.


4. A shopper was to talk with a quick serve restaurant to learn about catering options, as they wanted to ensure staff was knowledgeable about the catering options for larger orders, school events, etc.  Here is how the conversation went down….


Shopper walks in and is greeted upon arrival. Shopper asks: Can I speak to a manager?
Cashier: You just got here. How could something be wrong already?
Shopper: No, no. I wanted to ask a question about school lunch.
Cashier: Like a field trip?
Shopper: No. For a school hot lunch program
Cashier: What do you need?
Shopper: Well, I wanted to find out if you provide hot lunch for schools in the area. I know some other restaurants do.
Cashier: Blank stare…..calls over to a manager
Manager: (no greeting) You want what? You have a big order?
Shopper: No. I wanted to find out if you have a catering option where you could provide hot lunch for an elementary school once a month
Manager: Catering? Giiirrrlll, this is XXX, not some fancy catering place.
Shopper: Okay, I wanted to check because our school has a few lunch days each month, like Subway and McDonald’s, etc so we wanted to see if XXX was an option.
Manager: Well, you could place a really big order. Do you want to do that now?
Shopper: Um, no. It wouldn’t be until next year, so I don’t think that’s a good idea.
Manager: So yeah…no we can’t do orders that far in advance. This just isn’t going to work out.


Most of the time, everything goes smoothly. However, we sometimes run into situations similar to the above. At least with a strong program in place, these situations can be uncovered quickly and be addressed before the issues become too widespread.