We asked shoppers for their best tips to remain anonymous and avoid being “discovered” which usually results in their being excluded from future shops at that location. Here’s what they shared with us:
1. Keep assignment notes out of sight. Use a “shopping list” for making notes. Or your smart phone to record details either by recording or texting.
2. Drive away from the vicinity of the shop location before you fill out the audit form. You never know who might be walking by the car and notice you filling out the audit form. Go to another parking lot, fast food restaurant or coffee shop.
3. Refrain from shopper talk with your companion if an employee is within hearing distance, such as remarks about service, food quality, wait times, etc.
4. Avoid acting or dressing in any way that would make you memorable. The best shoppers blend in with the crowd. A recent example: the shopper brought her dog into the bank, and the banker gave the dog a treat and water. Could be memorable to bank staff.
5. Don’t ask lots of questions if the assignment doesn’t require it; wait for the employee to give you the information. Asking a lot of questions makes you stand out as unusual – normal customers don’t ask that many questions.
6. Be prepared! Get your story straight! Be familiar with information in the scenario. For example, if you are inquiring about a business loan, you should know the name of your “company”, loan purpose and amount, number of employees, etc. Come across as a customer that knows what they’re looking for.
7. Don’t joke with the employee or say something personal that will make you stand out. Don’t complain about bad service. You’re there to observe and record what happened.
8. If you’re going back to do a repeat shop within a short time, wear different clothing, go at a different time, order something different, use a different scenario.
9. Don’t take a picture of the store or branch (unless required in the shop guidelines)
10. Leave your name out of the narratives you write. (Such as, “The teller said, “Good morning, Mrs. Smith!”) Refrain from writing about specific details that would aid in identifying you. Describe the experience in more general terms.
11. When cashing a check for a bank teller shop, don’t use a check from a mystery shop company.
12. Bring “props” that help you look like a non-shopper, such as a travel guide, camera, shopping bag.
13. Do not say you’re in a hurry or you have someone waiting for you in the car.
14. Better to not ask employees to take care of your personal business while doing the shop, such as making a copy, setting up another appointment, etc.
15. Summing it all up: Anonymous: a-non-y-mous: adj. having no outstanding, individual or unusual features; unremarkable or impersonal.