This is a guest post written by one of our Mobee Bees, Lindsay Grier.
Magicians, actors, and spies:
What do they all have in common?
They are all masters of deception.
And so are the most effective secret shoppers.
Deception is difficult – It is both an art and a skill.
For some, it comes relatively naturally, while for others, it requires training and education in order to overcome the cognitive biases this kind of behavior requires. However, unlike the high stakes world of intelligence agents, we, as secret shoppers, have a unique opportunity to dip our toes into that life without the risk or the harm. Think of it as an opportunity to let your inner child out and play pretend for a little while.
That sounds easy enough, and indeed it is when a Mission requires us to speak with an employee and we are given specific directives. In some Missions, you may be given cover stories, specific questions to ask, a script to follow, etc. Many Missions, on the other hand, do not require such interaction.
That doesn’t mean the employees won’t interact with us, and when they do, it almost always begins with some variation of “can I help you?” If you’re like me, you respond with something akin to, “I’m just browsing thank you. I’ll let you know if I need anything,” and then hope that they will just let you be. What if you encounter overzealous employees. Maybe they are trying to climb the ladder into management; are hard sellers/are working on commission and are completely in your face (often literally!); or, worse yet, are loss prevention/security fixated and are convinced that you are shoplifting or “casing the joint”.
Every situation is unique, there is no fail-proof manual. However, education and experience (real and/or fictitious) will help you effectively respond to awkward situations. It will also ultimately enable you to provide the most genuine and accurate feedback to successfully complete your Missions.
First off, no matter the Mission, play the part and don’t be shy. Have fun with it! You might have no interest in buying a home security system but create a character beforehand who is TOTALLY. ALL. ABOUT. BUYING A HOME SECURITY SYSTEM. Enthusiasm is always the best policy (Life pro tip!).
There are some Missions, however, that are essentially just audits: e.g. price checking and comparison, giving feedback on product displays, doing shelf inventory, etc. In these cases, if approached by an employee, I recommend the researcher responds in a friendly demeanor. You can tell the staff that you are taking notes/photographing for later reference/price comparison/rebates/etc. and that if you have any questions, you will be sure to seek them out. If they are wearing a name tag, add their name to the end of that sentence, e.g. “if I have any questions, I’ll be sure to find you, John.” Acknowledging someone by name is respectful, and considerate.
Many stores have loss prevention teams and security guards who are actively on the lookout for all sorts of “suspicious” behavior. Unfortunately, some Missions require actions that might catch their eye: e.g. hovering around the same area for a while without actually putting items in your cart/basket, taking pictures, inspecting items and then typing on your phone/tablet, etc.
This means that there is a possibility that they will confront you (especially if you are doing Missions in the same store every week or multiple times per week, or are around electronics or other high-value inventory). There are some preemptive steps you can take that will help them assuage their suspicions, and thus help you avoid the hassle and embarrassment of such an interaction:
- Wear fitted clothing.
- Don’t wear anything that shields your identity (e.g. sunglasses/hats/headscarves)
- Bring only your wallet: no purses/shopping bags/fanny packs etc.
- If you need to use the restroom, do so upon entering the store.
If you’re unsure of what to do, you can always go with honesty if questioned. Simply answering with, “I am just completing a survey.” is an honest and quick way to divert the employee. Make sure you DO NOT mention any specific companies or Mobee
Lindsay Grier has been a Mobee bee since 2016 and has had a lot of success completing Missions and earning Mobee rewards. This is her first blog post with Mobee. We hope you enjoy!!