Every shopper has a story. You carefully plan out your mystery shopping day, mapping out the best routes, double checking shop times and addresses, reviewing guidelines at least three times – you are a prepared professional on a mission.

But then fate intervenes and your plan of action starts to unravel. These obstacles are beyond your control, you are blameless, but all you can think of is missing an assignment (and payment) and explaining the scenario to your scheduler.

Traffic Jams

One of life’s great frustrations is being caught in traffic, a helpless hostage trapped on all sides by barely crawling cars and trucks. Plan ahead by researching and avoiding delays caused by road construction. Find a good app that provides live traffic coverage as well as alternate routes to circumvent holdups due to accidents and stalls.

Parking Woes

If your shop has no on-site parking, street parking can be difficult, especially if your shop times are during lunch or dinner hours in busy parts of town. Scope out nearby parking lots if street parking is unavailable. Also, be sure to have plenty of change as well as a debit/credit card to use on-street metered parking. Arrive early if you’re unfamiliar with the neighborhood. Wear comfortable shoes to make trekking to your shop easier.

Sorry, We’re Closed

One of the most disheartening signs a shopper can see is, Sorry, We’re Closed. It doesn’t matter if the location is closed for the day or forever, your assignment is kaput. Contact your scheduler immediately, before you leave the area. They may be able to redirect you or adjust the shop time so your trip and time aren’t wasted. If not, chalk it up to being an honest mistake by someone in the process and enjoy exploring the neighborhood.

Technical Difficulties

Most shops require proof of visit with a receipt, business card, or promotional materials. Others require pictures of signage, displays or food. Just when you think a shop is going well, the register tape jams and you have no receipt, or the sales rep you’re assessing has just run out of business cards. Calmly ask for a handwritten receipt (claim your boss is a stickler for protocol) or ask the rep to write their name and number down for you in case you have further questions. Your camera or flash failing while you’re trying to be inconspicuous is the height of frustration; all you can do is fess up to your scheduler and hope for the best. On your next assignment, test out the camera performance right before you shop.

Blown Cover

This doesn’t happen very often these days due to technology. Shop notes can be discreetly written on smart phones and notebooks or recorded during a trip to the restroom. However, at some point you may be faced with someone, either an employee or just a meddling customer, who asks you point blank if you’re a mystery shopper. Not only should you deny the allegation but also insist you don’t even know what the term mystery or secret shopper means. Act as natural as possible, casually laugh off the charge, and continue with your assignment. Relay the incident to your scheduler.

Every job has good days and bad days; mystery shopping is no exception. Embrace the better experiences, laugh off the bad ones, and carry on.

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