The 8 Aliases of Mystery Shopping
Posted by Judy Pugh
August 21, 2015
Many people are unaware of the existence of mystery shopping. But the practice has a long history and has been pivotal to the growth and success of service and retail providers. For shoppers, it’s a unique job that offers new scenarios every day, which requires a variety of skills, talents and abilities.
But there is a mystery lurking within the world of mystery shopping. One that never reveals its origin and one that hides behind a wall of aliases – 8 to be exact. Why is this? Could it be an elaborate hoax by the inventor of mystery shopping? Or is it possible that the mysterious nature of the industry has fragmented its very identity?
So forget what you’ve ever heard about “Tomato, Tomahto”, cause we’re entering a different dimension. One that may never reveal the answer.
If you’re a fan of mystery books, TV shows and movies, this may be your favorite identity. The word mystery covers many aspects of your job. Just like a character in a detective novel, you keep your true identity under wraps, so no one at your shop knows you’re more than just a regular customer. As you make your observations, new characters start to emerge and personalities develop before your eyes. When you write your report after the assignment is completed, clues to what transpired become clearer. Your objective observations help the client unravel the mystery of what must be done to improve business and increase revenues.
Whether you’re known in social circles as the best secret keeper or the person who just can’t be trusted with any sensitive information, calling yourself a secret shopper means you have to exercise the utmost discretion during every aspect of your job. In certain circumstances, you’ll even have to keep your name a secret. However, the biggest secret of your mission is your goal of anonymous observations of store operations, personnel, site maintenance and customer relations. As you compile your report for submission to RBG, you can exhale and feel the comfort of releasing all your secrets to help their clients spot trouble spots and correct them.
The word undercover conjures up images of fake mustaches, wigs, and secret surveillance microphones and cameras, all common in fictitious and factual operations initiated by uber crime fighting agencies such as the CIA and FBI. Although you probably won’t be required to don physical disguises for RBG assignments, they have assignments that necessitate the use of hidden cameras and microphones. These specialized shops require extra training on equipment use but can be very rewarding, especially if you yearn for more challenging shopping jobs.
Although this name implies you cannot speak during an assignment, it actually refers to your vow of silence in keeping your mission under wraps. Silence is important when you’re assigned to quietly observe and make mental notes on the assigned scenario, never causing a scene or drawing attention to yourself. Your silence ensures you are most forgettable, the kind of character who fades into the background, never suspected as keenly observing everything and everyone around you. Good news is after you’ve remained mum doing your job, you can break your silence and spill your cornucopia of facts in your RBG shopper report.
Another term ripped from the chronicles of mystery fiction, most notably connected with The Shadow radio series of the 30s and 40s. The star portrayed many characters to solve crimes and the show’s opening line made it famous: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…” As a Shadow Shopper, you also pose as many different personas to shop for cars, homes, burgers and beers, just to name a few. While you may not be thwarting crime, you are helping businesses prevent loss and increase profits by spotting untoward practices and other areas for improvement. You may not know what lurks in the hearts of men, but your sharp observational skills can spot inconsistencies in service that are key to client satisfaction.
Although you don’t actually physically hide as a Hidden Shopper, what is concealed is your identity and your purpose. The task you are assigned is known by only three parties: RBG, the client and you. Although you may be securely settled in your home with your partner and family and comfortably employed, when you shop a storage rental facility, you “hide” your situation and pose as a single person in the midst of a cross-country move for a new job that needs a temporary home for your furniture and household belongings.
Everyone has been in a situation where they wish they could simply be anonymous, whether it’s being a witness to a crime or realizing the online date you just met at a restaurant will likely call you again although you have no interest in another encounter. As an Anonymous Shopper, part of your job is to remain undistinguished, the proverbial fly on the wall, seemingly reading a brochure on tire treads when you’re actually scrutinizing the customer service skills of the associate at the counter. Since many parts of life demand star quality and attention for success, it’s a nice change of pace to have a job that values your skills at remaining unmemorable and pays you for your performance.
This name is a bizzaare one, but real nonetheless. I mean shoppers aren’t mysterious by any measure and they certainly aren’t strange. I’m sure this name was created out of accident or perhaps misinterpretation. We’ll just leave it at that.
So why are there so many names? Does it matter? Does it make mystery shopping less fun? Or does it add a layer of mystery to the world of shopping?
I’ll leave you with one of the most famous lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”