Retail Workers Share 20 Of The Most Unpleasant Experiences They Had With Mystery Shoppers

Published 2 years ago

Sometimes, retail companies would throw anonymous guests into their stores just to make sure that their employees do their job well, unbiasedly, and as expected. Dubbed “mystery shoppers,” they’re the type that blends well with the general public but is secretly grading the store’s service quality. Their randomness and unexpectedness work best to know if the employees’ performance remains consistent regardless of who they’re dealing with.

In a recent r/Antiwork thread, people pitched in their mystery shopping experience – both from the sales and the customer sides. Below, you’ll find 20 interesting stories of anonymous critics stores have ever encountered.

You may want to check more retail life stories here and here.

More info: Reddit

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You wouldn’t believe it.

A co-worker of mine got marked off because he wasn’t wearing a name badge.

His name is embroidered into his shirt.

I got a failing grade on mine. Why? This MS comes in for big item pretending to not know a lot about it. I generally don’t handle these big items and in particular they were asking about a very uncommon add-on to these items, and I called my manager over for help. Well, my manager gets hit by the technical problems comet and can’t log in to the system to see the ordering info.

So because my manager had tech issues when logging in, **I** was the one who failed.

Thankfully my work doesn’t care about that sort of stuff and my manager was pissed about this thing.

Image source: Sgt_Kelp, Jon Tyson


One of my favorite retail memories was working for Godiva Chocolates and how huge a deal it was to get anything other than 100% from a mystery shop. They could write in “this was the best customer service I’ve ever received ” but if we lost a point because our apron was on incorrectly that’s ALL we would hear about from our manager and District manager. She ( DM ) would rip us to shreds. One day we get a mystery shop report sent to us and it was the lowest score…horrible. Everyone is panicked to see who it was. It turns out it was the DM when she was in last.

Image source: duncanhere1974, I am R.


I was a mystery shopper. I lied through my teeth, giving max or almost max points. I only ever gave one negative audit, and thats because the interaction was so negative, if I was a real customer, I would have walked out.

Image source: RoseFire007, Erik Mclean


I used to work in retail at a large national chain store and I could immediately tell which customers are the mystery shoppers because the flow of conversation and line of questioning seemed very unnatural. Maybe the mystery shoppers aren’t very good “*actors*” either. I think of them as aliens in human body suits. They talk like weird NPCs even though I am ACTUALLY the NPC. ? Anyway, as soon as I detect them, I make it so obvious that I am overly helpful with my obviously fake smile and fake enthusiasm. I pass every time and get rewarded with Starbucks gift cards. All in the name of “customer service” but really, it’s all about the sale.

Image source: julesieee, Clay Banks


I did one of these once. I was supposed to go into a club in nyc and get a drink at the bar. I get to the door but they randomly kept me waiting at the door and didn’t let me in. The door man seemed to single me out and let everyone in but me at some point. I am a nicely dressed decent looking young lady. They eventually let everyone else but me in a few at a time. Most people only waited 5-20 minutes. A few groups of people tried to tell them I was with them because they saw what was happening and they felt bad and I’m super friendly and talked to everyone waiting, but they didn’t let me in. It made me feel terrible, like I wasn’t good enough or that I was ugly or the unpopular kid in school purposely being left out. Then after like an hour or so, I get tired of waiting and started getting cold and I pull the head door guy over and show him the email saying I’m a secret shopper which I’m not supposed to do, but I still need to get in to test the bar. He reads it and goes from being smug to being very serious and urgently telling the other guy to let me in now. And the other guy was like “what? Her? But I thought..”And it was obvious they had decided they were never going to let me in. I go in and do the bar thing and leave. Let’s just say the door people got a terrible horrible review.

Image source: RobotHappiness, John Vincent Saulan


I got called in to my manager’s office to explain why I didn’t get a perfect score. Based on the review, I could tell exactly who the customer had been.

Really old guy, asking more questions then anyone else ever had during the busiest time of day while I was left all alone in the store. I was at this counter that held both a regular register and customer service, doing both things at once. Somehow I managed to keep the whole crowd positive, helping with returns and using the time people filled in forms to check someone else out, everything to keep that line moving. It was the most insane day I’d had but I managed, with a smile and happy customers at that.

But because I balanced answering the very detailed questions with what should have been at least two other employees worth of work, I got marked down.
Not. Enough. Eye contact.

Image source: Violetsme, Clay Banks


I got secret shopped as a server and didn’t hit the supposed marks, but the shoppers had a great time and said they’d come back and ask for me. Didn’t stop the manager making an example out of me to the rest of the team as what not to do even though I SECURED A REPEAT CUSTOMER FOR THE COMPANY dfjjffhgsfhjjg

Image source: the_f**king_worst, Kate Townsend


I used to work for a luxury department store and our mystery shoppers were usually chosen from our pool of top clients.

One of my top shoppers called me ahead of her mystery shop to coach me through the expectations so I’d get my bonus.

Image source: hommesweethomme, Arturo Rey


I was once mystery-shopped at a Petsmart by someone who asked for help finding food and toys for her guinea pig. We had a great interaction, talked about guinea pig needs, nutrition, etc.

80% on my mystery shop score because I forgot to ask the GP’s name. My bad I guess, but…wow I’m glad my retail days are over. I just don’t care what your rodent’s name is.

Image source: Rainyqueer1, Gustavo Zambelli


I went to TGI Fridays as a mystery shopper many years ago. The bartender told me not to bother upgrading to the large cocktail because they didn’t put any more alcohol in it. Obviously, that was bad for the business but we gave them full marks anyway cos it was a classy move and they get rewards for a good mystery shopper score.

Image source: tomonpiano, Louis Hansel


Man years ago I worked at Yankee candle and one of our requirements with every customer is to keep offering them items until they tell you “no” 3 times. We had weekly secret shoppers and meetings going over what the secret shopper said. I’m the worlds worst sales person and hate pushing people into things they aren’t comfortable with so it was just life sucking. Plus customers hate to be bothered so much I have no idea why so many places require it.

People who are rude to employees because they find it annoying are the worst because it’s like “sorry I know this is annoying but I will get fired if I don’t do this” just play along and let people live

Image source: Betty_Grof, Ellen Tanner


When I was a teenager I was fired from a theater chain where I worked in concessions. We were supposed to try and upsell popcorn and drink sizes. The mystery shopper was a very old woman that ordered a small popcorn and small drink. I didn’t try and upsell her because I figured she was living on a fixed income and I wasn’t going to push unnecessary expense on an old woman. Got fired about 30 minutes after the interaction.

Image source: l0rdbunny1, Corina Rainer


I conducted a secret shop at a high end jewelry store a few years ago. The scenario was very specific and took about 2 hours. The salesperson was so patient and helpful. Based on my script, it was apparent she thought she would be getting a significant sale, and with it, a good sized commission.

I felt so bad when I realized I was essentially ghosting her. She sent follow up emails (as per store policy) but I was not allowed to respond. She wasted 2 hours on me instead of a potential real/ paying customer. I gave her good scores but I still feel badly when I walk by the store.

Image source: KizmitBastet, Marius Cern


When I worked at circuit city I got torn apart by secret shoppers for not doing all the pushy sales stuff. The tactics they pushed were so disingenuous they made me squirm. That’s when I learned I’m not cut out for sales. At the same time, I got plenty of gratitude from actual customers for being genuinely helpful, like the employee OP shopped. I think at the end of the day the stores know what they’re asking for. They want big aggressive sales of high margin products. They don’t want us nice guys who respect the customer’s budget.

Image source: TGIBriday, Yunming Wang


I’ve mystery shopped in the UK for about 12 years. As long as the staff hit the brief vaguely (mention the right brands etc) I’m not marking them down, I also don’t mark down obvious new starts or folk who are overwhelmed, I’ve worked in retail and hospitality and remember how soul destroying it can be, plus this is the UK – too much enthusiasm is unnerving!

Image source: underweasl, Alexander Kovacs


I once worked at a gas station and failed a mystery shop that was specifically about cigarettes. The lady came in and started asking if I could recommend the lowest tar brand, one with charcoal in the filter, one with less X chemical than the rest. Uh no, that was not part of my $8/hr training.

Image source: PlatypusBrain, Diego Carneiro


I got written up as a waiter because two mystery shoppers came in and asked for a dessert to be split. This was not a dessert you could split (it would look awful since it came served in a mason jar) so I instead to give them two for the price of one (totally within my ability to do and even got permission from chef). That was the wrong answer though and I was dragged into the office the next day to sign a write-up, so i put my two weeks in instead because it was total BS.

Image source: Mexiking89_01, Irina Grigoraş


I work for a retail store that received a mystery shop the day a nearby forest fire reached our town. The fire didn’t reach inhabited areas of the county until later that evening but the store was already really smoky at the time of the mystery shop. The employees basically bombed the shop because we were more concerned with the progress of the fire than asking customers a zillion probing questions. The smokiness of the sales floor was cited in the section for additional comments.

Didn’t matter that the event ended up being the biggest natural disaster in the past 100 years in the entire state, that damned mystery shop was still allowed to stand and count against us on our yearly evaluations.

Image source: Opspoint, Marcus Kauffman


The company I used to work for would secret shop us so often that I knew the secret shoppers by first name. It hit a point where we had an agreement they’d mark my team high, and they can collect an easy paycheck.

We ran that scam for YEARS.

Image source: draconiandevil09, Blake Wisz


Years ago my husband and I went shopping for a soundbar, budget of $200 tops. The guy in the sound area insisted soundbars were trash and made us sit through a demo of a $3500 surround sound system. We were so f*****g annoyed because obviously if we had the means, we would get the best, but we told him multiple times what our budget was. We went and found a different employee in the music section who helped us with finding a good, mid range soundbar for $180 and made sure we had a compatible TV. The other employee saw this and stood with his arms folded.

It’s so dumb cause had the other employee not helped us find what we needed and we were only left with the first, we would have walked away buying nothing.

Image source: Anxietoro, Mick Haupt

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antiwork, critic, mystery, mystery shopper, reddit, retail, retail workers
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