Mystery Shopping On The High Street

Posted on Aug 15 2013 - 12:49am by Lisa Jane

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How often have you visited a high street shop and had to wait in a queue while members of staff stand idly by, perhaps chatting? At your last visit to a restaurant, were you greeted warmly and seated promptly, or were you ignored? Most of us, at some point, have little niggles or problems when we visit the high street, but it is not always easy to know where to complain. If we get very good service, it is not always possible to let a company know. A method used by many high street businesses is to deploy mystery shoppers who visit the business and secretly observe levels of service. Many familiar high street businesses use mystery shopping agencies.

Clothes shops

Mystery shoppers often visit fashion stores, where they will browse the rails to see if staff approach them and offer help. Sometimes they will have to act out a scenario, such as pretending they have a wedding to attend to see if the staff member offers helpful suggestions about outfits that would be suitable. They are often required ask questions about an item of clothing, such as how easy it is to wash. Sometimes an item will need to be purchased, in order to assess the buying process and check if company procedures are being followed. Some jobs will ask the mystery shopper to return the item unused, but many companies allow the clothing to be kept as a perk of the job.

Mobile phone shops

Nearly all the main mobile phone chains are regularly visited by mystery shoppers. They are usually given a specific scenario to enact to see what suggestions are made by the sales people regarding handsets, plans and tariffs. It is very rare for a phone purchase to be required by the mystery shopping agency during these jobs; usually an enquiry is all that needed without a complicated buying procedure that requires bank details or credit checks.


While many large supermarkets are located out of town, some high streets have smaller supermarkets and these are all mystery shopped. Typically, the mystery shopping agency will ask for a certain amount of money to be spent, usually on items of the mystery shopper’s choosing, so that the till procedures can be assessed. The store toilets and café will be visited to check cleanliness and other standards, and often several questions need to asked as they move about the shop, from finding the location of certain items to asking about home delivery.


Mystery shoppers are often needed to help high street opticians evaluate how smoothly their systems are running. A typical job will involve making an appointment, followed by an eyesight test. Any recommendations will be noted, and the shopper will usually need to ask particular questions which are usually changed from month to month to avoid staff noticing repetition. A second visit is often asked for by the mystery shopping agency to collect the prescribed glasses, which are then assessed for quality purposes.

As can be seen, a wide range of different high street outlets find mystery shoppers invaluable to help maintain, or improve, their services.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Shlomi Fish

About the Author

Lisa Jane has been an accountant for seven years. She recommends for help and advice on workplace audits. Lisa advises audited businesses to be as honest as possible and never try to conceal information from the HMRC.