When recording is expressly forbidden...

I have been assigned a series of shops where you are required to have a minimum of 5 different interactions, and you are required to note exact comments, descriptions, etc with every single one, as well as descriptions of every person who fails to greet you during the course of your 30-45 minute shop. The instructions EXPRESSLY forbid using any audio or video recording device of any kind.

How have people successfully completed these types of shops? I'm really struggling to find ways to get out of sight and make very copious notes 6-10 times during the course of the shop. Any suggestions? I've always been able to video or audio record this type of shop and I'm really struggling to get all the detail they want without that crutch!!

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@tracyvp wrote:

I have been assigned a series of shops where you are required to have a minimum of 5 different interactions, and you are required to note exact comments, descriptions, etc with every single one, as well as descriptions of every person who fails to greet you during the course of your 30-45 minute shop. The instructions EXPRESSLY forbid using any audio or video recording device of any kind.

How have people successfully completed these types of shops? I'm really struggling to find ways to get out of sight and make very copious notes 6-10 times during the course of the shop. Any suggestions? I've always been able to video or audio record this type of shop and I'm really struggling to get all the detail they want without that crutch!!

Cannot be done without a recording. This is a example of someone writing up guidelines who has never done a mystery shop.
It can be done. Memorizing those types of things is often a learned skill that comes with practice. In the meantime, take notes on your phone as you do the shop, as if you are texting
- Can you visit a restroom as often as needed? [If asked, you have had waaaaaaayyy too much coffee.]
- Can you take minimal notes? [f583035lrg, glasg=female, 5'8", 30-35, long red hair, glasses]
- For some of the descriptions, can you do a sort of 'Aha!' and declare that each person is similar to someone you know or remember? If one of the associates reminds you of someone named Millie from your world, you might need only 'millienow' or 'millie@20' to jog your memory later. Perhaps Millie had great eyesight when she was twenty but now wears glasses? These oddball tricks are just ideas that you could adapt as needed. There are so many of them! The one here eases a burden. It frees up your memory skills for the exact quotations.

Some of the days in November carry the whole memory of summer as a fire opal carries the color of moon rise. - Gladys Taber


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/29/2019 11:19PM by Shop-et-al.
Thanks for the replies. I really just do not understand why companies wouldn't want you to record the shops for your OWN benefit. I get that if it is an all-party state they cant' use the recording for any legal action, but these recordings would never be used for that. They would be recordings made in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy, and would simply be to make sure I'm reporting things exactly as they happened instead of having to rely on my memory. It just makes no sense to me at all.
You said 4-5 interactions? Can you take notes in between? That is if you don't want to record it. Which I don't believe they can dictate to you unless they wanna make you an employee.

I do want to clarify something you said though:

@tracyvp wrote:

I get that if it is an all-party state they cant' use the recording for any legal action, but these recordings would never be used for that.

Just to make sure I understand what you're saying correctly. It *sounds* like you think it's ok to record in a 2 party state as long as it's not used. That is untrue. Being a 2 party state doesn't mean you can record a conversation as long as you don't use it for anything. It means you can't record conversations. Period. It is against the law.

Maybe I misread and you have a full grasp of the legalities, but if *I* took it that way someone else that doesn't know might and then they go and do something illegal because somebody on a message board said it was ok blah blah blah…

So just wanted to clarify.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
What about the weird case scenario? If you lost control of the recordings, it might be discovered that you did make recordings illegally. We do not know with whom these recordings would be shared. And, your diligent shopper status would change to deleterious shopper.

Some of the days in November carry the whole memory of summer as a fire opal carries the color of moon rise. - Gladys Taber
Or maybe even to criminal or inmate.
@Shop-et-al wrote:

And, your diligent shopper status would change to deleterious shopper.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
@tracyvp wrote:

Thanks for the replies. I really just do not understand why companies wouldn't want you to record the shops for your OWN benefit. I get that if it is an all-party state they cant' use the recording for any legal action, but these recordings would never be used for that. They would be recordings made in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy, and would simply be to make sure I'm reporting things exactly as they happened instead of having to rely on my memory. It just makes no sense to me at all.
In my experience, when shop instructions or product warning labels or weird school rules are put in place that don't make sense it is almost always because someone did something that caused an issue. My daughter and I joke that we can usually name the person, too!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/31/2019 06:31AM by KarenMSW.
It is not impossible to do these shops without recording. It's actually a common thing.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/31/2019 12:24PM by 1cent.
@Shop-et-al wrote:

What about the weird case scenario? If you lost control of the recordings, it might be discovered that you did make recordings illegally. We do not know with whom these recordings would be shared. And, your diligent shopper status would change to deleterious shopper.


oh please LOL
Rather than record if that is not allowed perhaps in some situations you can "hide" away somewhere close by like down an empty aisle in the store etc but not as far as the restroom. Then you can record yourself and pretend you are having a cell conversation away from the source of the statements.You can do this right after the conversation when it is really fresh in your mind. I often stand outside a window and make my observations of the person who will most likely serve me beforehand and sometimes a second time when that person is suddenly joined by someone else the minute I step inside. This way you are recording only yourself.Or if you prefer text yourself when you are out of sight.
There are very few shops I have seen that have outright said no recordings or cell phones....and if they say recordings they are most likely referring to recordings of the other person but you need to carefully consider the wording used in those requirements.
@sandyf wrote:

There are very few shops I have seen that have outright said no recordings or cell phones....and if they say recordings they are most likely referring to recordings of the other person but you need to carefully consider the wording used in those requirements.

That is a good point. The wording on these is in the shop form itself and says "No video or audio recording of any kind." I take that to mean I can't even record myself after an interaction, but I guess it's worth an email to the scheduler to clarify.
Many of these rules were made because a shopper or two was outed in the past by keeping their cell phone/recorder/instruction sheets/cameras out in plain view and not being discreet about what they were doing. Where I worked in my full time job there were constantly new rules coming out that limited the ability of a reliable and trustworthy employee to do their job efficiently. Almost all of these rules stemmed from someone taking advantage of loop holes in their imagination to not work effectively. And those same people were always able to figure a work around the new rule so they would not get caught.
Another thing to keep in mind, in California, stores and restaurants cannot have audio recordings. They can have video, but no audio. They cannot have audio recordings of customers. So how can they tell you to tell them exactly what was said?
Maybe you can explain what you are talking about. Why would the store have to have audio recordings in order for you to tell them what was said? I, as a shopper, have ears so I can hear what they said and then quote it back. I do not expect the client to be looking at video or overhearing the conversation with every shop. If they were to review 24/7 hours of recordings there would be no point in them having a mystery shopper. So I take it from this and other posts that you have written that you are saying there is no reason to be truthful in your mystery shop unless someone is watching and listening to you. That means you are admitting you just get the form and check it off however you feel like. Do you even bother to go into the store or restaurant? or only when you have to have a receipt? Even then you could just pick up some random receipt you find on the counter or floor. Why bother to even purchase something?
Let me know if my interpretation of your interpretation of the rules is correct. In addition based on some of the things you have said in your posts I am starting to think perhaps you are being watched. I, and many other shoppers who actually do shops according to the guidelines generally have no reason to believe any videos or recordings are checked when we do a shop. This might only happen very, very occasionally to the trusted shoppers if their report is challenged by an employee. So I would say, for you, it seems the safest thing to do is to just check that they did it correctly for everything, do not go to the store, send in the report. (Honest shoppers, do not try this at home.) But i would definitely suggest to you that you stop announcing these rule breaking ideas you have in a public forum lest you are outed and the rest of us are not trusted at all.

@johnb974 wrote:

Another thing to keep in mind, in California, stores and restaurants cannot have audio recordings. They can have video, but no audio. They cannot have audio recordings of customers. So how can they tell you to tell them exactly what was said?
@sandyf wrote:

Maybe you can explain what you are talking about. Why would the store have to have audio recordings in order for you to tell them what was said? I, as a shopper, have ears so I can hear what they said and then quote it back. I do not expect the client to be looking at video or overhearing the conversation with every shop. If they were to review 24/7 hours of recordings there would be no point in them having a mystery shopper. So I take it from this and other posts that you have written that you are saying there is no reason to be truthful in your mystery shop unless someone is watching and listening to you. That means you are admitting you just get the form and check it off however you feel like. Do you even bother to go into the store or restaurant? or only when you have to have a receipt? Even then you could just pick up some random receipt you find on the counter or floor. Why bother to even purchase something?
Let me know if my interpretation of your interpretation of the rules is correct. In addition based on some of the things you have said in your posts I am starting to think perhaps you are being watched. I, and many other shoppers who actually do shops according to the guidelines generally have no reason to believe any videos or recordings are checked when we do a shop. This might only happen very, very occasionally to the trusted shoppers if their report is challenged by an employee. So I would say, for you, it seems the safest thing to do is to just check that they did it correctly for everything, do not go to the store, send in the report. (Honest shoppers, do not try this at home.) But i would definitely suggest to you that you stop announcing these rule breaking ideas you have in a public forum lest you are outed and the rest of us are not trusted at all.

@johnb974 wrote:

Another thing to keep in mind, in California, stores and restaurants cannot have audio recordings. They can have video, but no audio. They cannot have audio recordings of customers. So how can they tell you to tell them exactly what was said?

If there's no audio, there's no way for a MSC to confirm what was said. So asking you to report exactly what was said makes no sense.
That's ridiculous. It makes sense if you are telling the truth. If you lie about everything I guess it wouldn't make any sense. Why would anyone lie about a service interaction? It makes no difference to me if someone says "good morning" or "how are you today?" So why would I lie about it? Your blatant dishonesty is really alarming.

I enjoy awkward questions and uncomfortable silences. This gas station pavement is $%^@*#& hot.
@CoffeeQueen wrote:

That's ridiculous. It makes sense if you are telling the truth. If you lie about everything I guess it wouldn't make any sense. Why would anyone lie about a service interaction? It makes no difference to me if someone says "good morning" or "how are you today?" So why would I lie about it? Your blatant dishonesty is really alarming.

You cannot repeat exactly what was said, in a 30 or 40 minute shop. You can only repeat the best you can. I am saying this so shoppers are not freaked out over remembering exactly what was said.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/01/2019 01:31AM by johnb974.
Some shoppers do remember every word. For some situations, it is enough to sprinkle a few quotes in a narrative. ".... this widget, $799 for today only, is the only one on the market that comes in twelve colors including the inimitable rainbow font...yes, we checked. No one could at Ace or anywhere else could reproduce that color....." Some quotations are just the greetings, closings, questions asked, recitations of specials, etc.

Some of the days in November carry the whole memory of summer as a fire opal carries the color of moon rise. - Gladys Taber
If I am supposed to remember an exact greeting I take note of it, and then as soon as I am out of sight (behind a display or in the bathroom or wherever) I text myself the exact greeting. Whatever it is I'm supposed to be paying attention to, all my focus goes to that. I suppose you just wing it and put down whatever you want. Well yes you do, that is pretty much exactly what you said below.

@johnb974 wrote:

@CoffeeQueen wrote:

That's ridiculous. It makes sense if you are telling the truth. If you lie about everything I guess it wouldn't make any sense. Why would anyone lie about a service interaction? It makes no difference to me if someone says "good morning" or "how are you today?" So why would I lie about it? Your blatant dishonesty is really alarming.

You cannot repeat exactly what was said, in a 30 or 40 minute shop. You can only repeat the best you can. I am saying this so shoppers are not freaked out over remembering exactly what was said.

I enjoy awkward questions and uncomfortable silences. This gas station pavement is $%^@*#& hot.
@CoffeeQueen wrote:

Whatever it is I'm supposed to be paying attention to, all my focus goes to that.

CoffeeQueen offers excellent advice here. When required to remember a lot, it helps to know exactly what you need to pay attention to. Studying the shop questionnaire beforehand helps a lot. If I am not asked what the salesperson was wearing, I probably would have no recall 15 minutes after the shop of what they wore. But I would remember the exact greeting if that was required. Also, after doing several of the same type of shop, remembering the salient points and exact quotes would get to be almost automatic.
Very few people have perfect memory, MOST people do not. Please don't tell anyone if they cannot remember everything in exact detail, they shouldn't be mystery shopping.
@johnb974 wrote:

Very few people have perfect memory, MOST people do not. Please don't tell anyone if they cannot remember everything in exact detail, they shouldn't be mystery shopping.

It’s not about perfect. There are ways for anyone to improve their memory.

And if you can’t remember details, yeah, you shouldn’t do unrecorded shops. Accurate reporting is the job.
Our real job title is data collector. Not data inventor.

I enjoy awkward questions and uncomfortable silences. This gas station pavement is $%^@*#& hot.
I record all interactions where detailed reports are required. I shop states where it is reasonably not against the law to do so. (I personally feel that selectively edited versions should come with consequences, severe, if the person who did this intends damage to the person(s) recorded).

However, it is a requirement not to record. So that would be my guideline. I used to be able to recall complex and multiple interactions (I was a research assistant on a police services study in which I had to remember all that occurred. I was partly trained, and the memory training I had begun with the Lucas-Lorraine methodology). I also developed my own short hand to provoke my true memory.

In my elder years, I would not be able to perform this shop according to the MSC requirements. I would be tempted to do it with recording if it had a good fee. But it would harm my ethics, so is the price worth it?

Do not read so much, look about you and think of what you see there.
Richard Feynman-- letter to Ashok Arora, 4 January 1967, published in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track (2005) p. 230
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