Is mystery shopping legal?
For those not familiar with the term, it means that a retailer hires people (often desperadoes trying to make a buck) through a third party company and sends these sleuths into their stores to covertly snoop on their staff. This is followed by a report to the retailer by sometimes semi literate operatives. On the strength of these reports by these dubious and often untrained espionage agents, the retailer decides whether to praise or discipline the staff member accordingly.
Sound like something out of the 1600’s – an archaic form of punishment? Not quite. History suggests that it began in the 70’s when retailers used it primarily to discover dishonest employees.
Apart from the question of legality of this invasion, is it morally and ethically defensible in this day and age where privacy is so important?
Sources close to us say that mystery shopping is under the spotlight by a group of people considering a class action, not only against the retailers but against those who offer this service. It is unclear whether this is union lead or is driven by a large legal practice. Damages in the 7 figure range have been bandied about which would effectively bankrupt and close many of these rogue operatives.
So who is responsible for arranging these mystery shoppers? Invariably the human resource departments trying to add one more weapon to their arsenal, in pursuit of justifying their existence and domination of all staff. Now ask the decision makers what they consider to be their most valuable asset and I would wager that most if not all would declare that it is their staff. Just one big happy family.
How this sits with spying on your happy family beats me.
How do victims of this abuse feel about it? The sales folk who toil day after day for their masters only to be rewarded in this way?
We would like to see this practice eliminated. We invite comment from anyone, for or against, but especially from sales folk who are the real victims.
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