I Got Paid to Spy on People While They Worked The job was Mystery Shopper, part of a shadowy $1.5 billion industry. The personal cost was unbearable.

In this story, the narrator assumes the identity of Linda, a mystery shopper, to evaluate the performance of various employees. The practice of mystery shopping involves companies hiring mystery shoppers to assess customer service. For the narrator, it is an opportunity to earn money while pretending to be someone else.

Initially drawn to mystery shopping as a way to make quick cash, the narrator discovers that it comes at a moral cost. The job requires evaluating employees, sometimes leading to their dismissal. The lack of training for mystery shoppers raises questions about the ethics of covert surveillance. While the UK requires companies to notify employees of mystery shopping, the US lacks similar regulations.

Mystery shoppers themselves are subject to evaluations, with poor scores affecting their ability to secure future assignments. The income from mystery shopping alone is often insufficient, as assignments can be time-consuming and pay relatively low commissions. This creates a dynamic where underpaid mystery shoppers and employees alike become tools of corporations seeking to gain control.

As the narrator assumes the role of Linda during a phone call with a saleswoman, it becomes clear that she is not adequately addressing the predetermined questions. The narrator contemplates whether to lie on behalf of the saleswoman, a practice that she has engaged in before. The issue of dishonesty among mystery shoppers sparks debate within the community, with some arguing for accurate evaluations and others prioritizing adherence to corporate instructions.

Ultimately, the story raises important questions about the ethics and impact of mystery shopping, highlighting the power imbalances and questionable practices within the industry.  

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