News Briefs: UK Mystery Shoppers Get Poor Advice At Home Improvement Stores

Feb. 1, 2010
Study conducted by the UK-based Master Locksmiths Association

Eighty five percent of staff members approached in a mystery shopper experiment offered shoddy advice on lock requirements, new research reveals.

Commissioned by the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) the mystery shopper investigation found that 63 percent of staff in some of the UK’s best known DIY outlets rated poorly when it came to lock knowledge, while only 15 percent of ‘shoppers’ would rate advice received as satisfactory.

Three scenarios tested lock knowledge on various locking system (open, restricted and patented systems) multiple occupancy housing regulations and insurance stipulations. Mystery shoppers found a lack of understanding of lock requirements among staff meant they were not offered the right advice or asked appropriate questions.

Across all of the scenarios some vital questions were overlooked by sales staff, often meaning they were unable to provide appropriate advice on lock suitability. Following the initial enquiry only 25 percent of ‘shoppers’ were proactively asked for more information about what type of lock they needed, while only seven percent of assistants enquired about the number of keys required and just five percent asked about insurance stipulations.

In addition, none of the staff asked if locks were required for escape doors while less than two percent asked if locks were required for fire doors; factors which greatly affect retail outlets.

Open, restricted and patented keys were only mentioned by seven percent of assistants; only three percent mentioned keyless exit options (vital in the case of a fire) and 12 percent spoke of security requirements. Alarmingly none of the ‘shoppers’ were told about some of the most common UK lock standards – PAS 24 or the BS X621 family of standards.

“This research shows that some of the UK’s leading home and DIY outlets appear to be making big mistakes when it comes to lock safety; which is particularly disconcerting given the Government’s recently launched home security pack includes discount vouchers for all three outlets,” said Dr Steffan George, development director for the MLA.

“Selecting the correct lock should not be a simple case of picking one off the shelf – consumers really do need specialist advice when choosing which lock is right for them so it is disappointing to discover that these well respected outlets rated so poorly in this research. As well-trained, licensed and trusted professionals MLA members’ knowledge on occupancy numbers, insurance stipulations, British Standards and legislation is vital in deciding which lock best meets homeowners, landlords and tenants needs, he added.

The research also found:

Nearly eight in ten (76 percent) ‘shoppers’ were not satisfied with the accuracy of the information received across all three scenarios

More than eight in ten (83 percent) felt that the response they received did not fully match that which was outlined in the scenario provided

vIn more than nine out of ten instances staff were not on hand to offer advice, with 90 percent of interviewers having to leave the lock aisle to actively seek assistance.