How Kenyan Supermarkets Snoop on Shoppers


  • A case pitting Tuskys Supermarket against one of its creditors has given shoppers a glimpse on the levels supermarkets go to to protect their businesses from rampant theft.   

    Court documents reveal that supermarkets engage third parties to secretly spy on their workers, shoppers and competitors. 

    With hundreds walking in and out of supermarkets daily it is difficult to notice that some of the people shopping are gathering intelligence to help seal pilferage holes. 

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    Spies hired to mitigate against loss detect cases that surveillance cameras cannot identify such as possible collusion between supermarket staff and customers to execute inside theft, one of the biggest headaches for retailers. 

    Customers shopping in a supermarket
    Customers shopping in a supermarket

    Tactics include rogue cashiers who bill customers the full amount but record lower prices in the system then pocket the difference. 

    Others keep customers ‘ receipts and then cancel the sale and take the cash from the register, then fake refunds to customers.

    Mystery shoppers are also tasked with investigating whether the company’s standards are being met and identify service delivery loopholes.

    They secretly take notes about the appearance and cleanliness of the store, monitor the progression of the queues and can also be equipped with a hidden mini camera. 

    Some are sent with specific instructions on which product they should buy and reimbursed for any money they spend. 

    In business, intelligence gathering is key and as such the mystery shoppers are also sent to competitors’ stores to collect valuable info. 

    The shoppers are identified from within the company’s target audience and have to fit a certain profile. 

    Apart from supermarkets and retail stores, other industries that procure the services of mystery shoppers include banks and restaurants. 

    The shoppers are required to relay what they have observed in a report and are trained to act the part. There are fears that the concept may put employees in constant fear of being snooped on.

    However, according to Jacqueline Mwangi, who recruits mystery shoppers, that is a good thing.

    “Any business would like to have their staff think the next customer to walk in could be a mystery shopper, as they will treat every client well,” she holds. 

    A customer shopping in a supermarket
    A customer shopping in a supermarket
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