Touch story

My touch Enabling fundamental research

Joris van Hoof is lecturer of Communication Studies and an expert in mystery shopping. A socially relevant and exciting research method.

"Increasing alcohol consumption among young people has everything to do with behaviour. But is trying to influence the behaviour useful if beer and spirits, despite the strict age restriction of 16 years, are easy to come by? Because that is how things are in real terms. In the past few years I have demonstrated this using several mystery shopping surveys that have stirred up the political debate. In one of our studies we sent off 5,000 youngsters aged 14 to 15 to visit supermarkets, sports club canteens and distillers. Eighty per cent of them were allowed to the alcohol products without any problems… Mystery shopping is an exciting research method. You need to consider all kinds of ethical and legal aspects and give the mystery shoppers proper information and training, because they are the people who need to get the job done! It is always exciting to see whether their 'theatre performance' has been successful and has produced the desired result. Also, the study has to be fully transparent, fair and valid, or else 'the industry' will immediately thrash it. I have analysed the mystery shopping method and adapted it for application in the Netherlands. This way I have translated an aspect of fundamental research into something meaningful for people in real terms."