Coronavirus

Mark Cuban Hires Undercover Shoppers to Assess Business Safety During Reopening

The Mavericks owner sent shoppers to around 300 stores. The result? “Not Good.”

Mark Cuban has emerged amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as a surprisingly vocal labor advocate. He announced early on that he would continue to pay employees throughout the duration of the economic shutdown, a move that nudged many sports owners to follow suit. He has argued that the coronavirus will end up making capitalism “smarter and more compassionate” because it will demonstrate that you need to “put employees ahead of shareholders.” Now, as Texas begins to reopen, Cuban is testing businesses’ efforts to protect workers and their customers.

“What precautions were they taking?” the Mavericks owner asked on his blog. “Were employees in safe environments? And bigger picture, I wanted to know if these are places that I would feel safe taking my family to.”

Cuban hired a firm to send 300 “secret shoppers” to retail stores and restaurants throughout Dallas to gauge how well businesses are following safety protocols. The result? “Not good,” he writes.

“Overall – 96% of businesses were non-compliant across all mandatory protocols and all locations,” Cuban writes. “The extent of non-compliance is dramatic with ~1/3 of all locations being <50% compliant across mandatory protocols as established by the Governor’s office.”

To complete the study, Cuban hired Shiftsmart, the staffing app start-up, to survey around 1000 restaurants and retail stores across Dallas to assess the re-open rate of businesses. Then, they sent “secret shoppers” to 300 locations to assess compliance with the governor’s reopening protocols. Only 36 percent of Dallas businesses chose to reopen during the first weekend, May 1-3. Shoppers who visited the reopened businesses discovered a “wide discrepancy” of compliance. On average, stores followed only around 58 percent of the recommended safety protocols. The study also found compliance discrepancies between franchise locations of the same companies.

“This is really interesting because a larger parent corporation would be highly concerned with variable degrees of compliance amongst their corporate-owned restaurants and would push for standardization and measurement, not dissimilar from regular mystery shopping and performance auditing workflows,” Cuban writes.

The Shark Tank host plans to continue the study and hopes to have “secret shoppers” visit as many as 800 reopened business locations by the end of the month. They also plan to return to some businesses throughout the month to see if there is an improvement in compliance over time.

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