Who among us doesn’t like to entertain a nice juicy secret, flavored with the admonition that “hey, it’s between you and me.  No one else must know”?  [Which is, of course, the fastest way to spread the word.]

It’s intriguing to remember that a different form of keeping secrets – which we dub commercial spy craft –started in the 1940s, with the introduction of mystery shoppers who were, at first, intended to investigate employee honesty and/or behaviors.

Today, the business iterations of “hush” take the form of hidden menus, in the case of In-N-Out Burger and Panera Bread, as well as the more blatant CBS series, “Undercover Boss.”  When asked about their non-publicized items, chain-restaurant concept gurus claimed the secrecy was driven by risk and expense … risk, in terms of avoiding possible menu “flops” and expense in promoting and advertising.  Seventy-some years later, mystery shoppers are still employable.  Today, more and more disguised detectives evaluate the quality of hospital and medical care, thanks to Medicare waving a hefty bonus payable upon the receipt of great patient satisfaction scores.

It’s the secrecy that bothers us.  Why is it necessary to disguise ourselves to determine how a service or product or store rates in delivering great customer service?  Are incentives truly a better employee motivator than, say, a pat on our back from a client or manager?  Is it truly the feeling of “being in the know” that propels us to ask for the hidden menu?  Who can’t go to his/her boss to factually outline corrections that need to be made, attitudes that could be reshaped, and behaviors that must be restrained? 

On the other hand, there is a certain allure to Bond’s quip during License to Kill

“'I help people with problems.'   

Sanchez:  'Problems solver?’

Bond:  ‘More of a problem eliminator.'”