You Mystery Shoppers have spoken: Assisted living communities do a bad job making a good first impression. If true, it’s definitely a problem, and I’d thank you for sharing if I knew your real names.

Or should I thank you? Perhaps assisted living marketing teams are simply so discerning of the motives and personal integrity of all they talk to, they refuse to aggressively promote their idyllic campuses to people they know are blatantly lying to them. Yes, that means you, Mystery Shoppers. 

So let’s toss out that research as hopelessly contaminated and focus on the real problem — deception as a profession. Would you ever try to have a meaningful relationship with an avowed Mystery Shopper, knowing his or her entire career existence is based on deceit? It would be like dating Mata Hari, and we know how that turned out. And if you ever decided to get serious, how could you be certain your beloved was real, and not just a Mystery Shopper hired to help Williams-Sonoma fine-tune its wedding registry software?

I once worked in a cubicle next to a girl who in every way seemed thoughtful, caring and genuine. At first, I suspected she was Canadian. But as time went by, I became increasingly suspicious, especially when I found the stash of wigs and fake noses, and caught her stuffing marbles in her cheeks to disguise her phone voice. 

Once she admitted being one of Them, a Mystery Shopper, I never trusted her again. When she said good morning, I’d respond, “Who wants to know?” assuming she was undercover with the National Weather Service. Our friendship was ruined forever. 

“God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another,” said a jaded and disappointed Hamlet. Apparently, Ophelia was a Mystery Shopper, too. 

This article originally appeared on McKnight's