Global results: mystery controls – Safe Shops – Ventimiglia (Liguria Italy) – covid19



1) Presentation of the IMEDD

The IMEDD is an independent, neutral and international research institute specialized the design and organization of studies in the fields of health, environment and sustainable development.

2) Presentation of the research and goals of the mystery controls

As part of its commitments to the covid19’s crisis with the UNSDG18-O “Safe Shops to beat the Coronavirus” in order to support the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the Italian Government, the region Liguria and the City of Ventimiglia, the IMEDD conducted mystery controls of the shops in Ventimiglia in July/August 2020 to create a list of the stores in which the face mask is worn.
The goal is to inform the population and the tourists of the places in which they can safely do their shopping in Ventimiglia.

The initiative is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

3) What is a mystery control?

A mystery control is an anonymous and not told point-of-sale visit conducted by the IMEDD  (neutral third party for the public authorities, the population and tourists) under a specific scenario and subsequently reported to the public authorities.

In this case of covid19’s crisis, the purpose of the point-of-sale visit (shops) is to check if the face mask is worn inside the shops by the shop owners, their employees and clients in accord with the international rules requested by the United Nations, as well as by the Italian Government, the region Liguria and the city of VentimigliaThe mystery controls are part of the international compliance rules on health and safety to fight against the coronavirus.

4) Methodology of the mystery controls conducted in Ventimiglia by the IMEDD

The mystery controls of the shops in the city of Ventimiglia were conducted by the IMEDD from the 31st of July 2020 to the 4th of August 2020. The IMEDD researcher entered the shop like a normal client. While visiting the shop, the IMEDD checked if the face masks were worn by the shops owners, the employees and clients.
After the checking, the IMEDD filled an online questionnaire available on a smartphone in order to report the situation of each shop.
The shops controlled in Ventimiglia were both situated in Ventimiglia Alta and Ventimiglia Bassa.

✱ The IMEDD specifies that none of the shops controlled were personally known and no incentive was given by the shops to the IMEDD in the framework of those controls. the results set out below are objectively presented.



 Italian version here –  French version here

1) Number of shops controlled in Ventimiglia

Nearly all the shops in Ventimiglia were controlled by the IMEDD apart from the closed shops and banks (see below the explanation: “activities targeted”).

2) Activities targeted

The controls conducted by the IMEDD concerned the following sectors of activities:
Alcohol shops, animals stores, bakeries, bars, bodycare products shops, book store, cards shops, ceramic store, clothes stores, coffee products shops, driving schools, electronics, technologies and telecommunications, flowers shops, small food shops, frozen food, furniture for the house, games, modelism shops, gas stations, gift shop, jewelleries, goldsmith, silversmith, hairdressers, handbags shop, hardware, ice-cream shops, mail-fax, money transfer, nail center, optical shops, orthopedics and pharmacies, perfume shops, photo shops, post office, products for the painting, restaurants, retail shop, shoes stores, supermarkets, tobacco shops, public video games.
The banks were not controlled by the IMEDD as the entrance is secured which led to the inability to conduct mystery controls.

3) Percentage of SAFE SHOPS IN VENTIMIGLIA (regarding the wearing of a face mask)

66% of the shops controlled by the IMEDD were in compliance with the health rules (wearing of a face mask) as requested by the United Nations, the Italian Government, the region Liguria and the city of Ventimiglia.
The number of 66% may seem low considering that the wearing of a mask is mandatory in closed places. Though, if we consider that many people detract the face mask (using all kinds of excuses to not wear it), having 66% of the shops committed is quite a good result, knowing that 10% more could potentially be added to those 66% as those 10% of shops controlled (shops owners and employees) had a mask around their necks, meaning that they could wear it when giving some advice to their clients.
In the framework of these mystery controls, the IMEDD didn’t voluntarily talk to the shops owners nor to the employees (in order to not be detected as a research institute), so it was not possible to see if they wore a mask when closely talking to a client (some shops were empty of clients when the IMEDD conducted the controls).
So potentially, the rate of safe shops can vary between 66% and 76%, but the IMEDD only presents the result of which it is certain in terms of safe shops in Ventimiglia, so 66%.

4) Repartition of the shops in Ventimiglia : face mask worn / face mask worn at the neck / no face mask at all

As previously explained, 66% of the shops are safe in Ventimiglia in terms of health measures, with a potentially 10% more (considering that the shops owners and employees wore a mask around the neck: see explaination in point 3 above).

However, one quarter of the shops of the city are not in compliance with the health/safety rules requested by the United Nations, the Italian Government, the region Liguria and the city of Ventimiglia.

Those shops cause a problem to the city in terms of management of the covid19’s crisis as they could potentially be or become places of transmission of the disease.
Moreover, for their clients, those shops present a total lack of Corporate Responsible Responsibility in terms of health, with some shops owners and employees who don’t pay attention at all:

  • first to their own health,
  • second to the protection of their clients,
  • third, they don’t contribute to the global effort of the city/region/country in the fight against covid19.

The IMEDD calls the attention of the city of Ventimiglia to work with those shops that don’t commit to the protection of their clients:

  • first by empowering them with some awareness initiatives about their own and clients protection,
  • second, if the actions of awareness don’t work and if the shops continue to not wear face masks and don’t protect their clients, the IMEDD advises the city of Ventimiglia to use a system of fines for non-respect of the health rules in closed spaces,
  • third, if the awareness and fines don’t work (recalcitrant shops), the IMEDD advises the city of Ventimiglia to use some administrative sanctions leading to temporary closure.

Indeed, some sectors of activities are particularly recalcitrants concerning the risk of the covid19’s transmission:

  • mostly: bars, restaurants,
  • in a small proportion: small food shops, hairdressers, clothes and shoes stores.

5) Commitment for the wearing of a face mask depending on the activity

  • The bars and restaurants are listed in black: VERY HIGH RISKIt is not acceptable for the bars and restaurants owners and employees to not wear a face mask considering that their activity has to see with the preparation and service of food and drinks, which increases the risk of transmission to the clients.
    During the mystery controls, the IMEDD even noticed that in some kitchens of the restaurants, the mask is not even worn by the employees, which doesn’t guarantee any kinds of health safety for the clients who come and eat in the restaurants. The Chef and waiters could easily touch their eyes, their mouths, even sneeze and take the risk of contaminating the food and the clients.There is no excuse for this sector of activity which deals with food.
    It also shows serious doubts on the hygiene of the places which are not committed to the wearing of masks considering the preparation of the food.
    The mask must be systematically worn for the preparation and service of food in bars and restaurants.
  • The hairdressers and small food shops are listed in red: HIGH RISK
    • Hairdressers:
      Globally in Ventimiglia, most of the hairdressers are in phase (75%) with the compliance rules regarding the covid19 and the wearing of masks. Though, 25% don’t apply the rules and don’t protect their clients from the covid19. This sector of activity must be encouraged to exemplarity to reach 100% of committed hairdressers to the health rules, considering that there is a proximity between the hairdresser and the client. This is mostly the reason why the IMEDD listed the hairdressers in red, because this sector has a margin of progression to reach the 100% Safe Shops.
    • Small food shops:
      76% of the small food shop respect the rules regarding the covid19 and the wearing of masks inside the shop. Though, 24% of the small food shop don’t apply the rules, which is a very big problem in terms of hygiene and risk of contamination.
      The goal for this sector of activity is to reach the 100% safe small food shops, first by wearing a mask, second by wearing some gloves when serving the clients.
      As for the restaurants and bars, it is also very important for the making of the food in those shops, that the mask is systematically worn. As this activity is related to food, it is very dangerous in this period of covid19’s crisis to prepare and serve the food without any face or hands protection for the shop owners or employees (who can easily touch their eyes or face, even sneeze then touch the food proposed to their clients).
      The mask must be systematically worn for the preparation and service of food.
  • The clothes and shoes shops are listed in orange: MEDIUM RISK
    • Clothes shops:
      The risk of contamination of the covid19 remains important as the clients try the clothes on.
      If the shop owners and employees don’t wear a mask either, the risk of transmission of the disease increases. In Ventimiglia, there are many clothes and shoes stores, which puts this sector of activity at risk. It is therefore unresponsible to find shops in which the shops owners and employees don’t wear a face mask and don’t protect their clients.
      In 21% of the shops controlled, the mask is not worn.
      Also, in the whole sector of activity, a desinfection of the clothes should be made with the steam of an iron after the people tried them on, to make sure that no covid19 remains on the clothes.
      The mask must also be systematically worn.
    • Shoes stores: 
      As for the clothes, the risk of contamination of the covid19 remains important as the clients try the shoes on. The mask must be systematically worn.
      To ensure no risk of contamination when the clients try the shoes on, the shops owners and employees must provide their clients with gloves, so they can safely try the shoes on, and once they are finished, they put the gloves in a waste bin inside the shops.
      With this method, the shops owners make sure that no contamination is possible by the fact of trying the shoes on.
      The mask must be systematically worn as well as gloves for the clients when trying the shoes on.
  • The jewelleries, technologies/telecom, furniture, retail shops and alcohol shops are listed in yellow: LOW RISKAll these sectors of activities are first in low number in Ventimiglia, second, they have nothing to see with food, clothes or shoes, so the risk is low.
    So even though, the results of those sectors of activities are not very good, they don’t present a real risk for the clients when they do their shopping.
    However, the low results show that there is still a big margin of progression for the shops owners and their employees to wear a mask.
    Wearing a mask is showing the clients that they do their shopping in a responsible shop that takes care of their health.
    The mask must be systematically worn.
    The alcohol shops are listed as low risk in terms of covid19’s transmission, though, it needs to be recalled that an abusive consumption of alcohol damages health too.
  • The tobaccos, ice-cream shops, pharmacies and health, optical centers, supermarkets and gas stations are list in green: NO RISK.
    In Ventimiglia, those shops are the safest to go, as the shop owners and employees mostly all wear a face mask when welcoming a client or have a plastic separation between the employees and clients, which allows a 100% safe shopping.
    However, as for the alcohol shops, it has to be recalled that even if the tobacco shops are considered as no risk in terms of covid19’s transmission, it needs to be recalled that smoking damages health too.



The mystery controls led by the IMEDD in the shops of Ventimiglia show the sectors of activities at high risks (black and red) on which the attention of the public authorities should be extremely focused.

  • For the bars and restaurants, it is totally unacceptable to see such a lack of responsibility with 36% of restaurants and 52% of bars with a face mask: They are not committed to:
    • the health protection of their clients,
    • a non-respect of the support given by the city.
      It has to be recalled that most of the cities in Italy gave advantages to the bars and restaurants to not pay their taxes due to the lockdown that penalized their activities.
      Also, many bars and restaurants were also given free extra public spaces to increase the size of their terraces to not penalize them due to the fact that it was not possible to welcome the clients inside.
      Considering that only 52% of the bars and 36% of the restaurants wear a face mask when preparing or serving food to their clients, it seems that this sector of activity is playing with the rules and playing in the back of the city, which is totally unfair.
      The IMEDD calls the attention of the city to focus on this issue to solve it as fast as possible by imposing the wearing of masks in the kitchens, behind the bars when preparing the drinks, when serving the food or drinks and asking the police to do very strict controls of the bars and restaurants leading to fines or temporary closures for the recalcitrants.
  • For the hairdressers and clothes shops, even if those sectors of activities are at risk, they globally do well and protect their clients. Those two sectors of activities should be addressed with awareness initiatives to encourage the shops that don’t wear masks to do so.

This research of mystery controls in Ventimiglia can be considered as a world reference for the cities (biggest number of shops studied) considering that probably the results of Ventimiglia could be found in the same proportion (more or less) in other cities.

It has to be said that in summer time, Ventimiglia becomes an international destination that welcomes many foreigners. Therefore, protecting the city of Ventimiglia (situated at the border between Italy and France on the Mediterranean Riviera) enters in the international global effort, to also protect the citizens from other countries who come to visit the city.
The covid19 crisis must not be analyzed as a local crisis but as a global one, meaning that the efforts undertaken in a city have repercussions at world scale.
It is to say that Ventimiglia also needs to inform and communicate in English and French to spread the information about the health and safety rules in the city.



In order to provide more information about the mystery controls conducted in Ventimiglia, the detailed results and the list of the VENTIMIGLIA SAFE SHOPS are available here:



1) Health rules: a four parties contract for safe shops

2) Best practices to avoid Covid19 : wearing a face mask + 1,5m of social distancing



Therefore, the IMEDD invites the other cities to contact its research director in charge of the mystery controls at to organize the same kinds of controls in their cities, and focus in priority on the sectors that are listed in black, red and orange by the IMEDD (especially focusing the police controls on the bars and restaurants) as it is totally unacceptable when you work in the field of food to not respect the health rules for the covid19 that leads to a big lack of hygiene.

Watch the video presentation of the UNSDG18-O “Safe Shops to beat covid19” on You Tube