VOLUNTEERS are needed to go undercover and quiz police staff about missing pets and directions.

Thames Valley Police is calling for hundreds of “mystery shoppers” to test its service.

Anyone who signs up to the scheme will be given a task – from asking for directions to reporting lost dogs – and will then fill out a survey to let the force know how it performed.

A message sent out by the force reads: “The purpose of the Mystery Shopping Programme is to assess how Thames Valley Police perform (including our strengths and weaknesses) and to identify any areas where we might need to make changes or improvements.”

But it adds: “Unfortunately we are not able to offer any incentive or reimburse expenses such as petrol expenditure to volunteers of the Mystery Shopping Programme.”

It comes as last month the Oxford Mail reported 12 people had completed a questionnaire used to gauge the impact of cuts in police station opening hours.

Thames Valley Police scaled back public access hours at its police stations by up to 70 per cent two years ago to save £600,000 over three years.

Force spokeswoman Natalie Wallace said the scheme would be used to assess the performance of front counter services and identify possible improvements.

She said that the force was looking for between 300 and 500 volunteers across the Thames Valley.

She said: “They will be given the task and they will have 28 days to get their results back in so they are able to choose when and to which station they go during that time.

“They won’t be asked to do anything like report crime or stolen property.

“Tasks will include things like asking for advice about reporting a lost dog or lost keys or asking for directions to a local place or building.

“The mystery shopper will give general feedback about the customer service they received, whether the front counter was presentable, whether they were given helpful, friendly advice.”