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How to Get Started as a Mystery Shopper

Updated on August 24, 2015
notyouraverageal profile image

Mom. Homeschooler. Editor. Wife. These are a few words to describe notyouraverageal. Her life is anything but average.

Is It Too Good To Be True?

Many people believe mystery shopping is a scam. Are they correct? Yes and no. There are scams out there, but not all mystery shopping companies are trying to take advantage of you.

If a company asks you to pay to shop for them, it's a scam. Don't do it.

If a company wants to mail you a check and have you cash it for a fee, it's a scam. Don't do it.

If a company contacts you out of the blue and asks you to sign up with them, it's probably a scam. Don't do it, or at least do some research before you give them any information.

However, if you contact a reputable company and sign up with them, you should feel comfortable shopping for them. There are hundreds of legitimate mystery shopping companies who need you as a mystery shopper.

So How Can You Find Legitimate Companies?

There are hundreds of companies out there. I am registered with about 50 to 75 of them. There are many websites I've found that list legitimate companies.

Go to Google and enter "Mystery Shopping Companies List" as the search. You will find organizations that list reputable companies.

Get Started!

Getting started is a lot of work. Basically, no matter what list of companies you refer to, you will go to the individual company’s website and apply. Each company has a different way of doing things. Some will have you give a writing sample, and some will not. Some will have you take a test, and some will not. You just have to go to the individual companies and apply. Then, you wait to hear from them!

The more companies you register for, the more opportunities you will have to mystery shop. You are an independent contractor with all these companies, so you can work for as many as you want to.

Okay. Now What?

Usually after people sign up to mystery shop, the next question they ask me is how they should find jobs. The answer to that question is complicated, because it is different with every company.

Some companies have a job board. In that case, it is up to you to go to the company’s website and check the job board to see what is available. Usually, somewhere on their website, they will tell when shops will be released for the next month. Pay attention to those dates and go to the websites as close to those dates as possible. Depending on where you live, there can be a lot of competition for mystery shopping jobs, so you have to act fast. Typically, companies with job boards will have self-assigning jobs, where you can chose the job and just sign up. Your shopper grade or level with the company will determine what jobs you are allowed to see and sign up for. The more experience you get with them, the more jobs you’ll be offered.

Other companies send out emails when they have jobs available. For these emails, the jobs may be self-assign or you may have to apply for the job. Typically, for the ones that you apply for, the schedulers will look at the applicants and pick the one who seems most qualified and/or most reliable. They will then assign the job to you and send you an email that you have been assigned.

Tip # 1: Evaluate Your Email Address

It is a good idea to create a separate email address just for mystery shopping. For one reason, you will be get a lot of emails about mystery shopping. Having a separate account divides them from your other emails. Also, it shows that you are serious as a shopper. It’s best if the address has your name and/or a reference to shopping in it. This gives a better first impression to the schedulers. It is hard to take someone seriously if their email address is iluvcandy@. However, supershopperal@ sounds like someone they might want to hire.

Tip #2: Play Nice

When you are emailing schedulers to apply for jobs, remember that you are dealing with a human being. Use nice phrases and “please” and “thank you.” Wish them a merry Christmas or tell them to have a good day. Schedulers read a lot of emails every day, and people who are kind will stand out to them. Besides that, it’s just nice to be nice!

If you ever have a problem with an assignment or there is confusion, be nice to the person you are dealing with. If you send a snotty email, I guarantee you your chance of working for that company will go way down. Most companies have an internal message system where they can record how the shopper acted, what they wrote in an email, etc. You do not want a mini-temper tantrum email to go on your record for everyone in that company to see. Facing the situation with dignity and humility will get you much further than being mean.

In mystery shopping, you will typically deal with two sets of people. First, you will deal with a scheduler. This is the person who schedules the jobs. They are your friends. You should be nice to them.

Second, you will probably hear from an editor. This is the person who checks your report and contacts you if any information is missing. Even if you disagree about whether the information was missing or not, be nice to this person. She talks to the schedulers.

Some companies also have staff members who will call you to remind you of an upcoming assignment. You should be nice to them too. They are also friends with the schedulers who determine whether or not you get the job.

The bottom line is, be nice. These people are just doing their jobs, so you should show appreciation to them. A little kindness will get you a long way in the mystery shopping world.

Tip #3: Be Reliable

Make sure you are reliable as a shopper. If you accept a job, do it. Don’t make up “the dog ate my homework” type excuses to cancel shops. Schedulers aren’t stupid. They will know if your aunt has died three times in the last two months. Instead, follow through if you possibly can. We all have emergencies, and schedulers know that. However, treat mystery shopping just like you would a “real” job. Show up and do the work. If you cancel often, those cancellations go on your record and will make it difficult for you to get jobs in the future. Instead, prove yourself to be dependable, and your chances of shopping will greatly increase.

What About You?

Have you ever tried mystery shopping?

See results

You're Ready!

I have given you the keys to unlock the mystery shopping world. With these tips, you can be successful. All you have to do is get started! Good luck!


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