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What is a Mystery Shopper: Get the Most from Your Shops
This is a companion piece to my previous article, What is a Mystery Shopper? If you're looking for a basic explanation of what mystery shopping is and how to get into it, I would recommend that you read that article first.
This one shares tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your shops, once you've started shopping.
Stretch Your Shopping Dollar
I was a mystery shopper for over 10 years. Over that time, I learned how to save on expenses, stretch my mystery shopping dollar and take advantage of great shopping opportunities.
How do you squeeze the last bit of profit out of a side gig that isn't meant to cover more than your shoe addiction?
Let me tell you.
The first law of making money is to avoid spending it.
You have to travel as a mystery shopper, and gasoline expenses rack up fast. Then, too, most mystery shops pay between $10 and $15 dollars.
The trick is to snag three or four at that price, all in the same neighborhood, and do them in one day.
You should get familiar with Mapquest if you want to be efficient. Type in the addresses of each of your stops, and let the program suggest the most cost-effective route.
When I was really active, I would sometimes schedule as many as seven or eight shops in one day, which was about as many as I could reasonably do. At $10 each, that wasn't a bad day, and justified some travel expenses.
I usually tried to get a lunch shop too, which kept me from giving in to the temptation to stop in the mall food court and spend my own money.
I also learned to start early, especially if I was shopping a mall area. There's nothing quite as frustrating (and expensive) as getting stuck in rush-hour traffic.
- What is a Mystery Shopper?
Learn how to make extra money as a mystery shopper.
Many assignments require the shopper to purchase a store item of her choice. These purchases are almost always fully reimbursed, up to a predefined limit.
At first blush that doesn't seem particularly profitable, but there are many ways you can make that purchase work for you.
Unless your shop instructions expressly forbid it, you can:
- Turn a required purchase into cash by simply returning the item later
- Combine the built-in discount of a reimbursed purchase with end-of-season sales or clearance item purchases
- Sign up for the store's loyalty program and earn points on each required purchase to maximize its value
- Give the store your Gmail address (not your usual email address!) so you can receive notification of sales and schedule your shops for those times
- If the item can't be returned to the store, you can sell it on eBay, especially if it's a high-end item
Making Friends with the Scheduler
The longer you work as a mystery shopper, the more you'll get to know the people who assign the shops, also known as schedulers. It helps to develop a collegial relationship with your schedulers. They tend to call on the shoppers they know they can rely on. If you're professional and pleasant, they're more likely to call on you.
And getting called on can be profitable, especially when another shopper flakes and the scheduler only has days, or possibly hours, to get the shop done. That's when they start to offer shoppers incentive bonuses. These bonuses usually aren't more than about $5 to $10 more per shop, but it makes sense to try to be the shopper they think of when they need something done fast.
Mystery shopping will never get you a full-time salary, but there's no reason not to work your sideline to the max.
Pay attention to what you're spending, and work to get the most possible mileage out of what you make, and your mystery shopping experience will be a profitable and happy one!