Mystery Shopping - I was a Mystery Shopper
Who is she?
This review of being a mystery shopper comes from personal experience. Some time has passed since I worked freelance for a company specialising in assignments. These days, you see many advertisments for work in this sector. Can it be worthwhile?
As my permanent job was part-time, I had the opportunity to earn extra income while our sons were at school. Mystery shopping caught my imagination. A little spy work, learning insider secrets, choosing my own hours. Sounds good! I read tales of people flitting from one assignment to the next, having lunch, all expenses paid, then popping to the cinema to round off their day's work. This sounded a little far fetched. In my experience, it is unrealistic. But interesting work does come along, with expenses and pay to boot.
I was fortunate in finding a legitimate company who were experts in their field. The consultancy gave me a trial assignment to test my observation and reporting skills. The brief was to visit a large babywear store to seek advice on a particular item, detailing customer service, noting staff members I came into contact with. The stores have CCVT, so timing and broad details could be verified. Everything went smoothly, it was straightforward to return to my car and log details, then go home and complete the questionaire. Actually kind of fun. I learned what the staff should be doing, and sales techniques.
Once accepted by the company, I was notified of available assignment in my area. The choice was entirely mine to accept or refuse the work. Usually there was a window of a week or two to complete the brief, I had the chance to read through what was expected of me before making a decision.The consultancy rules were that if anyone challenged me, questioning if I was a mystery shopper, I should walk out immediately without saying anything.
So, what kind of assignments did I have? One series, visiting different stores within a chain, was to show interest in a child's car seat. A member of staff should approach a customer within a specific time frame. The knowledge and expertise of staff was tested. If a name badge wasn't visible - which it should be - a description of the person was filed. This was true of many stores. I found it simple, completing a report back home wasn't too time consuming.
Did I feel sneaky? No. They were doing their job, I was doing mine. Many large stores run as franchises, so the overall owners need to know if things are being run according to company policy.
From child safety to adult content...I was offered assignments visiting stores to purchase sexy lingerie, not in my size. The stores had, shall we say, a wide range of products. Not sure how I'd feel about buying some of the other items available, but I went ahead with this one. I had to buy an expensive bra and panties combo, money refunded when the items were sent to the consultancy. A story about buying lingerie for my soon-to-be married neice raised a few eyebrows, but I got the jobs done.
For some stores, I had to note whether company policies were followed. Was the door propped open? Were fresh flowers on display? Was the store uncluttered and free of litter? Were all products clearly priced?
Caught in the Act
Possibly my favourite assignments were for a chain of opticians. I'd aways wondered if eye tests were variable. The answer, in my exerience, is, yes. Seven eye tests in three weeks produced a variety of results, granted all similar. One pair of specs gave me very blurred vision. They were all sent back to the consultancy for inspection, money refunded.
These trips were almost my downfall. The consultancy told me two stores had the same owners, but different staff. One weekend, a young woman helped me select new spectacles. Three days later, she was in the second store at my visit, when I went to collect that order. She looked at me quizzically, and said, " Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" I kept cool and said, " I get that all the time. I have that kind of face." The other assistant looked uncomfortable, told her colleague not to stare at me, and gave me the order. Exit!
I rang the consultancy, not having collected the specs from the first store at this point. They asked if anyone else could them pick up, so I didn't have to go in. Oh, Hubby? Could you do me a favour? Hubby collected the specs, and said, never again! He felt guilty duping the assistants, who seemed to know what was going on. The consultancy later said, yes, I was sussed on that one, but they took the blame for sending me to both stores.
Why I stopped Mystery Shopping
There were other assignments. I was pleased to be able to pick and choose, never any hard feelings for things I turned down. The work was interesting. The money did come through. But then I was offered more hours in my permanent post, which has to beat casual work.
Want to have a go?
I would suggest:-
Do your homework. Make sure the company is legitimate.
Test the waters before putting in much work.
Ensure you are observant and can complete the brief. Filing reports on time is crucial.
Don't be unrealistic in terms of pay, or how many assignments you may be offered.
Joining more than one company would give access to more work.
Make sure you follow the guidelines each company provides.
Accept the experience for what it is - a chance to do something different, for a reasonable monetary reward.
I recently signed up again with the same agency as I have some spare time. These days, there's an online jobs board to apply for assignments, and reports are filed online. This speeds up the process, meaning payment arrives faster...always a good thing!
There's a lot of competition for assignments, but sometimes one is difficult to allocate, and the company increase the fee to attract shoppers. It's worth keeping a close eye on jobs available. Not all are first come first served, you earn a rating based on reports filed, and this can play a part in who is offered the assignment.