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What is a Mystery Shopper?
- How to be a Mystery Shopper: Get the Most from Your Shops
Learn to maximize your mystery shopping sideline.
Mystery shoppers have more fun!
I’ve been a mystery shopper for 10 years. It's fun and easy.
Here's a list of things I've gotten for free in my years of mystery shopping. Later on I'll explain how you can earn cash and fabulous bling by becoming a mystery shopper.
During my 10 years of mystery shopping, I've gotten:
- A free weeklong vacation at a seaside hotel
- Deluxe spa facials and massages
- Designer cosmetics and skincare products
- Countless luxury restaurant dinners
- Designer clothes and shoes
- Sporting goods
- Computer hardware and software
If you want to make some extra money and enjoy perks like dinner at elegant restaurants, free clothing, groceries, gasoline or even hotel stays, you don’t need a trench coat or a magnifying glass.
If you’re reliable and can follow instructions, you can be a mystery shopper!
What is mystery shopping?
It’s basically grading a store, giving it a report card. In today’s competitive business world, store owners want to know things like:
- Are my employees friendly?
- Are they greeting my customers quickly?
- Is my store kept clean?
Mystery shoppers help answer those questions. By visiting a store and taking careful note of such things, the shopper can give a store owner an accurate snapshot of the customer experience at his store.
- Mystery Wedding
Mystery wedding ideas. Stylish clothing, venue, invitation and entertainment ideas for a '40s mystery wedding.
What kinds of companies use mystery shoppers?
You name it. Since I started 10 years ago, I’ve shopped:
- car dealerships
- even doctor’s offices
Everybody's getting shopped!
How much do mystery shops pay?
It varies, depending on the location and complexity of the shop. I’ve done shops for as little as $10 and as much as $300. Some pay solely in cash; others reimburse shoppers for a store purchase; and some are a combination of the two. It’s important to understand that mystery shopping alone will not pay the rent, but it’s perfect for those who want to earn some extra money.
What equipment do I need?
Mystery shopping is a sideline that requires very little equipment. You need
- an Internet connection
- a printer
- preferably a scanner or digital camera.
Who does a mystery shopper work for?
A shopper works for herself. She's not the employee of any store, or even any mystery shopping company. She's an independent contractor -- which means she’s free of bias, free to work as much or as little as she likes, and free to turn down any assignment that doesn’t suit her. However, most assignments are flexible, allowing the shopper a range of days and hours to complete the shop – so she can fit it into her schedule.
Don't fall for a shopping scam
But beware mystery shopping scams!
There is one pitfall to avoid when applying to an unknown mystery shopping company: mystery shopping scams. A reputable company will never ask you to pay money to apply, ask you to buy a list of mystery shopping companies, or ask you to cash a check (see the video at right).
Some would-be shoppers have been taken in by such scams, but with a few common-sense precautions, it need never happen to you. The MSPA (www. mysteryshop.org), the industry association, is a good place to find reputable companies.
How do I enter this mysterious world?
Follow 7 simple steps:
The first step to become a mystery shopper is to fill out an online application. Secret shopping companies can be found by a simple Google search or by going to an industry website like the Mystery Shopper Providers Association (MSPA).
Applying is easy. Many mystery shopping companies don’t even require a resume, though they will ask for tax ID and contact information.
Some companies also ask for a writing sample to test your ability to write a report.
The secret password…
The next step in the process is to go to a website, become registered as a mystery shopper and receive a shopper’s password.
Once she has access, a new shopper can scan the jobs board page on mystery shopping websites. They vary, but many can show you all available jobs in your state, city or a specified radius from your zip code. Applying is usually as simple as typing in your email address and password.
But be sure to read all the shop requirements before applying. Some shops require things that not all shoppers will feel comfortable doing.
For example, some restaurant shops require the shopper to order a drink at the bar. Others give the shopper a scenario to follow, essentially a script: for example, a shopper visiting a computer store might be instructed to tell the salesperson she wants five PCs for her real estate business -- whether or not that's actually the case.
Some shoppers have no problem with scenarios. They are, after all, a test. Others prefer to avoid them. In any case, read the requirements before accepting the shop. It's better not to take the shop, than to take it and then cancel.
The undercover assignment…
After applying for a shop, you must wait to hear from your contact at the mystery shopping company, called a scheduler. This is the person who decides which shopper gets what assignment, and it goes without saying that there's competition.
If you're awarded the shop, the scheduler will send you an email message with shop instructions.
The coded message…
Once you're awarded a shop, a report form will appear on your online assignment page. It will include a questionnaire for you to fill out, and the shop guidelines.
Instructions are usually spelled out very clearly. Some shops can only be done at certain times or on certain days. Others require a purchase. All require detailed and accurate observations.
The secret mission…
Once the shopper understands the job requirements, she’s ready to go! If she has prepared correctly, she will blend in with the other customers as she makes her observations.
And blending in is key: no one must suspect who she is, if her shop is to be of value. It’s important to be fair and accurate: store employees may be rewarded or reprimanded based on a shopper’s report. And the shopper must not inject personal opinion into her observations.
Shoppers are usually required to obtain some documentation as proof that they did the shop. This is often the receipt from a required purchase or a business card.
Report to headquarters…
Once the shop has been completed, the shopper fills out the questionnaire on the company website and uploads any required receipts or cards. Mission accomplished!
The manila envelope…
Payment times differ from company to company. Most pay through PayPal. Some pay relatively quickly, others as much as a month or two after the report was received.
If you choose to work for more than just a few companies, it’s a good idea to keep records.
If you love the mall, enjoy the thrill of going “undercover,” and could use some extra money, mystery shopping may be the perfect part-time job!
Many thanks to Domingo Reyes, also known as Inspirational Chatter, for permission to use his helpful You Tube video in this article.