Mystery shopping is a fun, extremely easy way to add a few extra dollars to your income. A lot of people, however, seem to go into mystery shopping thinking it is a get rich quick scheme, or they will be going on vacations and get paid for it. No, mystery shopping will not make you rich. In fact, I think it would be difficult to make a living off of mystery shopping alone, but with perisistence and hard work it just may be possible. While some people may receive offers for a plane ticket or such, you're not going on an all expense paid two week long cruise. Some people genuinely believe that all mystery shopping opportunities are scams. Now, while some mystery shopping opportunities are scams, there are also some legit mystery shopping companies as well.
Signs it's a scam
- It seems too good to be true (it probobly is)
- Promises of a high cash payout (they don't pay you $300 for one assignment that involves eating at McDonalds)
- They charge you money to be a mystery shopper for them
No, not all mystery shopping opportunities are scams, but some are. There are a few strategies to use when mystery shopping to identify the scammers and the legit ones. First of all, if it looks to good to be true, it probobly is. There was a scam going around for awhile where a company would get your information when you applied for a mystery shopping job. This company would then mail you a check for a thousand or two (I can not remember the exact amount.) They would include a nice little letter informing you that this was your first assignment, and you were supposed to cash the check, open a western union account, and blah blah blah. Once you cashed the check, the bank would give you your money, which you would then wind up owing back to the bank, and the person behind this scam got your bank information. See how that works? Now, a mystery shopping company is not going to ask you to do something like that and mail you a random check for a couple grand. A majority of mystery shopping jobs require that you pay for the item, and then they reimburse you for that. Another way to identify a scam is that a legit mystery shopping company will not charge you to be a mystery shopper. Finally, to avoid scams, check out www.mysteryshop.org. This is a spectacular website for potential mystery shoppers. It provides recruitment boards, available jobs with links to the site where you can become a mystery shopper for that particular company, information on how to become a certified mystery shopper, and is an extremely safe site in regards to scams.
Do you have to be certified to be a mystery shopper?
No. While some companies may prefer that you are a Certified Mystery Shopper, it is not a requirement for all mystery shopping companies.
What qualifications do I need to be a mystery shopper?
There is a bit more to mystery shopping than simply buying a product, and saying it was a great experience. First of all, you will need to have an eye for detail, and a relatively decent memory. You will be expected to remember the names of the people that helped you in the store (manager, cashier, etc.) and particular things about the location, such as cleanliness, whether or not employees were in uniform, etc. That may sound like a lot, but it's quite easy once you do it a few times. Also, before mystery shopping you will be provided with a sheet that you are expected to fill out. This lets you know what you will need to look for and remember. You can even fill out the sheet in your car or make notes on your phone provided you are not seen doing anything that would give away the fact that you are a mystery shopper.
Technology. Now in order to be a mystery shopper, you need to have some basic knowledge of technology. Communication is done via e mail, so you will need to have an e mail, as well as access to a computer. After the mystery shopping is complete, you will also need to be able to properly upload a copy of the receipt. This can be done via scanner, phone, or however you choose to do it. Once you become a mystery shopper, the companies you do assignments for can provide assistance if needed.
How much money do you REALLY make?
This one often depends on the person, and the jobs. While one company may only pay five dollars and reimbursement for restaurant shop, another company may pay you ten. Some companies believe that being reimbursed for what you bought (a new shirt, a meal, etc.) is ample payment and only provide reimbursement. Mystery shopping companies also provide a limit for reimbursement. If you are doing a mystery shop at Macy's, they may only give you a ten-fifteen dollar spending limit. Going over that limit is typically okay, but you will only be reimbursed the maximum limit allowed.
How do I get started?
Once you have decided to give mystery shopping a try, my personal advice is to visit the link above, and apply at as many mystery shopping companies as possible. Many mystery shopping companies will not require you to do assignments. You have the option of receiving an e mail, and selecting the assignments you wish to do. If you are an independent contractor for several different companies, you will have more options and are more likely to come across assignments in your area as well. (Please note how I stated specifically INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. You will not be considered an employee for these companies, and it clearly states this in the terms and conditions. Read the fine print.) Good luck!