Companies wanting to get an honest feel for what is truly happening in their establishments hire mystery shoppers. In mystery shopping, men and women are sent into a given establishment with a predetermined scenario. The shopper may be required to ask certain questions, look for specific signage on the wall, time how long the wait in line was, or eat a particular meal. A purchase may be required which will be reimbursed.
In addition, the shopper will be paid for his time. When the shopper arrives home, there will be a report to submit. The report may have multiple choice questions or blank spaces for comments. The reports can be quick and simple or long and time consuming. Before the internet existed, the reports had to be faxed, mailed, or called in on the phone. Nowadays reports are usually submitted online. The pay for the shop is determined by the amount of time and effort required. Mystery shopping may sound fun and exciting, but a lot of work goes into mystery shopping.
The first step in becoming a mystery shopper is to setup a special email account for mystery shopping. Mystery shoppers get a lot of email and it would be wise to separate this account from a personal account. Any email provider should work. The mystery shopping company will advise the shopper on what types of email they do not prefer.
The second step is to open a paypal account. Many mystery shopping companies are using paypal as their only form of payment. Paypal is a service that allows the company to send a payment to an email address. The shopper then collects payment either by direct deposit into a bank account or requesting a check in the mail. Many companies will do direct deposit themselves or send a check by mail but paypal is becoming increasingly more popular.
The third step is to sign up with as many companies as possible. There are thousands of companies who hire mystery shoppers. Usually these companies are separate from the establishment that is being shopped. The mystery shopping company is hired by the establishment to hire the shoppers and create reports based on the results. It is important to sign up with as many companies as possible because each company may only have 1 client. Some of the companies may not have shops available in the shoppers region. Some larger companies will have many more shops available but a smaller company could have a more popular shop. A simple internet search for mystery shopping companies should result in hundreds of companies. Once the signup process is complete, it is important to check email in case account activation is required. Sites that offer a list of mystery shopping companies for a fee should be avoided. Mystery shoppers are not charged a fee to shop.
The fourth step is to check job boards and email frequently. Some companies notify shoppers of assignments via email. Others have job posting boards with lists of available shops. In either case, the most popular shops go quickly. It may be necessary to log onto job boards several times a day to catch a shop. Many shops are released at the beginning and end of the month so it is important to check more often around those times. Some jobs are first come first served. Other companies may use schedulers to pick and choose who will take the assignment from the group of people who have applied for a shop.
The fifth step is to get an assignment and complete the shop. The first shop is the hardest but they will get easier over time. There may be several different timings required, names to remember, and employee descriptions to get. It is important when writing the report to proofread and check for mis-pelled words. Also try to avoid being too nice or too harsh. A good mystery shopper is objective and just reports what he sees without putting opinion into it. The shopping company will edit the report that is submitted for spelling and grammar. Many companies grade the report to give the shopper an overall rank. Over time better shops may be offered to shoppers with higher ranking and some shops may not be available to lower ranked shoppers. Many companies will email the shopper with feedback to help them improve on their next shop.
The last step is to wait for payment. Most companies clearly identify when payment will occur. Many companies will pay within 30 to 45 days. If payment is not received on time, it is important to follow up with the company. Purchases are made out of the shopper’s pocket and reimbursed at a later date. If a company does not pay on time, it may not be worth working for. Mystery shoppers are usually independent contractors. This means the shopper is not required to take a shop he does not want to do and he can stop working for any company at any time.
Mystery shopping is fun but it is also a job that should be taken seriously. Companies frown on shoppers who cancel assignments frequently or at the last minute. When the shopper cancels, the company looks bad. It is also important for the shopper to keep a record of fees paid and expenses as this will need to be reported on taxes. Some people mystery shop full time but it may not be possible to make a full time income. Location is important and a big city will have more shops available than a small town. It is best to ease into mystery shopping gradually having other sources of income until the earnings expectations are clear. It is also important to relax and have fun. Mystery shopping is a serious business but it is also fun and rewarding.