What I Know About Mystery Shopping
What is mystery shopping?Mystery shopping is a a way for companies to evaluate employees for specific criteria from the customer's perspective. It lets employers know how employees are performing when they are not being supervised by management. Mystery shoppers have a very specific list of criteria to use in evaluating employees for a client.
Usually mystery shoppers do not work directly for the store they are evaluating. They work for a mystery shopping company. Mystery shopping companies have clients who want specific criteria evaluated. The mystery shopping companies contract with shoppers to perform the shop and report on the performance of the employees at the client's site. The shopper submits his report, which the mystery shopping company reviews and then submits to the client.
What Mystery Shopping is not.Mystery shopping is not a get rich quick opportunity. The pay for most jobs is not extremely high, and you have a report to fill out after you complete the shop. Some shops have no pay at all except for the reimbursement for your purchases. Others pay a fee and may or may not reimburse you for your purchases.
Mystery shopping employers do not give you hundreds of dollars to go to the mall and spend anyway you please in exchange for a report about your opinions about your experience. Mystery shopping companies do not pick up the tab for a cruise for shoppers who have never shopped a fast food store or a retail outlet. Mystery shopping is not an opportunity for you to rant about the service you received.
Mystery shopping is definitely not an attempt to catch employees doing something wrong. The shopper's life is much easier if the employees do everything right. There is less narrative and fewer questions if the shopper never has to answer "no"
If the pay is low, why do you do it?The primary attraction for me is flexibility. Mystery shoppers are independent contractors. That means that I am free to accept or reject any job that I am offered. I do not have to accept jobs that will interfere with my day job or personal life. I am not trying to support myself by mystery shopping, I just want to make enough money to pay to host my websites and to keep my yarn addiction (I am a knitter) satisfied. I can net about a hundred dollars a month if I take two or three good jobs a week.
Being an independent contractor means that you are not entitled to any benefits like insurance, workman's comp, or even a guarantee of minimum wage. In addition, you are responsible for remitting income and social security taxes.
What qualifications do I need?The love of shopping is not a good reason to become a mystery shopper. A successful mystery shopper is a detail oriented person, who can:
read and understand the written word.Each shop will have a document that tells you exactly where to shop, what observations you must make, what to buy, and other requirements for the shop. If you do not understand the directions, you must contact the scheduler and ask for clarification.
follow directions.After you read the paperwork, you must be willing and able to do what it asks. If the shop is for 1010 West Main Street and instead you shop 2010 East Main Street the shop will not be valid and you will not be paid. If the shop requires you to ask about a specific type of service and you ask about a different, but similar, service, the shop will not be valid and you will not be paid. If you do not go at the specified time, the shop will not be . . . You get the idea.
write correct English.The report you submit will be edited by the mystery shopping company. If it is loaded with spelling or grammatical errors the editor's job is made harder. Mystery shopping companies will give preference to shoppers who turn in a report they can use with minimal editing.
report results in a timely way.The mystery shopping company will tell you how long you have to report your results. If you do not turn in your report on time, you risk it being rejected by the client, in which case you will not be paid. I have, on occasion, been paid for late reports, but I always let my scheduler know in advance if there was a problem.
check email regularly.Mystery shopping clients usually want the results of your shop as soon as possible. Editors need to be able to contact you if they require clarification of your report, and this is usually done via email.
access a computer with internet access and a printer.Mystery shopper companies used to do much of their communication with shoppers by telephone. Now nearly everything is done via the internet. You will receive notifications of available jobs and assignments via email. You will download your reports and instructions. You will enter your reports online. You will respond to requests for clarifications via email.
take accurate timings with a stop watch.Many shops expect you to time something during the shop. Many shops require multiple timings, notably fast food shops. Some shops have fairly loose timing standard. For example they may ask if you were greeted within 30 seconds. Others want accurate, to the second timings. Even if your shop does not require you to time anything, they will always ask what time you started the shop and when you finished. If you do not have one, you will probably need to purchase a wrist watch with a stopwatch, preferrably with a split time function.
submit receipts or business cards.You really should have a scanner or digital camera. Every company I shop for prefers digital uploads of receipts and business cards. Many accept faxed or emailed documents, but some don't. They all strongly encourage you to upload rather than fax.