Confessions of a Mystery Shopper

An original article by @GillianFx.

I confess, I was a mystery shopper. I can confess now because mystery shopping is a faded vision in my rear-view mirror. In order to blog about mystery shopping, I will first explain who or what a mystery shopper is/does (in case you are not clear). A mystery shopper is someone contracted by a marketing and/or research company to perform secret evaluations on behalf of their corporate client. There are some “reveal” assignments where you inform the employee that you are a mystery shopper after you have evaluated them, but I have never done any of those. Some evaluations are based on establishment appearance, product quality, customer service or targeted at a specific employee.

Confessions mystery shopperWhat type of companies use mystery shoppers?
Apartment complexes, banks, movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, amusement parks all use mystery shoppers. Basically any company that provides service to the public. Mystery shoppers are the eyes and ears of the corporate office. Companies want to know that their customers are happy and their employees are following protocol, especially in this day of modern technology where one bad review can quickly spread into a corporate nightmare.

My favorite assignments were surveillance shops. With surveillance shops the contractor sends you either a jacket or pocket book rigged with a discreet camera. You usually have a few days to get comfortable using the equipment before the assignment. The nerve wrecking part is the assignment; hoping the camera does not malfunction (it had on one of my assignments), that it is angled right or that you present the right scenario provided to you by your contractor. The beauty of surveillance shops is that it pays more and requires less paper work since everything is recorded (provided you remember to turn the camera on).

Most mystery shopping companies pay a flat fee; some reimburse you if you are required to make a purchase. Or in the case of hotels and some restaurants (my other favorites) you can bring a guest, get reimbursed plus your fee. Other benefits are gas station shops, you need to get gas anyway, so getting reimbursed is getting it for free.

Is mystery shopping for you?
Maybe… Are you organized? Can you write good, accurate, descriptive reports? Do you have a good memory? Are you observant? Can you think quickly on your feet? The better you are at any of the mentioned, the higher your pay will be and the more assignments you will get.

Tricks of the trade.
Turn in your reports on time. Be as descriptive as you possibly can and you will build a very good reputation with your scheduler. You will be the first person they call when there is an assignment in your area. Plus they will be happy to pass along any bonuses.

Sign up with as many mystery shopping companies as possible. I was signed up with 110 companies. Not all of them will have assignments in your area, some may never call or some might have assignments once every 2-3 months. It depends on where you live.

Use a notebook to track of all your user names and passwords.
Keep all your receipts. Remember you are an independent contractor with the mystery shopping company so you are responsible for your own taxes.

Some companies I recommend are: Market Force, Maritz Mystery Shopping, Goodwin & Associates and Business Observation. There are tons out there just do a search.

Be aware.
There are lots of companies out there willing to relieve you of your money. To sign up with mystery shopping companies is free. If you are ever asked to pay a fee, browse away from that site.

Mystery shopping can be a fun and exciting way to make extra cash, but remember it is work, so treat it as such, with respect.

If you have done mystery shopping and want to add to this post feel free to do so. If you want to get into this field and want to know more I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Cheers!


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