It really is a real thing. Back in college, before email/high speed internet (boy I’m aging myself and I’m not really that old), I responded to an ad in the local classifieds that said “Get Paid to Shop at your favorite stores” and it had a phone number. So what the heck, I called. And that was all it took. I’ve been a mystery shopper for over 20 years and have, for the most part, enjoyed it.
“So what is it really?” you ask… well, in sum there are 3rd party companies that are hired by companies to send people like you and I to go and evaluate their company anonymously. They want to know what goes on when they are not there or how they are treating customers and if they are following the company protocol. There are MANY of these Mystery Shopping companies that have a variety of clients. Some only do hospitality (ie. restaurants, hotels, etc), some that are in the banking industry, others auto dealerships, and others that work for only one specific company. Some are very specialized at what they are looking for.
“What do you have to do?” Well, It all depends on the client and the mystery shopping company. It definitely has gotten easier for us as shoppers since technology and smartphones and apps make the input much simpler, but none the less they all have expectations. Mostly you have to be VERY observant and able to regurgitate your experience with full detail. The higher the shopper fee and/or reimbursement, the more they usually expect out of you. Usually there are multiple choice questions and narrative. Some narrative sections are short (ie. what was said by the cashier when you approached the counter to order? Did they offer you a drink, sides, etc?) Some will have 100 questions and then a full narrative to write up from the moment you arrived to the moment you left and you have to be able to recall names, and what they looked like, what they said and sometimes there are several people. So having smart phone to take notes “act like you’re texting” has made remembering much easier.
“Is it worth it?” That’s a tricky question. It really depends on the experience you’re having and what the client expects. Personally I enjoy it, but only if it suits me. What I mean is that some shops can take an hour or so to just do and then take an hour or two to do the report and if you’re only getting reimbursed for a small purchase and the fee is not very high, then it’s not worth it. Ie…. the shop takes and hour and it takes 2 hours to do the report and you get a total of $25… that’s less than $10/hr… to me… not worth it. Now, on the other hand, if they are reimbursing me up to $150 for dinner at a place I’ve wanted to go on date night and paying me only $20 to do the report… I’m okay with that because I’m getting a date night paid for. Or maybe it’s an amusement park with my sons or a hotel stay. And some are JUST reimbursement, so if you don’t like that restaurant then it’s not worth it. I used to do it a LOT… but these days I accept ones that are near work so I can take a lunch break or are on my way home that might be providing me with take out dinner or my favorites are the date night opportunities or kids activities.
“How do I sign up?” There are several apps that I would recommend and then they will instruct you as to what you need to do. All companies will have you agree to their terms and some require a W-9 since if you do a lot for them they may have to send you a 1099 at the end of the year. Then after you basic info is inputted, then they’ll ask your background and probably a writing sample of a recent experience where you have to explain in detail your experience and be able to describe your surroundings, timing of occurrences, etc.
GigSpot and iSecretShop are two apps that I use regularly. Gigspot is an app that works with Many companies and makes it a one stop shop to see what is available in your area where ever you may be. This website is really the best resource: http://www.mspa-na.org/ You can learn about how to connect, conferences, and how to get certifications. I actually did get my GOLD certification so that I would have more shopping opportunities.
Do not fall for any scams… unfortunately people like to make money off the information I just gave you by selling lists of mystery shopping companies. You should NOT Have to pay for signing up for any companies. I’m registered with over 35-40 companies and I’ve never paid anything. Now you will probably want to set yourself up with a different email to have this emails sent to because once you are accepted with a company and allow notifications from them you will get a LOT of email. I get a minimum 20 day. Unfortunately I delete most of them. If you are not interested in certain industries, then you can change your status with them so you don’t get those.
Overall, I would recommend it if you are one that likes to give feedback to companies about your experiences… good and bad. But you have to be able to do it without any bias…just your actual experience unless they ask for your opinion. Have fun with it.