Yes, indeed, mystery shopping jobs are real! And they are a fun, exciting way to make extra money. Mystery shopping assignments fit a wide range of schedules, pay relatively well for the effort, and often have the extra perk of a reimbursed purchase. The shops also provide valuable insight into a customer’s perception of a business. Mystery shopping is part shopping, part acting, mixed with a bit of private investigating.
A mystery shopper chooses from an assortment of available shopping scenarios. The scenarios provide a precise set of instructions that include purchase requirements, expectations for employee interaction, description of proper attire, and required documentation. A completed shop is followed by a survey, typically administered online, designed to assess key aspects of the visit. It is common to be compensated for the shop and reimbursed for designated expenses. For example, if you do a shop involving an oil change, you may be reimbursed up to $60, plus get paid an additional $25 for your efforts. So, a free oil change and $25 is a pretty good deal, right?
How do you get started, you ask?
The following are solid mystery shop companies worth checking out:
To get started mystery shopping, browse the company websites listed, and apply to one or more. It is not uncommon to work as a contractor for more than one company. While there are not specific requirements for employment, the most successful shoppers are articulate and dependable, with sharp observational skills. When applying, it is common to have a large number of demographic questions asked, in order to determine appropriate shops. Assignments may have a specific age or gender requirement, while others may assess hair care products that are best not given to bald, middle-aged men!
Once approved as a shopper, you will operate as an independent contractor, and be presented with a list of open assignments. Start with one that is familiar, so that your own expectations and product knowledge simplify the process the first time out. Carefully review the guidelines, and be prepared to complete a qualification test. A pitfall for a new shopper to avoid is a lack of adherence to guidelines. Make sure that you complete all steps, submitting documentation and surveys on time and in the proper format.
The time commitment will vary by shop, but most are in line with a typical shopping trip. Mystery shopping requires a keen eye for detail, documenting precise times, quality of service, cleanliness, and adherence to procedures. For example, you may be asked to call a car dealership and present a scenario for an auto purchase. You will need to record the time of the call, the person answering, the level of courtesy, the length of time on hold, and overall knowledge of the salesperson. The scenario may next require an onsite shop. This is where your acting and investigation skills come into play! You must be authentic to get a good result, and it is best to sketch out your scenario in advance. In the auto purchase scenario, you may need to decide on the category of vehicle, whether you’re looking for new or used, and a specific price range. Assignments vary from simply completing a telephone call and survey, to a lengthy interaction for a big ticket purchase.
What kind of money can you make? Pay varies by assignment, typically starting around $5 for a simple task, expanding to $25 or more for complex engagements. And, as mentioned before, the pay is in addition to reimbursement for the designated purchase. It is possible to earn $200 – 300 a month, or more, in your free time, depending upon your time commitment and quality of assignments. When assessing available assignments, try to pair them with your needs, abilities, and interests. Do you need a new laptop? Find a laptop mystery shop, and you can get paid while obtaining product information. Do you need your tires rotated? Find a shop that pays you and reimburses for the service.
There are a couple of challenges to mystery shopping. First and foremost, you must thoroughly prepare by reading the detailed requirements. Next, for many shops, it is important to be as knowledgeable as a typical shopper. If you are shopping for a new laptop, for example, you should have the core knowledge of a person prepared to buy. The shop documentation typically has rigid requirements, so be sure to collect and submit information as directed.
So, what to avoid? First and foremost, avoid any company asking for payment to become a shopper. Legitimate companies will never ask for payment to shop! Also, be suspicious of deals that sound too good to be true. Fortunately, a resource is available for would-be shoppers to verify shopping companies, the Mystery Shopper Providers Association (MSPA). Here, you can conduct a provider search. All companies in the database adhere to MSPA ethical standards, and you can work for them with confidence.
The bottom line is that mystery shopping is much more fun, creative, and interesting than a typical part time job. It may not be something you want to make a living at, but it can be a great source for extra money and a wide variety of perks.
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