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Do Mystery Shoppers Still Exist?

December 19, 2015

Mystery-ShoppersShop-a-holic. Born to shop. Shop ’til you drop. Do those. words describe you? If so, then do I have the job for you!

It’s a job that’s not only perfect for compulsive shoppers, it’s also the ideal job for anyone looking to supplement her income or even for stay-at-home moms to get out of the house a bit.

Think about it. Free lunches. Free gas. Free purchases at the convenience store and even free clothes. All this can be yours just by becoming a mystery shopper, even for something like health care plans.

“Just what is a mystery shopper?” you ask.

Mystery shoppers are known by different names, depending on the company. Expect to be called an evaluator, a customer service representative, or just a shopper, but you’ll still do the same thing and that is to contact businesses to determine how the employees and the company’s business practices are working.

The mystery of it is that the employees won’t know you are anything more than a regular customer. You won’t have to feel guilty about “spying” though. Employees usually know that the business employs mystery shoppers and many companies even offer special rewards and incentives to employees who earn good reports from shoppers.

“Why do companies hire shoppers?” is probably your next question.

Shopping helps measure a company’s employee performance and integrity as well as the quality of its products and services. Companies want to know how customers view the business, and sending mystery shoppers to evaluate employees secretly can provide them with information that helps discover problem areas. Employers also hope to discover how the average customer views such things as the cleanliness and order of the premises. It also gives them an opportunity to reward outstanding employees with the recognition they deserve. Bonuses, special service pins, and other amenities are often rewarded to employees who receive good reports.

“What skills or training do you need to become a mystery shopper?” you may be wondering.

Two of the most important things you’ll need to excel at mystery shopping are good observation skills and a good memory. You’ll be observing a number of “points” or areas for the client and you won’t be able to record the information until you leave the premises.

Most companies require that reports be filed online within 24 hours of completing the assignment, so you’ll need to use a computer with Internet access. Some companies will also have specific software requirements, such as current versions of a browser or spreadsheet programs such as EXCEL. Other extras that may enable you to get more assignments could even include a laptop computer or a digital camera.

“Do shoppers really get paid–and how much?” you want to know.

Payment depends on the length and detail of an assignment but generally averages $10 to $20 per assignment for basic assignments that require approximately 10-30 minutes in a store and up to 30 minutes completing the report afterwards.

While some companies aren’t as reliable and don’t pay on a regular basis, there are countless companies that are very legitimate and follow excellent business practices. Checking out a company thoroughly before signing on should alleviate any concerns you might have. If you’re unsure of the company you’re thinking of working for, just check it out with the Better Business Bureau [].

Payments are usually made by checks or through Paypal on a monthly basis. Keep in mind many companies actually work a month behind, so payment for assignments completed in February won’t be received until April.

In most cases, you’ll be working as an independent contractor so you won’t have deductions and benefits that a regular employee would have. It’s up to you to keep accurate records, since you’ll be required to report your income according to the laws of your country and state.

“Who uses mystery shoppers?” you’re curious to know.

Just about any company or industry that’s concerned about how customers interpret the company and its employees uses mystery shoppers. This can include department, convenience, and specialty clothing stores, as well as banks, government offices, property management companies, gas stations, car washes, movie theatres, restaurants, fast-food outlets, and even hotels.

Virtually every large department store chain employs the services of a company that provides mystery shopping evaluations.

“What will completing an assignment entail?” the more curious among you will want to know.

The first thing you’ll have to do is memorize the assignment since you can’t bring your questionnaire or audit sheets with you.

Read the guidelines before you shop so you know what you will be required to audit. Details required by the client could include mention of specific services or products or whether an order of business is followed properly. There may even be a specific product you’re shopping for or a specific salesperson to audit. Plan to look for sales pitches, invitations to return to the store, and any other details required by the client.

The shop guidelines will also include your deadline, payment amount, and allowable expenses. Also, double-check the address to be sure you’re visiting the right location. You may even be required to phone the location before or after the shop. Keep in mind that even though you may consider yourself knowledgeable about your town, some companies have different branch locations on the same street.

Once you’ve completed the shop, go somewhere to fill out your report, making sure you’re unobserved. Don’t fill it out in sight of the business you’ve just audited, but complete the reports while the information is still fresh in your mind. For most companies, you’ll still have to input the information into an online form for submission when you return home.

Most reports will need to be submitted within 24 hours of completion of the shop. Any problems completing reports usually should be communicated to the company via telephone immediately. Check the company’s policy for such problems.

“What are some basic tips for mystery shoppers?” you ask.

You will be expected to let salespeople do their job. Don’t lead them into questions. When completing your report, don’t be insulting or judgmental of employees and don’t bring past experiences with you. Shop as if it’s your first visit.

Don’t forget something on the assignment. Incomplete assignments are not acceptable and you will be required to get names, descriptions, and other details. Assignments are usually determined to be incomplete without the required information and you may jeopardize your position as a shopper with the company.

Indeed, many companies actually grade shoppers according to how assignments are completed and those highly graded shoppers will be rewarded with prime jobs and in some cases, higher pay for jobs. Some of the more elite shops are often reserved for shoppers who’ve earned the honors.

To get those honors is simple: be reliable, dependable, conscientious, and objective. Have an eye for detail and be able to follow directions. Remain anonymous at all times. Under no circumstances should an employee find out you’re a mystery shopper unless specifically indicated in the job requirements. If someone accuses you of being a mystery shopper, most companies will recommend you act surprised, deny any such association or even understanding of the accusation, and leave the premises shortly after without completing the assignment.

Make sure assignments pay enough to cover your costs and allow you some earnings. You won’t get rich quick, but you can make some extra cash for doing what you often do anyway. The more time and detail a shop requires, the more it will pay. A restaurant shop will provide you with a few extra dollars for your time along with a paid dinner out, but make sure you’ve observed the shop requirements as to how many people can tag along. A service station shop may not provide you with any cash, but you may get some free gasoline for your vehicle. Decide what works best for you and choose your assignments accordingly.

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