Friday, November 12, 2010

Savvy How To: Mystery Shopping Tips

Get paid to go to Disneyland!
Have you ever wondered if mystery shopping/secret shopping was a scam?  Mystery shopping can actually be a fun money-maker when you follow some basic criteria.  I was a mystery shopper for years and I’ve secretly analyzed the up-sale, tactics, cleanliness and all around employee and store integrity of cell phone companies, restaurants, retailers and even Disneyland and been paid to do so.  My best shopping experience included free entrance and parking at Disneyland, free breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, plus $90 in free park souvenirs!  That’s right – Disneyland for FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

So what is mystery shopping and what does it entail?  Mystery shopping is simply a tool used by marketing retail companies, hired by local businesses, to measure and grade the quality of services offered, store maintenance levels or employee attitudes at predetermined locations.  Usually a “normal” shopper is asked to enter, without disclosing their identity, a store within a specified date and time to buy or return products, ask targeted questions or simply check out landscaping and store  cleanliness, and then fill out a survey with detailed, non-biased descriptions about their experiences.  Shoppers then submit receipts to be reimbursed and are typically paid an additional fee for their services.  Three of my favorite mystery shopping companies are, and “BestMark seeks individuals with a keen eye, who are extremely conscientious and responsible in honoring their commitments. Successful BestMark mystery shoppers will be able to meet deadlines, follow detailed instructions and write fact-based reports to provide our clients with actionable data.”

Mystery shopping can be fun and financially rewarding if you stick to these rules:

NEVER pay a company to be a mystery shopper – they pay you! There are companies who offer to train you to become a secret shopper, but that is not necessary.  You don’t need to pay to join a shopping list either.  Reputable companies offer timely reimbursement and don’t take any fees for your service.

Practice writing brief, non-emotional essays- just the facts ma’am, just the facts!  Don’t say “the store was a disgusting filthy mess” – rather, “the store was cluttered with debris”.  Many companies also grade your application form on writing skills.  A practice shop is often required to determine if your application will be accepted.  You must get at least a B to pass – and no spelling typos please.

Get referred!  If you have friends who mystery shop, ask them to refer you to the companies they use.  That way you’ll have an easier chance of being accepted and you’ll know you’re working with a reputable company.

Don’t cancel!  Only accept mystery shops you are confident you can fulfill.  Canceling a shop is highly frowned upon.  You can sometimes reschedule within a small window of time, but don’t let this be a habit or you’ll be scheduled for fewer shops in the future.  Determine if you are responsible enough to complete the specified tasks before you accept.

Keep your job a secret too!  If you’re taking your kids on a mystery shop and they blurt it out to a store full of employees, your cover is blown and the job is off.  Make sure taking your kids is ok, (it usually is – though you may want to leave them at home so you can concentrate on the job at hand or bring an extra adult to help out) and keep your cool.  That also means not acting nervous in front of employees.  They don’t know who you are and they aren’t expecting it to be you unless your palms are sweaty and you’re stuttering out pre-rehearsed questions.  Have a little fun and act it up!

Check the job boards regularly!  Most shops are offered on a first come first served basis.  The early bird gets the worm on this one.  Make sure you log in daily to check for the highest paid and easiest shops as they go quickly.  Fast food and restaurant shops are some of the most highest sought after jobs, so when you see one of these offered grab it quickly.

Meet the requirements! Before you sign up with any company, just note you will likely need: a high speed internet connection, a scanner/fax machine, and reliable transportation and be at least 21 or older.

Remember that while mystery shopping is fun – it’s still work and the better you are as a shopper the more exclusive shops you‘ll be offered.  Participating in shops will most likely be a part time hobby – not necessarily a full time income for most shoppers.  If you’re looking for an easy job with flexible hours and little fun, then mystery shopping might be right up your alley.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at mystery shopping, there are hundreds of companies offering these services; however finding them is sometimes kept a secret too. You can Google “mystery shopping” but the best way to find potential companies is to ask your mystery shopping friends for referrals and start submitting your applications to see if additional shoppers are needed in your area.  It may take a few months for your application to be accepted, but keep trying and it should pay off in the end.

UPDATE:  A local Utah Mystery Shopping company needs shoppers right now!!! Read More HERE!

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