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March 08, 2010
It Pays to Shop
What if someone paid you to eat at one of your favorite restaurants? Would you sight-see at a museum for free? How about shopping for groceries that you don't have to pay for? These scenarios all sound unusual, but they are typical jobs that a mystery shopper would do.
Mystery shoppers are people that are paid to evaluate the services of businesses, companies, employees and employers under the guise of not revealing their identity to the person or people they’re observing. Companies and businesses hire mystery shopping companies (also known as product and market research companies) who in turn solicit individuals to perform these jobs.
Most mystery shopping jobs require that a potential shopper take a basic reading and writing test.As a mystery shopper, your job performance weighs heavy on these two things.
Mystery shopping occurs in a number of places, such as hotels, banks, car dealerships, bars, restaurants, grocery stores, apartment complexes, amusement parks, museums, retail outlets and even online businesses utilize the service mystery shopping companies offer. Imagine mystery shopping in places like these consistently, every week or every month and receiving compensation of $5-$200 for each job satisfactorily completed.
Anyone wanting to get gain employment in this field should visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website at www.mysteryshop.org. MSPA is the largest trade association for mystery shopping companies world-wide. Here a shopper will find the names, phone numbers and websites of mystery shopping companies as well as potential opportunities for mystery shopping jobs.
MPSA also has online mystery shopping trainings for those who want to take their mystery shopping skills to a professional level by obtaining special shopper certifications that are highly recognized and well respected by many mystery shopping companies. In addition to MSPA, there are websites like Shadowshopper.com where they list mystery shopping job opportunities.
With the plight of the U.S. job economy and companies downsizing their staff, mystery shopping is becoming a growing profession and viable resource for people who have lost their jobs and for those who need or want extra money.
Pam, an employee of Kedren Community Health and Child Care Center in Los Angeles who does not want her last name revealed to ensure that she does not jeopardize any future employment with potential mystery shopping companies, said she doesn’t see mystery shopping as a main source of income, yet, she excitedly says “I do make extra money on the side as a result of shopping regularly.”
Pam is not only paid to shop various grocery chains on a rotational monthly basis, but, she also gets to keep the food she purchases, which is reimbursed along with the regular payment she receives for the jobs.
You don’t need a degree to become a mystery shopper. In fact, according to Stefan Doomanis, President of Dynamic Advantage, Inc., a local mystery shopping company in Burbank, two of the most important things about mystery shopping are that a shopper be reliable and dependable. Mystery shoppers have to be on time to their scheduled job assignments simply because the person, people or product being evaluated may only be available during specific time slots.
For instance, if a shopper is scheduled to observe a restaurant during happy hour only, then the shopper can not show up prior or after that specific time slot. Not only does that defeat the purpose of what the company wants observed and evaluated during that time frame, but a shopper will not be paid if they do not follow the specific shop details or guidelines.
Becoming a mystery shopper requires some detail attention to the following: Carefully reading mystery shopping leads, learning and practicing observation skills that are conducive to a shopper remaining discreet while on job assignments and writing grammatically-correct evaluations on what on observations seen, heard and witnessed during the shop.
A shopper will always know the context of their shop prior to doing it. Most mystery shopping businesses will initiate contact with a potential shopper via email by sending shoppers information about a job offer (lead), such as the location, time, the pay and what specifically needs to be observed during the assignment. If a shopper is interested in performing the shop, then a response is required directly on the mystery shopping company’s website.
Next, shoppers should always remain discreet in their observation of the product, person or people during the shop. Act natural. Staring or fixating on an object or person, boisterous behavior or outlandish or rude comments could cause a shopper to jeopardize not only their identity, but the shop can be a failure if whoever is being observed gets suspicious.
Lastly, mystery shopping companies operate and exist only on the written performance feedback that a shopper provides. In essence, this is what clients (the places you shop) pay the mystery shopping companies for. The evaluation is what constitutes a shopper being paid. Correct grammar and a detailed report of a shopper’s findings are essential to the client. This report is the only thing that the client has to go on in terms of productivity of their company and employees.
Some of the things that clients of mystery shopping businesses might want to know include time, descriptions, what was said, how it was said and who said it. Accuracy is extremely important. Doomanis attests to this by saying, “You can really monitor the operations of a business with a mystery shopper, and if there are certain things in place that are supposed to happen at certain times throughout customer interaction, a regular customer is not going to know about those things, but you can find out if it is happening with a mystery shopper."
Mystery shoppers on-the-job assessments are crucial to the clients who depend on valuable feedback to not only evaluate customer service relations, but also to ensure that their company standards and procedures are being practiced.
Generally, the more time you spend on some shops, the higher it may pay, but not necessarily in every scenario. An example could be a fine dining shop paying $100-$150 where the meal is coursed out over one or two hours versus a mystery shopping assignment at a bank that pays $35-$50 and could possibly take just as much time depending on the banker, the busyness of the bank and the questions and information being posed to the shopper.
Mystery shopping at a car dealership that pays $55 for a shopper to test drive and evaluate the sales person who is trying to sale the shopper the vehicle can end up being a potentially long conversation in which the shopper must sit and listen attentively and patiently while making mental notes versus a mystery shopper on a retail shop for the same amount of pay, but considerably less time is needed to purchase clothing and exchange dialogue with a sales clerk.
On the surface, mystery shopping can be a lot of fun. There are many perks as well. Amidst all the excitement of visiting several different venues on a weekly or monthly basis, it is still work.
Overall, mystery shopping is a win-win situation. The shopper, the company and client all work together to ensure that customer service is held at a high standard. After all, that is the goal. The professional mystery shopper makes that possible.
The following are websites of credible mystery shopping companies:
I have a passion for creating, producing and writing. While I have been grooming myself for quite some time to write for print, television and multimedia industries, I did complete the Radio and Television Program at Long Beach City College and my Journalism program at UCLA Extension. I am journalist, producer, writer, property manager and teacher aide. For thrills, frills and fun, I mystery shop professionally for businesses, and Toastmasters, Inc. is a public speaking organization that I am a member of.