I like shopping. I don’t love it, but I do it when I need to. Occasionally I like to just browse and see all the new and cool stuff. Anyone who knows me also knows that I never buy retail and will only get something if I am under the impression that I am saving money or have a coupon for it. Some call it being cheap whereas I like to view it as being a smart shopper.
Enter the mystery shopper.
I started doing this a few years ago. I am always looking for new and easy ways of making money so that I can spend more time with my kids, while also getting them out into the public so that they get a hands-on education about certain things that I think are important. There is nothing as thankless as working retail. And from what I have seen of the next generation, saying Thank You is very low on their list of priorities. I take my kids around and make sure they see both the good and the bad, but most of all when they see someone doing a good job, they should tell them and thank them. The flip side is that if they see someone NOT doing their proper job, they shouldn’t feel they have to stay and shop there.
I am able to combine a few tasks by mystery shopping. First, I only take jobs for places that I would want to go even if I was not getting paid. Second, I teach the kids the importance of customer service and to deal with the public in a responsible way. Lastly, I want to make sure they are being smart shoppers by comparing prices from various vendors. Business is business and I want them to understand it so they can be good business leaders when they get older.
Now, they don’t actually do the mystery shopping and in some cases, I am not allowed to bring children with me. But there are times when I can bring them with me and I explain to them what I am supposed to notice. It has surprised me how observant my youngest it. After the shop I have asked her about a cashiers name or color of hair and so far, she has not been wrong. My oldest just goes to find things to add to her Christmas list.
As with any job, there are pros and cons. Mystery Shopping is no different. First of all, if this is something that sounds interesting to you, be aware that it is NOT something you can do for a career. You will not make enough money to support yourself. Mystery shopping is something you can do to get free lunches, to be reimbursed for things like oil changes or haircuts—stuff you do in the normal course of your life. I am sure there are some people who will argue the point, so let me just say that here in south Florida, an hour from West Palm Beach and 2 hours from Miami and Orlando, it is quite limited as to the types of assignments that are available as well as how often you are allowed to do them. Most companies have a rotation, such as only 1 time every 90 days, so even though they may pay well, you cannot bank on doing them that often.
The parts of mystery shopping that can be tedious are the setups. There are literally hundreds of companies out there they offer legitimate jobs for an independent contractor to sign up and be a mystery shopper. Going through the paperwork, writing an essay to prove that you have a command of the English language and are able to answer the questions being asked, making sure you have a PayPal account set up and a separate work email that you use for all the offers from the different companies takes time. In some cases, you are required to print out certificates or paperwork that give you permission to be in a company or allows you to come in and perform an audit while the business is open and serving customers.
Once you have done the set, there is the actual shopping part and that is usually quite fun. While performing the shops, you must keep track of times, names and descriptions of the staff you encounter, making sure that receipt and pictures are accurate and most importantly, making sure that you have actually gone in and performed what the Mystery Shopping company is paying you to do. Asking about the wrong product, ordering the wrong meal or going to the wrong store will waste your time and money as you will not get paid for doing a job that you did not do the way you were hired to perform.
Finally, you go back home and you scan in the receipt, upload the pictures and fill in the questionnaire that is assigned. This can be quick or lengthy depending on the level of writing that is required. I have had some shops that I can fill out the paperwork in less than 10 minutes and others that have taken up upwards of 30 minutes. Of course, I make so many spelling and typing mistakes that it is a miracle that any of my reports get accepted. I thank God for the inventor of spell-check.
Once all that is done, you submit your competed work and wait to get paid. And wait. And wait. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to get paid for jobs that you complete and that were accepted. That is an important clarification. Just because you answer all the questions and submit it does not mean that it will be accepted. Some companies have a disclaimer that state you need to be available up to 24 hours after submission for any follow up clarifications.
An example: I submitted a report over the Memorial Day weekend and then went off to a family function that lasted the whole weekend. I did not check online in my work e-mail and when I finally got back on Tuesday morning, I found that a clarification e-mail was sent and since I did not respond in the appropriate amount of time, my shop was rejected and I did not get paid for my time, travel or the money I spent (that I was supposed to get reimbursed for). This does not happen often, but it is important to know and follow all the rules if you want to get paid for the job.
The pros of mystery shopping are the ability to go to places you wanted to but have not yet had the time. My favorite is to go to various restaurants that I like and to be able to get my whole meal paid for while having a nice time. Being able to use your acting skills is also kind of fun. Occasionally, I get jobs that are loads of fun and pay really well and when that happens, I just love my job.
My next post will be about the different kinds of shops and some companies that I can recommend as reliable and honest in their requests and payments. There are quite a few out there and they are free to sign up for. Never pay to be employed by a mystery shopping company! Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you have questions and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.
Until then, take care and God Bless.