What you need to do to begin getting mystery shops

Getting Started in Mystery Shopping

by Debra L. Karplus

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If you've been shopping in a store lately, you may have noticed that the customer service often falls short of what you remember from previous experiences. Perhaps you were unable to locate a sales person for some information about an item that you wanted to purchase. Maybe you waited in line way too long, or possibly the store clerk made the process of returning an unused item far too complicated in a manner that seemed rather impolite. Today, most of us are too busy to add this level of frustration and time-wasting to our daily agenda.

It's the desire of many retailers, particularly some of the larger ones, to improve the way that their customers are treated. Consequently, they often contract with mystery shopping companies to assist with the goal of tweaking various components of their customer service toward perfection. The mystery shopping companies assign unassuming anonymous "shoppers" to visit these businesses and complete an objective report of how they were treated.

Being a mystery shopper is a fun way for you to earn some extra cash.

Though you're not likely to amass a fortune by becoming a mystery shopper, it is an interesting way to add to your income. Being a good manager of time and adhering to schedules, attention to detail, dependability, discretion combined with acting the role of shopper, and the ability to complete your required report in a timely fashion are the main personal attributes that successful mystery shoppers possess. The job itself requires few additional skills.

Once employed or contracted by the mystery shopping enterprise, you will be assigned to various local restaurants, shops such as department stores, video rental place, auto supply warehouses, specialty shops like children's apparel or linens, gas stations, banks, and other retailers big or small. Before visiting your assigned business, you'll have reviewed a list of questions. Since you need to appear to be a regular shopper, you'll need to rely on your memory for details about your shop such as whether your sales person was wearing a name tag. You won't be allowed to bring in even a small note pad to jot down any observations, so be observant.

After leaving the shop, you'll need to complete an online questionnaire by a certain date and time on the website of your mystery shopping company. You may be asked to comment on the cleanliness of the store's parking lot or restroom, overflowing garbage cans, or specifics about the person who assisted you, such as a waiter or store clerk. You'll need to pay attention to everything about the shopping experience.

There are several reputable companies that utilize mystery shoppers like you.

Before embarking on a career as a mystery shopper, you would be prudent to learn what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has to warn you about mystery shopping scams at ftc.gov. Often these scams involve "shops" that require you transfer your funds to "evaluate the service of the transaction." Be careful!

Most of the mystery shopping companies will train you and assign a supervisor to you. Bestmark at bestmark.com is a mystery shopping company with shops in all fifty states. They employ shoppers and pay them with a paycheck by direct deposit. They do not ask you for any upfront costs and will train you before sending you on shops. After each shop, you'll complete their online survey about the shop.

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IntelliShop at intelli-shop.com pays you via PayPal and hires you not as an employee but rather as an independent contractor. This means that at the end of each year, you would complete a Schedule C on your federal income taxes and can legitimately deduct work-related travel and mileage and any other reasonable and necessary expenses you accrue on the job related to your shops. They have shops mostly in some of America's largest cities that are listed on their website.

Shop N Check, formerly a mystery shopping company, is now operated as Market Force Shopper; learn more about working with them at marketforce.com. Other shops can be found at mysteryshopper.net. Or do an online search for other companies using keywords "mystery shopper."

Working as a mystery shopper may be exactly the right second job for you to add to your income. Opportunities for mystery shoppers exist mostly in larger cities, but some less urban locations may have assignments also. You'll just have to check websites and inquire. You might be able to become a very efficient mystery shopper who can combine personal errands with assigned shops while earning as you go.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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