My Experience as a Mystery Shopper

You may have seen the advertisements Online, in the papers or posted on a telephone pole in your neighborhood. They all claim you can make great money for simply for shopping. While this is true, to an extent, don’t be fooled into thinking someone is going to fund your latest shopping spree at Bloomingdales.
While you can make money mystery shopping, it isn’t as much as the ads would like you to believe. I tried mystery shopping for a few months and the returns were dismal. I earned a whopping seven dollars to drive to the mall, buy a CD and return it an hour later. That in itself was not bad, but by the time I spent five dollars in gas and spent an hour entering my report on the computer I found I hadn’t really made any money at all. There are higher paying jobs but they are harder to get. I also once applied for a shop that paid 50 dollars but didn’t get it. I suspect it was my lack of experience.

If you are interested in mystery shopping there are a few things you should consider. Time, money and availability are all important aspects. I found that mystery shopping was just not for me. I simply could not find enough work in my area to make it worth my while. I spent more time searching for jobs as opposed to actually doing them. While some aspects of the job are great there is much more to it than you might think.
Should I Respond To Ads For Mystery Shopping?

No. Any public ad you see for mystery shopping is most likely a scam. They appear to be legitimate but in reality they are just taking your money. These companies will ask you to pay money for information that you can find on your own. You should never pay for a mystery shopping job. There are hundreds of legitimate mystery shopping companies you can work for and they will never ask you for a cent. If you are serious about mystery shopping you should do an Internet search to find these companies or look for message boards that will help you find them.

How Do I Find Work?
The most discouraging part of mystery shopping is finding work. If you live in a small town or smaller city you may have trouble finding enough work to make it worth your while. Those who live in higher populated areas are more likely to find a variety of jobs to keep them busy. I had to sign up with over a hundred companies to find just two jobs a month. The application process can be long and tiring. Some companies are only looking for shoppers in certain areas and others have shoppers they have used for years who get first choice of jobs. Be prepared to spend countless hours just applying to companies and once you have signed up you have to search their job boards daily for work. Some companies allow you to simply chose a job and it’s yours, while others have you apply and they chose one person from the many who want it. It can become frustrating. In my case, I spent two hours a day looking for work and I usually came up empty handed.

What Should I Expect?
Mystery shopping is more of a job than it sounds. When you accept a job you will have paperwork to print out and read through thoroughly. Most jobs come with very specific directions for completing the shop. Most likely you will be buying something you really don’t want or need. You may have to memorize very distinct details about multiple employees while doing your shopping as well as completing different scenarios. You may find yourself returning a product for no good reason and having to make up a story as to why you are returning it. It does require a fair amount of acting and serious concentration. After you complete your jobs you must enter your report into the company’s Website. These reports are often detailed and require anywhere from a half an hour to an hour and a half to finish.

How Can I Realistically Make Money?
You can make money if you can find enough work. Most people who make mystery-shopping work have a lot of jobs in their areas. They can accept many shops in one day and make a day of it. This will require you do take notes and be extremely organized. You can earn a decent wage if you get enough work but mystery shopping will not make you rich and you will most likely not make enough money doing this for it to be your sole source of income.

Tips and Hints
A great place to find a listing of mystery shopping jobs is on Volition.com. They have an extensive listing of companies and won’t list any that are not legitimate. Their message boards are a gold mine of information and tips. Before you even consider mystery shopping I would recommend you read through as many of the posts on this board as possible. This will give you a true and clear picture of what mystery shopping is all about and the problems those who do this on a daily basis have experienced. You will find this place to be a wealth of great information and it is absolutely free to access. I am not personally a member of this community but I did find some great information there from people who know what they are doing.

Keep detailed records of everything you do. This will include each company’s Website, your usernames, passwords and paperwork from each job you complete. You should always save your paperwork in case there are questions about your work at a later date. It is also important for you to keep detailed financial records because any income you get from mystery shopping must be claimed on your taxes.

Always read through the instructions for each shop thoroughly. This is important even if you have done that particular job at an earlier date. Quite often the requirements change. You should pay attention to rules about bringing people with you and what you need to keep an eye on as you shop. If you read though the questionnaire before the shop you can focus on what they company wants you to find. Take detailed notes as soon as you are away from the job location. Remember to never take notes while you are shopping. This will make you an obvious mystery shopper and you will not be paid for your efforts.

Final Words

Mystery shopping is not glamorous, will not make you rich and is often hard work. If you are not afraid of the work and want to earn some extra money mystery shopping may be something you might like to try out. It does offer a flexible schedule and an ever-changing work environment as well as some free merchandise and free meals. It also gives you the opportunity to help the stores you shop create a better shopping experience for everyone.

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