You’ve seen the ads in your mailbox, your e-mail inbox, or in a magazine. They promise to pay you for shopping at the mall and dining at your favorite restaurant. While the way it is portrayed in many of these advertisements is a bit extreme (most mystery shoppers do not get paid to go on a cruise every other week), mystery shopping is a very legitimate and viable source of extra or even full-time income.
I first heard of mystery shopping from a friend who had recently discovered it herself. I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical. But, after doing more research and discussing it with her, my husband and I decided I could sign up to a few companies and try my hand at a few jobs. Before long, I had signed up with almost 150 companies and had a nice steady stream of job offers!
For those who are unsure what mystery shopping is (also known as “secret shopping”), mystery shopping is basically where an individual is contracted by a mystery shopping company to pose as a regular customer and evaluate customer service. Most all restaurant and store chains are regularly mystery shopped. For instance, every single McDonalds all over the country is mystery shopped every month. Airlines, salons, hotels, cruises, sports events, theatres, etc. are also routinely mystery shopped, but these shops are usually only offered to mystery shoppers who have experience.
There are at least 200 mystery shopping companies who are hired by the restaurant and store chains to evaluate their customer service. To become a mystery shopper, you apply with these companies and then are notified if they have jobs available.
There are obviously more jobs available if you live near a larger metropolis, but there are plenty of jobs available in smaller areas… often these are the ones the companies have a harder time filling.
I have been mystery shopping for about a year and a half. I have done a good amount of fast-food shops, casual dining, fine dining, retail stores, a pet store, gas stations, post offices, and we just did our first bowling shop two weeks ago. I have been offered a lot more jobs than these, but I am particular about what jobs I will take. I will not take a job that is low-paying or requires me to pose as someone I am not or evaluate a large amount of different things. I usually make around $15/hr doing this, plus reimbursements.
Let me just tell you up front that it is not easy money and you do have to be very observant and detailed. The companies are very particular about their shoppers. You have to follow directions exactly.
The first rule of mystery shopping is never to pay to shop. There are a lot of scam services out there that offer to provide you with all sorts of mystery shopping jobs for a one-time fee of $29.95 or something. Do not fall for them.
If this seems like something you would be interested in doing, the best way to start is to apply, apply, apply. There is a large listing of mystery shopping companies located at www.volition.com. I have applied with almost everyone of them. The applying part takes a lot of work and time, but it pays off once you start getting shop offers. Every company listed on there is one you can trust. Volition has been around for a long time and if you check out the message boards, you will find that there is a huge amount of valuable information to help you get started. I have learned most everything I know from the shoppers on there who do it full-time and have done this for a number of years.