Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shopping--Secret Agent Style

I can't remember when I first heard of Mystery Shopping, but it was a long time ago.  I thought it sounded like fun, but I also thought it sounded a little fishy.  I mean, companies actually pay people to anonymously go in and shop in their stores and give them feedback?  OK, now that I put it out there in print, it makes a lot of sense.  How else will they know what their employees are doing?

This summer, I signed up with a mystery shopping company, and in September, with a little bit of trepidation (how was I going to remember everything I was supposed to remember and comment on?  What if they figured out I was there under false pretenses?  More importantly, what if I couldn't find a parking spot?!), I set off for my first assignment.

It was so much fun!  And I was hooked.  Since then, I've signed up for a couple more companies, and done mystery shops at thrift stores, drug stores, a daycare center, shipping services, and restaurants.  I'm definitely not going to get rich mystery shopping, but it is a fun way to earn a little extra money.

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Sound like something you might be interested in?  Here's what you need to know:

1. Go with a reputable company.  How do you know it's legit?  Make sure it's listed with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.  Another clue: you will never have to pay a fee to sign up with a legitimate mystery shopping company.

2. Yes, you do need to provide your Social Security number.  Mystery Shopping is a job.  You are an independent contractor, and as such, you do need to report your mystery shopping income and pay taxes on it.  Some companies will allow you to wait to provide your SSN, others require it before you can do any work for them.

3. Mystery shoppers need to have an eye for detail, a good memory, and good written communication skills.  Yes, it's a lot of fun mystery shopping, but clients take these reports very seriously, and, as a mystery shopper, so should you--this isn't something you should just do on a whim.  There are lots of details that need to be assessed and recorded, and your reports need to be well written and professional.  I might spend 15-20 minutes in a store doing the shop, and another 30-45 minutes writing my report.

4. Yes, mystery shopping makes a difference.  As I said, clients take mystery shopping reports very seriously.  I did a series of internet inquiry mystery shops, and discovered a flaw in the client's system.  As a result, the client is fixing the flaw to make their customer experience better.

Click here for more general information about mystery shopping.

Still interested?  I do most of my shopping for BestMark and Bare International.  In fact, so far, I've done all of my shopping for BestMark and Bare International.  Check it out.

P.S. If you sign up for BestMark, please enter my shopper ID (WI9625) when the application asks who referred you--I might get a little one time referral fee, depending on the types of shops you choose to do.  They are especially looking for Chevy or Buick/GMC owners with between 4,000 and 100,000 miles.

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