Mystery Shopping is a service that is often used to acquire data about the many aspects of shopping and the shopping experience. Retailers and services providers use this information to improve their services. Often these services are hired out to third party marketing companies who then fill the positions. Below you will learn more about this opportunity and what to watch out for.
What is a Mystery Shopper?
If you enjoy shopping you may have heard of the opportunity know as mystery shopping, a position in which you are hired by stores, restaurants and other retail establishments to make purchases and observe the environment. The position requires that you simply report back on your experience. The benefit to the company is simple, they can use this knowledge to improve the shopping experience for their traditional customer. Sometimes the company in question will select stores of their own and other times you will be observing the stores of their competitors.
According to ABC News, a typical experience may be to “measure the wait in line at Target versus Wal-Mart.” or you may “measure how much information a Best Buy sales associate in electronics knows about a specific digital camera, compared with the sales associate at Circuit City.”
The industries that use these services are quite broad and working in this trade you could potentially be analyzing everything from hotels to banks and gas stations to department stores. Each experience will entail a unique objective. It might be the staff you will be asked to observe or perhaps the cleanliness of the environment, you may be asked if the stores shelves are well stocked and maybe all of the above.
Typically these positions are part-time and pay between 8-10 dollars per-hour. On occasion the position offer 12-18 dollars per hour, however, in those cases there are usually additional duties involved, such as setting up displays or offering samples while making observation. Other times it’s paid by assignment, not hourly. It’s often a good way to make ends meet and bring in extra money but not necessarily a full time opportunity.
Generally speaking these positions are handled by third party marketing companies. They are rarely filled by the company who seeks the information themselves. If you were to go to your local grocery store and apply for this position they wouldn’t typically have the ability to hire you. In the past companies hired directly, but now because there are multiple third party marketing companies who handle the mystery shopper service, it’s almost always hired out. And, that is exactly why you have to be on the look out for scams.
You should never have to pay for this type of opportunity but there are a number of scams out there who would love you to believe that’s exactly what you have to do to find these positions. According to the Federal Trade Commission
Fraudulent mystery shopping promoters are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they’re a gateway to lucrative mystery shopper jobs with reputable companies. These solicitations usually promote a website where consumers can “register” to become mystery shoppers — after they pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.
That said, there are a few specific situation that you will be asked to pay money but not for the opportunity itself. If your assignment were to be to evaluate a restaurant and you’re asked to order an item, you will be expected to pay for the item up front. After you’ve completed the objective and with the receipt of the purchased item in hand, you will then be reimbursed.
The MSPA offers a training course and certificate program at both the silver and gold level, but this is not a requirement to secure a position.
Read Snoops to learn more about what current active scams are out there related to the topic of mystery shopping.
Where to Get Started
If you’ve read this far, then becoming a mystery shopper might be an opportunity that interests you. If that’s the case, let’s take a look at a few legitimate companies that provide these opportunities.
Known as “Narms” National Association for Retail Marketing Services, they are a reputable provider of Mystery Shopper services and a good place to start if you would like to learn more about these opportunities. Learn more about Narms
“MSPA” or Mystery Shopper Provider of America is another large scale provider of Mystery Shopping Opportunities. At their website you can learn more about the general topic of mystery shopping. MSPA North America Outside of the United State, you can visit them at MSPA Worldwide
Books on the Subject
Learning more about any opportunity is always a good decision. There are a number of books on the subject of Mystery Shopping and a few that stand out above the rest.