Get paid to shop!
Get free merchandise!!
Become a mystery shopper and earn free products!!!
As exciting as such offers seem, most of us won’t take action on these offers because we are afraid that there may be no such thing as legit secret shopper jobs. There are many articles and sources warning against these “gigs”, and particularly those that ask you to pay to get the work. Fortunately, we are going to explain how to get a secret shopper job, and one that is entirely legit and lucrative. In fact, we hope to supply you with tips and tactics that can have you up and running in just a few weeks.
However, before we delve too deeply into the “how to”, let’s take a few minutes to look at mystery or secret shopper jobs and what the legit secret shopper jobs require and offer.
What Is a Secret Shopper?
A recent article from Forbes magazine allowed one wildly successful mystery shopper to explain it all. In it, she wrote, “Mystery shopping is pretty simple: Companies hire people like me to visit their stores, pretend to be an average customer and report back on the service and overall experience. For each shop that you visit, companies pay an allotted amount of money (usually $5 to $20), and since they often want you to make a purchase to get the total customer experience, they also offer to reimburse for a certain portion of the item.”
Yes, that’s it! The whole mystery of mystery shopping uncovered. Essentially, you become a freelance quality control professional who works like an undercover agent, going on missions to uncover data about a target.
You sign up with the legitimate secret shopper companies, and you are often free to work for as many as you would like, though limiting it to two dozen or less is the best. They send you the specifics or you accept a gig through their website. You need to be very clear about the details of every job as they vary widely.
As a simple example, you might be hired by a big box electronics store to go in and find out about the latest 4K HD TVs. You might be asked to speak with two separate employees and make note of their willingness to help you, how in-depth their answers, whether they had name tags or offered their names, and more. You can’t usually write down the answers to the questions the mystery shopping gig posed, so a good memory is important.
When you have done all you were instructed to do (even if that means buying a TV!), you return home and fill out your online report.
So, that is the basic answer to “what do mystery shoppers do?” Yet, there were some other, finer details in there. Let’s reconsider them:
- You must be very good with following directions precisely
- You have to have a good memory for details that you will have to recount later
- You need to have the budget to purchase items and wait for reimbursement
- You need to calculate the time spent in the store and the time spent filling out reports when determining whether a job is as financially rewarding as you need it to be
- You are, in essence, a freelance worker, and that means you get no insurances, paid holidays or other benefits of employment. You also have to pay your own taxes.
- You may need to do multiple jobs in a day to earn enough to make it worth your while
And just what does work as a mystery shopper actually pay? It is impossible to gauge a regular amount. This is because you earn a fee for doing the work (and that can range from as low as $7 to $10 or much more depending on the employer). You are often reimbursed for meals, and you can be reimbursed for the purchases. As that writer explains, “Once in a while, I’d have a big score…A sportswear company asked me to buy a $250 watch for reimbursement—and I got to keep it. (Actually, I returned it to the store, making twice the amount back.)”
Her mystery shopper pay hit around $14k per year, and that was as a part time, weekends only job!
Do keep in mind that your location plays a big role in how much actual mystery shopping you can do. Those in rural or remote areas are unlikely to find many gigs. Those in smaller cities with more than a single shopping mall and many businesses are going to find quite a bit of work, and urban areas are real treasure troves of mystery shopping work.
So, now you know what it involves and some of the fundamentals. How can you become a successful mystery shopper in the next few weeks? It requires:
- Working for legitimate secret shopper companies
- Planning and organization
Knowledge about Legit Secret Shopper Jobs
Let’s start with knowledge. Did you know that there is an actual mystery shopping association? The MSPA or Mystery Shopping Professionals Association is more than 20 years old and it actually includes communities in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Africa. It is focused on “engaging the business community to become better educated on their customers’ experiences and ultimately working toward enhancing the overall customer experience throughout the Americas.”
If you are serious about becoming a successful secret shopper as quickly as possible, you may want to join this organization as one of its freelance evaluators. This allows you to instantly attain credentials as an independent contractor, use the job posting boards to find work, and take the many courses the association has available. Through them you can participate in seminars and webinars, but also get your certification and training that “allow you to make informed decisions and professional improvements for yourself and your industry.”
While the legitimate secret shopper companies don’t ever demand that you have such training and/or certification (or even membership with the MSPA), it is always to your benefit to be able to claim such affiliation. The training is also going to give you a serious shortcut to success because it educates you in the various “ins and outs” of the work.
Is it the only way to get work or learn what do mystery shoppers do? No, of course not, but it really can help you get off to the best start. They have introductions to the work, courses in using your skills for dining jobs, and even courses in ethics, writing, and more.
You will also see the Mystery Shoppers of America site as you get started. They too have training and lots of legitimate opportunities. They have a fee-based membership that gives you access to a job resource center, and this too could be a good resource for anyone hoping to streamline their entry into the world of mystery shopping. Do keep in mind that this is not a site as industry-oriented as the MSPA, but it can help you learn about the field and get off to a really strong start, but only if you do use the training opportunities available to acquire knowledge.
Working for Legitimate Secret Shopper Companies
Naturally, the next step is to align yourself to the most legitimate secret shopper companies. That is not as easy as many think. There are scams out there that demand you pay them to get gigs. That payment may be a monthly “fee” for seeing current listings or accessing job boards. This is not a valid approach to hiring people. Instead, I suggest the following
- A Closer Look
- About Face
- Amusement Advantage
- GAPbuster Worldwide
- KSS International
- Market Force
- Sinclair Customer Metrics
- Secret Shopper
- Second to None
This is a good selection of the most legitimate secret shopper companies, but as you will see, they are all very different. This is why it is so important to have a strong set of basic skills that you intend to put to use when you start your work as a secret shopper.
Though a lot of people argue that it is not a “job” per se, but a way to take in extra money, if you get the knowledge required and work with the most legitimate secret shopper companies, it is not impossible to earn something akin to a full time wage.
This is even more so when you take the time to do the kind of planning and organization essential to success.
Planning and Organization to Increase Mystery Shopper Pay
When you find legitimate secret shopper companies, you need to also be sure that you are prepared to do the work to the level required. This means you must:
- Follow their unique instructions to the last detail. As we said, each job is different. One might ask you to assess the service at a restaurant and the quality of the food, another may ask you to see how engaged staff was at a local big box store. The reports you file may require very specific details and you may find yourself not being paid for missing small steps like forgetting to leave a 15% tip or asking for a name.
- Allow more than enough time to complete the reports the company needs in order to pay you for the work and any reimbursements. As one expert wrote, “The effort that you put into the quality of your shops will help determine whether or not the company will assign you shops in the future.”
- Seriously consider the costs of doing the individual gig. There is time involved in any secret shopping work, and the mystery shopping pay you get is going to vary based on the amount of time it takes to do the gig. For instance, you take a job at a mall 45 minutes away. That means 1.5 hours of time is spent driving to and from the mall. If you can also find several other gigs to do at the same location, or nearby, as well as a restaurant gig, you can justify the driving time. However, if it is just the one job, you are not likely to get any real return on that investment in time and effort. Don’t forget that doing the reports is also part of the work, and the costs for food and gas may not be covered. Weigh every cost to be sure you are planning the most effectively.
- Be on top of receipts. As an independent contractor, many of the expenses for the work you do can be legal tax deductions. As an example, if your reason for driving to and from a location is purely about doing a shop, that is a deductible expense. Because you are 100% responsible for taxes (as you are self-employed when earning secret shopper pay), you need to be aware of deductions as well as ensuring you set enough aside to pay the bill when you file. While you can always pre-pay on a quarterly basis or put it into savings, you need to remember that you are the one responsible. Saving receipts and even calculating in the cost of taxes as you plan your jobs is a good approach.
- Be on top of payments – When you are planning and organizing your work, it can become too easy to overlook missing payments. This is particularly true if you are trying to become a full time shopper. Make a spreadsheet of every single shop or job you do and when the payments should arrive. Check it daily and follow through quickly on late payments.
You now have all you need to dive into the world of secret shopping success. Remember that there may also be opportunities for phone based secret shoppers and you might also want to consider pairing your work in this industry with activities such as blogging. For instance, a fashion blogger who is a secret shopper might be a very lucrative way to monetize your day to day activities! We have several articles on this and suggest you read them if you are eager to work independently.