Though the name itself may seem a bit mysterious, the concept of
mystery shopping is actually straightforward. Also referred to as
secret shopping, performance evaluations, service checks and
frontline evaluations to name a few, mystery shopping allows
companies to obtain a “snapshot in time” by trained researchers who
know in advance what they are to evaluate. It provides management a
method to quickly yet efficiently evaluate their
business practices, deliverables, and employees from the perspective
of a non-biased consumer. Mystery shoppers visit or call businesses
posing as ordinary customers and provide detailed evaluations of
their experience using written reports or questionnaires.
Mystery shopping is used in a wide variety of industries such as
retail, restaurants, financial institutions, convenience stores and
gas stations, service providers, manufacturers, department
stores, travel and entertainment, etc.
Though there is a certain level of responsibility and
professionalism required to be an effective mystery shopper, you
should never have to pay to get a job. There are dozens of companies
claiming that by paying them a registration fee they will send you
job opportunities and teach you the steps to becoming a shopper.
This may be true, but is also completely
legitimate mystery shopping companies in the industry NEVER charge
fees to the shopper. Training, tips for improvement, and
shopping opportunities are provided free to registered shoppers.
Mystery shoppers are either paid a pre-arranged fee for a particular
shop, a reimbursement for a purchase or a combination of both.
Though it is possible to make a living solely from mystery shopping,
it is not very common. Most shoppers view this as a second income
source or as a way to obtain fully reimbursed meals, products, and
registration process with leading mystery shopping companies has
improved over the years. Most provide a simple online form that
takes only a few minutes to complete. Once you have registered with
a company or two, they will start informing you
shopping opportunities. Most of these are “first-come, first-serve”,
so be sure to provide the company with an email address that you
check regularly, and a phone number where you can be easily reached.
willing to accept last minute assignments and treat
bottom-of-the-barrel assignments just like top-of-the-line
assignments. At first, take whatever you can get. This will allow
you to build a reputation with each company. The old adage, “You
never get a second chance to make a first impression,” is
exceptionally true in this industry. Make sure you completely
understand the instructions for the
particular shop, be impartial, and focus on accuracy. You may be
required to document employee names and descriptions, prices,
inventory evaluations, etc.
hi-tech. More and more mystery shopping companies are requiring
shoppers to have access to the Internet, email and a fax machine.
Some shops even require the use of a digital camera to capture
product placement, signage, cleanliness or other focus points.
Complete all assignments on time. If you absolutely cannot complete
an assignment, contact the mystery shopping company immediately so
they can reschedule the assignment. Dependable shoppers get the best
Assignments can be as basic as sitting in the parking lot of a fast
food restaurant for 20 minutes to document drive-thru service times
to taking an all-expense-paid trip to a resort for 2 weeks to
document your daily service experiences.
that you understand the mystery shopping industry a little more
clearly, the next step is to locate a few top mystery shopping
providers and register, remembering that even if a firm doesn't have
a client in your area today, they may next
month. Once registered with a company, it would not hurt to call or
send an email to express your willingness to shop and to confirm
your professionalism and attention to detail. Just make sure that
you do not send an email full of typos and
grammatical errors – definitely not the type of first
impression that you want to leave.
Another method for finding potential shopping opportunities and to
gather further industry knowledge is by monitoring online mystery
shopping message boards and forums. To locate a few, type words like
“mystery shopping message board” or “mystery shopping forum” into
your favorite browser.
Mystery shopping may not become your next career, but it will
provide you with some extra income, free goods, and maybe even a few
adventures along the way!
Pearce is the Dir. of Business Development for National Shopping
Service. NSS has been a pioneer in the mystery shopping industry
since 1972, offering customizable solutions to businesses that
provide the information they need to understand and affect their
businesses at points of customer interaction.