What is it all about
Mystery shoppers are usually employed by companies to help review products or services of their company on the ground to see if they meet the standard requirements of the job.
It is usually the mystery shopper job to evaluate the product or services based on the entire shopping experience in an unbiased way.
There are many companies out there that actually employ mystery shoppers, including popular fast food chains like McDonalds and KFC. Having done quite a bit of mystery shopping myself, I can say that there are definitely legit companies out there that provide such a service.
The Truth about it
Maybe you have heard how people are getting free products from companies, or even free hotel stays. The best part is that it is free, and get paid on top of it. There are even some of them that make a full time income just doing such a thing!
The truth? First of all, mystery shopping is actually a legit way to make some extra money, but not a full time income. For any product you are reviewing, you are usually paid slightly more on top of what you spend on it.
Most of the times, you will need to spend your own money first before you are reimbursed.
Hotel stays? Forget about that, unless you have been doing it for a very long time and have a positive record with your mystery shopping company.
Besides enjoying the free products, you are usually required to do a thorough review on it, including the service experience from the staff.
For example, you may be asked to evaluate on buying a product from a store, and must consider and evaluate the following points:
- How you are greeted when you enter the store.
- Any sales attendant who assisted you in picking a product, and how friendly are they.
- When you are required to queue, how long did you need to wait in line?
- How long does the cashier take to process your order?
- Did the cashier tell you about the ongoing promotions?
- Is the store clean? (Product display are neatly arranged, floor swept clean, etc)
These are just the tip of the iceberg when you choose to accept a task, and you are required to evaluate it thoroughly and give a factual record of what happened when you were shopping for the item.
Mystery Shopper scams
There are definitely scams when doing mystery shopping too. Check out my list of tips to easily avoid most scams online too!
Here are 2 things you definitely want to look out for and avoid when it comes to mystery shopping:
1. Paying for signing up
Definitely a big no-no to pay for any signup, or for any courses or certification to be a mystery shopper. Legit companies out there allow people to sign up for free, and do not need any payment just to sign up. You will only need to spend when you are doing the mystery shopper jobs, but will get reimbursed for it after.
2. Wiring money as a job
You may have heard people being hired as mystery shopper to evaluate a money transfer service. For an example, The ‘company’ will send you a check to deposit $1000 in your account, and ask you to withdraw $700 from your account to wire it to a third party. You will keep the differences as payment for the ‘job’
Almost all the time, your check will bounce, and you would have lost all your money that you sent. Never ever wire money as a mystery shopper job as they are all scams.
Remember to do your research online as well if you are skeptical of a company, as doing a basic search on Google will net you many results to answer your question.
My First Experience with Mystery shopping
When I was looking through ads on a local website, I saw an ad that was looking for people to be mystery shoppers. I was thinking, ‘Why not give this a try and see how it goes?’ and immediately signed up for it.
Eventually I was e-mailed to conduct a mystery shopping job for Yoshinoya, a Japanese fast food chain. I was given instructions with a list of steps to follow including what to ask and what to look out for. While conducting the job, I realized how much details you have to look out for and remember the things you need to ask as well.
First of all, I had to go to the counter and ask for healthy options from the menu, and also enquire about the promotions that they were having for the month. After that, place an order with a special request such as putting the sauce on the side. Throughout the whole experience, I also had to notice how the server presented herself, and notice the level of service which was given too.
During that same trip after buying my meal, I was supposed to complete a survey on my mobile and had to provide all the information I noted down, including the quality of service and the quality of the food I received. I also needed to take photo evidence of the receipt and the food like the picture above to show proof of purchase.
I really found out that Mystery shopping isn’t all fun and free stuff, as you really have to do a proper and thorough review of your experience. It is common in the mystery shopping industry that you do not get paid for your job if you do not fulfill the requirements or do not follow the guidelines strictly.
As such, you really need to be detailed, and follow what is required by the company, or risk not getting any payment at all.
One more thing I realized is that you are not paid to travel to the shop as well. I usually take jobs that are on my way, or very close to my house so that I do not need to spend much on transport costs. Remember to do your calculations on how much you spend to see if it is worth it to do a job, as you may end up losing money due to transport costs.
Where do I sign up to become a mystery shopper?
First of all, you can check in your local city to see if there are any companies that provide any mystery shopping vacancies. Make sure to look out for the two things as I mentioned earlier before signing up with a company.
One Mystery shopping company I found online was GAPBusters, which features assignments from McDonalds, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and more. This company have been in the industry for many years and is one of the legit companies out there.
My experience using this company has been a positive experience, as I have been paid for doing mystery shopper jobs at McDonalds.
However, there seem to be mixed reviews online on GAPBusters, with a mixture of positive and negative reviews. Some negative review included things like not getting paid, account getting closed for no reason, no support from customer service and more. From my experience, I realize that this company tend to delay payment quite a lot, but will still pay in the end.
Their customer support usually does not seem to answer many e-mails as well. However, they do call you from time to time if they need your help with an urgent job, and you can inquire about your problems there to get a better response.
GAPBusters have jobs all around the world, and you are usually dealing with a local team that is in your country. The compensation from this company isn’t a lot, expect about US$6 to US$8 per job on top of what you pay on the average.
You can take a look at a list compilation of over 200 free companies here too.
My Final Thoughts
Mystery shopping is a fun experience, and you get paid for free food and products along the way too. However, the process itself of mystery shopping takes quite a lot of effort as you are required to look out for a lot of details.
One important thing is that you can never reveal yourself as a mystery shopper, and you have to cover the fact that you are one.
It is definitely a good source of income to supplement your main income, as you may get paid for food, groceries and even fuel just to evaluate a service. However, it is impossible to make a full time income from mystery shopping as you are not paid much. Any companies that advertise otherwise are usually scams and you would need to be wary of it.
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