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Mystery Shopping FAQ's

Saturday, July 24th

Mystery Shopping FAQ's

Following are some of the top Frequently Asked Questions about mystery shopping jobs.

Question: What is the difference between a mystery shopper and a secret shopper?

Answer: Both terms are commonly used in the mystery shopping industry and both carry the same meaning. A mystery shopper, also known as a secret shopper, poses as a customer in order to evaluate a business's product or service.

Question: I live in a rural area and there aren't a lot of mystery shopping opportunities available to me. Is there any way that I can earn money at home as a secret shopper?

Answer: Yes. Today, everything is computerized and this includes many businesses. A number of companies look to mystery shoppers to help in evaluating an online business, which actually gives you more freedom as you work from home and often have time for additional jobs.

Question: Can I really make money by being a secret shopper? Why would anyone pay me to shop?

Answer: Yes, you can actually make decent money in your spare time as a mystery shopper. The truth is that companies are willing to pay for a professional, third-party evaluation that will offer some insight into how they can improve their business. Not only will companies pay you to shop, but you will often get to keep the products used in your evaluation at no cost. If you are instructed to purchase something during your mystery shopping assignment, you will likely be reimbursed and will still be permitted to keep the product(s).

Question: How much money can I make as a mystery shopper?

Answer: The answer to this question will vary greatly and is dependent upon a number of factors, including the type of job, the time spent during the evaluation, the company's policy on pay rates and how many jobs you accept within a specific amount of time. Some people use mystery shopping as a way to earn extra money in their spare time, while others have turned it into a career. These individuals are called professional shoppers and they are dedicated to evaluating as many businesses as possible, while maintaining a professional assessment and a thorough review.

Question: If I am a mystery shopper, who is my employer?

Answer: Mystery shoppers are independent contractors, which means they are self-employed. As such, they are responsible for reporting and paying income taxes on any income that they earn. As a mystery shopper, you may be entitled to certain tax deductions, which may include health insurance, office furniture and supplies, a computer, fax machine, internet costs, etc.

Question: How can I recognize a legitimate mystery shopping opportunity versus a scam?

Answer: Genuine mystery shopping programs will not promise you overnight riches and will never guarantee you a job. Mystery shoppers are hired as needed and anyone that promises you otherwise is questionable at best. A legitimate mystery shopping position will always be clear about payment rates and methods. If you have the opportunity, take the time to read independent reviews relating to mystery shopping companies. In reading another's experience or evaluation of a mystery shopping company, you may gain valuable insight and be better equipped to choose your next career move wisely.

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Mystery Shopping Company FAQ

Mystery shopping, sometimes referred to as "secret shopping" , is the way that many businesses get information about how their stores, offices or locations are doing with respect to customer service. Are the employees friendly? Are the proper signs displayed for a holiday promotion? Companies contract with mystery shopping providers that send in "secret shoppers" , who pretend to be there as a regular customer but are actually taking notes on their experience. Does that sound like fun? It is!
There's really no limit to the types of "mystery shops" you might have the chance to complete. You could visit a restaurant and place a specific order, go to a movie theater and see how clean the restrooms are, or even ship a package at the post office. Some mystery shops require you to buy a product and return it later, to evaluate how well the employee handles the transaction on both ends.
You'll get a lengthy series of instructions for each mystery shop assigned to you. In order to get paid, you'll need to follow those details to the letter. Common requirements are noting the time it takes to be approached by a salesperson, how long you wait in line to ring up your purchase, or the number of customers present at a particular time of day. You might also be asked to take photos or video (as surreptitiously as possible!).
It shouldn't! Reputable mystery shopping services allow you to register as an independent contractor at no cost to you. If you see a website that asks you to pay to become a secret shopper, you'll know it's not on the up-and-up. In fact, they're probably just going to give you a list of the real mystery shopping companies that you could have signed up for without their help!
That varies widely. Some shops only pay you a small amount of money, because you get to keep the product (or eat the meal, or see the movie, etc.). If a shop is high-priority - because it's time-sensitive, or maybe another shopper cancelled at the last minute - you could get a bonus payment. It's unlikely you'll make a living as a mystery shopper, but it could put some spending money in your pockets, give you a free date night, or provide you with some fun merchandise at no cost.
Yes, most of the time. Mystery shopping is always done on a 1099 (independent contractor) basis, and most providers understand that their secret shoppers will be working with more than one service at a time. But, during the sign-up process, be sure to read all of the requirements of the company where you're applying, just to make sure there aren't any non-compete clauses that would prohibit you from working for a rival service.
You want to avoid that happening at all costs! Think of mystery shopping as an acting role: you're not really "you" , but rather someone that could be an everyday customer at the store. If you're outed as a mystery shopper before you've finished gathering the required information, it could invalidate the entire job - and you won't get paid.
While there are absolutely some scammy services and sites out there, who just want to get your money in exchange for a list of mystery shopping opportunities, the industry itself is absolutely legitimate - and used by most of the big-name corporations you know to gather insights on their many locations nationwide. There's even a certification process you can participate in, which may boost your chances of being accepted by a mystery shopping provider and then landing more shops. Check to see if a mystery shopping company is a member of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Professionals Association) before you register: it's a good sign that you've chosen a trustworthy, established service to start your adventure as a secret shopper!
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