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Friday, August 12th
Sinclair Customer Metrics has been around since 1987. They don't come out and tell you much about their mystery shopping opportunities prior to going through the application process, other than the fact that their clients may include restaurants, retailers, banks, car dealerships and "other businesses" .
1-month delay on payments
Since there's no information immediately available about Sinclair's secret shopper program, we went ahead with the application process to learn more. It starts by asking for your name and email address, plus the desired password for your account. The next page is a lengthy explanation of how SCM works. That's where we noticed an important detail about payments: "Paychecks are generated with a one-month delay. For example, shops completed in January will be paid [sic] the middle of March." Keep that in mind as you consider which mystery shopping company you want to join.
Application starts out simple
The second page is your Independent Contractor Agreement. The language is fairly standard, but you'll want to read it carefully if this is your first time working as a 1099 contractor (as opposed to a W-2 employee on a salary-based or hourly job). The rest of the application is short, essentially asking for your contact information and basic demographics (age, ethnicity). You'll be assigned a Shopper ID number; we recommend writing that down while you wait for your email confirmation from Sinclair.
More questions to answer
But wait - there's more! Now that you've got your ID number, you'll be asked for even more demographic details - for Sinclair's own data collection and for the purpose of matching you with assignments. These questions range from the basics like what languages you speak and where you work, to more interesting fill-in-the-blank sections asking you to describe your best or worst shopping experience. You can also upload your photo but that's optional.
Enter zip codes where you'd like to mystery shop
Finally, you will reach the page for adding your available zip codes. The easiest route is to put in your home zip code and then the distance from there you're interested in doing mystery shopping. You're not limited to that, though: if you frequently visit your family out of state, your significant other lives in another metro area and you've got free time when you're there, you name it - that can be an area where you're willing to perform evaluations.
Not as many job types as we expected
We live in a mid-size metro area, and there were seven available shops within 35 miles of our chosen zip code at the time of this review. They were all valet parking at various locations of the regional healthcare system, paying $7 for the evaluation and reimbursing $12 for the parking. You're not going to get rich at that rate, but if you needed to visit one of those offices anyway, at least you'd get your valet parking paid for and a little on top of that in exchange for your evaluation.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of the mystery shopping opportunites offered by Sinclair Customer Metrics include Restaurants, Retailers, Banks, Convenience stores, Supermarkets, and Auto dealerships.
Some jobs might be available outside of your results
Below our matching mystery shops, there was a long list of other towns and states where Sinclair needed help. They were also asking for Spanish/English bilingual people from particular states to contact them regarding opportunities that weren't in their primary listings.
"A+" to "Not Rated" from the BBB
We thought it was strange that the Better Business Bureau declined to rate Sinclair Customer Metrics, citing insufficient information. Even after 35 years in operation? The BBB had given this mystery shopping company an "A+" at the time of our previous review, so we're not sure what changed.
Not the best or the worst mystery shopping company
There's just not a lot to say about Sinclair Customer Metrics. They might have shops in your area - or they might not (hey, at least they had a few. Some of the mystery shopping companies we evaluated had zero to show.). This is far from being the most popular, talked-about company for up-and-coming mystery shoppers, but at least there are jobs and someone is answering the phone at headquarters. You could keep Sinclair as a backup if you don't find a better opportunity with another service.
In today's economy, everyone's got a side hustle, from making crafts to sell on Etsy to delivering people's takeout meals. What if you could get paid to eat at your favorite restaurant, get your oil changed, or scope out the newest coffee shop in town? That's what hundreds of thousands of mystery shoppers have been doing - for decades.
This is no "here today, gone tomorrow" gig: companies have relied on the intel gathered by mystery shoppers to get first-hand perspective on their signage, customer service experience, product quality and more. What does it take to be a "secret shopper" ? Attention to detail is crucial: some evaluations may have just a few aspects to track (like cleanliness of an entryway and a particular ad's signage), but others require more.
For example, some mystery shopping programs require you to keep track of specific times and names of salespeople while discreetly snapping photos and not blowing your cover as an everyday customer. And yes, a little bit of acting skills can go a long way when doing a mystery shop, since you may have to pretend to be very interested in that new cell phone plan, hot menu item, or fancy new construction home. Other than that, as long as you look at mystery shopping as a fun way to make some money and not as a career, you should have no trouble succeeding as an evaluator.
A word of caution: mystery shopping companies' names are often used to target victims in money laundering scams. Most of today's secret shopping platforms make payments via PayPal, and never in advance of doing a shop; you won't be "invited" to be a mystery shopper with a $1900 cashier's check in the mail. If you receive anything like that, you should contact the company through the toll-free number on their website and ask how they would like you to go about reporting it to the authorities (such as the Federal Trade Commission or the police department). And, whatever you do, DON'T CASH THAT CHECK.
It's also important to realize that you should never be asked to pay to be a mystery shopper. In the past, some less-than-reputable websites have offered to "unlock the secrets" of mystery shopping for a membership fee or one-time payment - when in reality, all you get is a list of secret shopper companies (like the ones we've evaluated here, for free).
Enough about the tricky stuff: let's move on to choosing a mystery shopping company to get you started. Here are several factors to help you pick where to begin:
TopConsumerReviews.com has sorted through today's most popular mystery shopping programs, to give you the information you need to get started on your new side gig. We hope this helps you choose a company that's the right fit for you. Have fun being a "secret shopper" !
Select any 2 Mystery Shopping Companies to compare them head to head