So how does this really work?
Well, there are actually a ton of different mystery shopping companies that are legitimate, and I do mean a ton, and they all have their own little rules and are set up differently. But it usually goes something like this: You sign up to be a shopper. If there are assignments available that are close to you, you might be contacted or you can log on to the website to see if there are any shops you know you can do.
If you're accepted to do a shop, you might go to visit a store or restaurant and take detailed notes on your experience — how clean the place is, the service you received, and all kinds of other little things. It all depends on what the mystery shopping company wants to know. You might also be asked to make a purchase under a certain dollar amount. This might be money that you have to come up with out of pocket initially, but they will reimburse you for it as long as you keep your receipt as directed and scan/submit it to them. After you visit the store, you send them your notes and your receipt, and they will usually compensate you for whatever you bought plus a flat rate for doing the shop.
Is it free to sign up to be a mystery shopper?
It should always be, yes. If you come across a company that asks you to pay a fee to become a shopper, this is likely a scam and you should stay far far away! Do not ever pay to sign up to do mystery shopping. I have several sites that are legit I'm going to share with you below to get started, and these are all free to sign up.
Is this going to make you rich?
No, it sure won't. It doesn't make anybody rich, but people still like to do it because it's a way to get out of the house, get something for free, and also get paid. There are people who are able to make around $500 per month mystery shopping, and then there are some who only make $20 to $50 a month. It all depends on how much you participate. Also, your chances of making more money are greater if you are registered with several different panels.
What about if you live in a very small town with few stores?
If you live in a small town, then you are likely not going to get as many shops to do as someone who lives in a larger town with lots of stores and restaurants. This doesn't mean you won't get any, but it does mean that you may have to drive a fair distance away sometimes to do the shops. But if you happen to be leaving town anyway, it might be a good idea to see if there are any shops available to do where you're going.
What are Gold and Silver Certified mystery shoppers?
The MPSA (Mystery Shopping Provider's Association) offers this certification to people who are serious about mystery shopping. Supposedly, you can take a test to become either a silver- or gold-certified mystery shopper and this *may* make you a more desirable candidate for getting selected for shops than people who are not certified. It does cost a little money to become certified (gold more than silver) but it's not required at all to do mystery shopping, it's just something that some people who are really serious about mystery shopping and get really involved in it choose to do. Here is a link with more information on these certifications, what they mean, what they cost, etc.
What happens if you sign up to do a shop and then don't follow through with the shop?
If something happens out of your control, the mystery shopping company will likely be understanding. But if there's a way to let them know in advance that you can't make a shop, you should. They are running a business, and it would help them out a lot to let them know you can't do a shop so they can find someone else to replace you. You should look at it in the same way as you would any job you were doing. If you couldn't make it to work, you'd call in. Treat this the same way if possible.
OK — so where can you sign up?
Keep in mind there are tons of places! But here are a few to get you started:
- About Face
- Shopper's View
- Grass Roots Mystery Shopping
- Shoppers Inc.
- A Closer Look
- Service Intelligence
- Second to None
You can find a larger list of companies here. Good luck!