My first exposure to mystery shopping was my parents taking us kids out to fancy restaurants as secret shoppers. We later moved to Indiana, where the restaurants weren't quite as fancy, and my parents quit "shopping". Always a lover of things free, I decided to get into shopping after moving to Provo, UT to attend BYU.
Online, though, mystery shopping has morphed into something much different than my parents faced! It is easy to find companies, but difficult to find legitimate ones with local jobs. For that reason, I will be posting some of the tips and tricks I've learned over the 6 years I've been doing this, as well as some of the best companies I've found to work for.
First, some basic guidelines for beginners.
#1: Never Pay to Shop. If a company asks you to pay for access to shops, it is a fraud.
#2: Adjust your expectations. Mystery shopping is not a way to earn money. A good job will give an ample reimbursement and then a small fee that covers your gas, printing paperwork, and your time filling out the report. Many jobs will just pay a small fee and smaller reimbursement. Very rarely will your time be compensated more than $8/hr. For this reason, I only sign up for jobs that I would love to do anyway (going to a movie, restaurant, or shopping at a favorite store) or that have a large bonus attached.
#3: Get organized. As you apply for companies, keep a list (I use a Google Word Document so I have easy access wherever I am). This is important to do as you will likely need to sign up for several companies (I am signed up with about 30) in order to find and get the jobs you want.
Here is an example entry:
Mystery Shopping Company#4: Check early, check often. Sometimes companies will send out email notifications when jobs are posted in your area. Most won't. It is a pain, but every week or so go through your list and check each job board. By taking notes when you find jobs, you'll learn when the jobs you like get posted.
Burger King, Red Robin, Icing*
Jobs posted 4/10, 5/16, 6/12 **
Link to job board
Username, Password ***
Status: Waiting for Payment for Icing review completed 9/24
* A list of businesses they shop you might be interested in
** Anytime you see a job posted, log the date. Chances are they will post the job around the same time next month. Log in at that time to get first pick.
*** Frequently, companies will assign you a username and password. Keep it written down right by your link to log in and you are ready to go.
Those are your basic steps to getting started. Stay tuned tomorrow to learn how to find companies to sign up with and a list of my favorites. Let me know if you have any questions!
Companies to Sign Up For:
Part I * Part II * Part III