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Mystery Shopping Basics

“Get paid to shop!” Sound too good to be true? Well, if you envision buying everything you’ve ever wanted and getting paid for it, then it is too good to be true. But, mystery shopping can be a legitimate small business, a part-time “job”, or a fun hobby, depending on your situation.

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping, also called “secret shopping” is a way for companies to ensure that their policies are being followed “when the bosses are not around”, if you will. Many companies use mystery shoppers to ensure that their stores are clean, their employees friendly and that their standards are being met.

What companies use Mystery Shopping?

They really run the gamut from restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores to electronics and other retail stores, and services such as banks, mortgage loan companies and home repair companies. Other assignments offered might be demonstrating products or doing electronic or telephone shops.

How do you find Mystery Shopping Gigs?

There are usually third-party companies who manage mystery shopping, although some companies do it themselves. You can find several third-party companies online. They screen applicants, accept them into their program, and then assign shops and process the reports and payments. Some of these companies charge fees for shoppers to join their service, but most reputable companies do not, and many experts recommend never paying a fee.

Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) offers certification programs for shoppers. While often recommended, it is not required to get assignments.

How does Mystery Shopping work?

When you sign up with a company, you fill out an application listing your “qualifications” and any experience you may have. You may take a short course on the basics of mystery shopping, and then take a quiz to make sure you understand the material. Once accepted, you will be allowed access to a list of available shops that you may apply for. You can also sign up for email notification of jobs in your area. If selected, you are sent the criteria for doing the shop and submitting your report.

What are the requirements?

Most companies require shoppers to be at least 18 years old, own a computer with internet access (almost all reporting is done online), and be able to complete the assignments you get on time and complete reports correctly.

Being able to use proper grammar, give facts and not opinions, and most importantly, getting those reports in on time is a key to not only getting repeat assignments but also in getting paid. Some companies will not pay for a shop if your report is incomplete or late.

You must also remain anonymous. You cannot let anyone know you are “shopping” them, even if they ask.

Sometimes, companies need pictures or video, so a digital camera or video recorder could come in handy, and help you qualify for these shops. Ditto for audio recorders and other supplies and equipment. These requirements will always be listed in the requirement for the shop, so be sure to check the requirements before you apply for these shops.

How do you get paid?

You are either paid a flat fee or are reimbursed for your expenses. Some jobs pay a combination – a small fee and reimbursement for certain expenses. You send copies of your receipts in to the company by fax, mail or email. Some will send a check, and others require you to have a Paypal account.

Since you are not an “employee”, but an independent contractor, you will be able to deduct your expenses on your tax return. For example, you can deduct your mileage to get to and from the shop, any fees you pay to the service, and any other related expenses, such as postage for mailing receipts. Check with your tax advisor for specifics and for other possible deductions.

For more information on how to become a mystery shopper:

Click Here to Discover How to Become a Mystery Shopper

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Content copyright © 2013 by Deborah Crawford. All rights reserved.
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