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Mystery Shopper

Being a mystery shopper (or secret shopper) can be a fun and interesting form of self employment. Many companies hire outside organizations to obtain customer experience and impression information because of the need to quickly cover a large number of stores and/or collecting information without the local employees realizing they are being evaluated. Frequently, the mystery shopper is given specific guidelines of where to go, what to do or buy, and then reimbursed for their expenses when they file their written report.

Work assignments let you shop, eat, watch movies, etc., at the company's expense in addition to your compensation. Some assignments can include doing display set-up work for upcoming promotions. In general, mystery shoppers can pick and choose their assignments to fit their own interests, schedule, and pay rate. However, choice assignments are often taken quickly, so you must be aggressive about watching for opportunities and then develop a reputation for reliability and quality work.

Before you sign up to be a mystery shopper, here are some areas that would be helpful to fully understand to avoid any confusion or disappointment in the future:

  • Since most mystery shoppers are in large cities and metropolitan areas, consider how far and how expensive it would be to get to the various businesses. If a sizeable amount of time and money is needed, you may not want to take a particular job. There may be other reasons, such as being uncomfortable with the specific behavior needed or going to unfamiliar areas, that may cause you to decline a job. It is helpful to know what effect, if any, turning down a job will have on future job assignments.
  • Another area to fully understand is how and how much you will be reimbursed for your expenses. You can always return an article of clothing and get your money back, but if you have to eat a meal or get a beauty treatment, who pays for that? Knowing ahead of time will help you determine if you accept the job or not.
  • It is important to understand what the company expects of you, what behavior is needed, and what questions you need to ask when performing the job, plus what specific information is needed in the report to them. Detailed and clear instructions about what is expected with deadlines and payment schedules will eliminate a report being rejected as incomplete, inadequate or paid at a different rate. Companies that offer a training session that answer these and other questions before you start to work for them are definitely worth considering, but be very cautious about companies that require you to pay a fee to get lists or otherwise access opportunities: most credible firms do not make this a requirement.

  • One last area; know the state laws regarding mystery shoppers in the state(s) you will be working in. Some states require a private investigator's license or have other requirements/restrictions, so it is best to be aware of them to avoid any possible legal problems.

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