Mystery shopping (sometimes called secret shopping) is an excellent way to make extra money. It is very easy to do, you need no previous experience, no special knowledge and no expensive equipment. Mystery shopping can be performed by anyone who is able to go shopping. The mystery shopping companies employ men and women of all ages and descriptions as secret shoppers in order to obtain feedback from a wide range of different people on a wide range of services. Some mystery shopping assignments have to be undertaken by people who are accompanied by children in order to report back on specific facilities in places such as theme parks or family restaurants. (If you don’t have children of your own in the right age group, don’t worry: you are allowed to borrow them from relatives or friends.) If you enjoy shopping, mystery shopping will be a fun way for you to make extra money.
Mystery shopping consists of getting paid to go into a business (eg a shop or restaurant), without the employees knowing that you are anything other than an ordinary shopper, and reporting back to the mystery shopping company. A focus group is when you get paid to sit down with other people who are also getting paid and discuss new products or services, many focus groups are actually held online, so you don’t even have to leave home for carry out the assignment.
The reason mystery shopping companies and survey companies exist is to provide companies with impartial feedback on their employees, products and services. That way they can see where there might be problems and make the necessary changes to improve things.
Mystery shopping companies will pay you to shop, eat at restaurants, have a drink at a bar, visit the cinema, take a trip and take part in focus groups. If you are sent out to do mystery shopping, you might be required to visit a particular shop and just make enquiries about an article to test the staff’s customer service level but, if you are instructed to make a purchase, you are allowed to keep the articles and will be reimbursed for the cost. If you are sent to do mystery shopping at a restaurant or bar, you will be given a budget figure to spend on your food and drink and that money will be reimbursed to you by the mystery shopping company on top of your fee for the assignment. You might be asked to sample new products and these items will be sent to you free of charge. As part of your mystery shopping, you might find yourself receiving free samples to test of anything from detergent to chocolate. (This can also happen if you join survey companies.)
Mystery shopping jobs are obviously easier to find if you live in or near a fair sized town where there are a large number of shops, restaurants etc but, if you live in a rural area, you can still earn money taking part in online focus groups which can be found through online paid survey companies.
After you do a mystery shopping assignment you answer some questions on a form provided by the mystery shopping company and file your report with them. These reports are usually set up as a series of questions with a box for you to add any relevant details the company might request. The reports can usually be completed very quickly and it is best to complete your report straight after you finish your mystery shopping so that you don’t forget any detail. Some mystery shopping companies require you to report to them by phone immediately after you have completed the mystery shopping assignment but, generally, the companies expect you to submit a written report by post or email.
The way to approach mystery shopping is to remember that basically you are like a reporter. You must never add your feelings or recommendations to a mystery shopping report. Your job is to just answer the questions, report the facts and describe what actually happened during your mystery shopping expedition.
If you accept a mystery shopping assignment but then are unable to complete it, make sure you immediately notify the mystery shopping company so that they can make alternative arrangements to avoid letting down their client.