Fashion Week continues at The Frugalista Files and up next on our virtual runway is "mystery shopping." I am a frugal capitalist, cutting expenses while looking for ways to earn an extra buck. During this holiday season, some of us may be cash strapped, so mystery shopping is a way to earn some extra loot. Businesses want to make sure that they are offering great customer service, so they hire regular people to shop in their establishments and give an honest critique.
Here is some information about mystery shopping from Market Force Information, a company that’s big in the mystery shopper field:
* What exactly is mystery shopping?
o Mystery shopping is the practice of using experienced independent contractors to anonymously evaluate customer service, operations, merchandising, product quality and other elements of the consumer’s in-store experience.
o Mystery shoppers are objective and provide a snapshot of the consumer experience, using facts rather than opinions when evaluating service. The shoppers follow a questionnaire with criteria developed by the mystery shopping provider and the client.
* If someone wants to become a mystery shopper, what’s the process — and what specifically are the key criteria?
o Sign-up on-line – www.marketforce.com or go to www.mysteryshop.org for list of reputable firms.
o Men and women of all ages and all backgrounds are mystery shoppers
o Key criteria include:
+ Integrity and reliability
+ Attention to detail
+ Exceptional recall of observations
+ Good follow-through on commitments
+ Strong writing skills
+ Basic computer knowledge is also needed
* This is an industry filled with scams – how can they be avoided?
o Bottom-line…good common sense prevails: if it’s too good to be true, then it’s probably not true….
+ NEVER pay to be a shopper — Mystery shopping companies will not charge you to complete an application.
+ Only out-of-pocket cash outlays or small purchases associated with the shop (e.g. buying a burger) are reimbursed.
+ Although some shopper fees can be higher (e.g. banking shops, higher-end dining, etc.), the typical shopper fee is $10-20 per shop…be cautious of larger amounts.
+ Be wary of unsolicited requests to become a mystery shopper sent through the mail or via e-mail.
+ Avoid companies that require shoppers to be certified – it generally involves a fee which is bad.
+ Avoid the promise of keeping expensive merchandise.
+ Avoid the guarantee of getting jobs — although there are lots of projects, there are no guarantees.
+ Be wary of the promise it will only take a few minutes.
* What industries use it the most?
o Multi-location consumer-focused businesses including:
+ Restaurant and Hospitality
+ Drug and Grocery
+ Convenience Store and Petroleum
+ Banking and Finance
+ Consumer Packaged Goods
Are you working an extra job this holiday? Are you out of work and need a job? Have your worked as a mystery shopper? How was the secret shopping experience?