I signed up to be a personal shopper through a website that I found while searching for ways to make some extra cash a year or so back. I was immediately sucked into a world of the Internet that I hadn’t previously known. There are many sites devoted to mystery shopping. Forums with current mystery shoppers, giving ideas and tips on fellow shoppers next trips.
My first assignment was to evaluate the customer service of a store at a local mall. This store caters to a population different than the stores that I, being an upper middle class Italian American from the suburbs, usually shops at. I readily accepted this assignment, thinking it would be an interesting sociology experiment as well as providing the store with the needed customer service information on their employees.
The day that I decided to ‘shop,’ I dressed as I usually did at the time, Abercrombie jeans, a white tee and a buttoned up shirt from a similar store such as Abercrombie. I threw on my Mizunos, my walking around town shoe of choice, and headed to the mall.
The assignment I was given specifically listed that a customer service associate should greet me within a certain amount of time of entering the store. If I wasn’t, I was to make a mental note of the associate’s names.
At this point, I feel it is important to point out that if you, as a mystery shopper, go into a shop, whatever the shop may be, it is important to try and blend in, be yourself, and above all, do not carry a clipboard to take notes. The store employees do not know when mystery shoppers are going to drop in, and from personal experience, I can tell you that it was a dead giveaway when we had a mystery shopper at a grocery store I worked at in high school. This woman would show up with a stopwatch around her neck, a baseball cap and sunglasses indoors (what disguise that was giving, I do not know, aside from maybe letting us know that she was a mystery shopper), and always carried a clipboard.
There are certain questions that you, as a mystery shopper, are required to ask. In my experience on the other end, it was painfully, hilariously obvious that this woman was a mystery shopper, as she would ask a question then immediately write the answer on her clipboard; often asking us to repeat what we had just said. Mystery aspect, begone.
The day I entered the shop, I took a quick glance around and noticed there were two employees on the floor. From passing the store entrance many times before, I knew that this was not uncommon. I headed over to the shoe section, because although these particular shoes were not ones I would wear on a daily basis, I like shoes, and these looked fun.
I was not greeted within the stated amount of time, so I did have to note that. As I was picking up shoes and comparing prices, an employee finally approached me. He was as nice as could be, especially considering I’m sure they don’t get many preppy young adults in their store. He answered all of my questions, even asking me some of his own. It was a pleasure interacting with him, and solely because of that, I later went (not on a mystery shopping mission) and purchased a pair of shoes that he happily rung up for me.
As with most mystery shopping companies that I have come across, there is an online form that needs to be filled out within a certain amount of time after leaving the store.
I immediately went home and filled out the form, noting that while I had not been greeted within the stated time, the employee that helped me out went above and beyond what is expected of a retail store employee. I sent in my form and a month or so later, received the promised compensation for completing the task.
Mystery shopping is not for everyone. The compensation often does not outweigh the work required to travel to a location and then type up the required report afterwards. If a purchase is made, you are required to send in the receipt, which delays payment.
While I wouldn’t rule it out again, it is not something I am currently doing because of the aforementioned items. The pay is not equal or more than it costs me to drive to a store, restaurant, etc, especially with gas at today’s prices. It is a fun way, especially if you bring friends along, to explore new places. Just don’t expect to get rich doing it. If you do decide that mystery shopping is for you, make sure you pay no company upfront, as that is a sure sign of a scam, and go into the experience with the attitude that this is a fun learning experience for all involved.