Forum Alias: Sandi Aigo
How long have you been Mystery Shopping? It’s been 14 years.
Where are you shopping? I work in a major metropolitan area “In the Middle”!
What got you started? A relative asked me to shop the family restaurant on his day off, but I never looked into it as a job until I saw a newspaper article about how to get mystery shopping jobs. After my Dad died, I took some time off from my job and tackled to-do list items, one of which was to pull out the article. Before mystery shopping was on the internet, there was a national directory of shoppers and merchandisers. The article explained how contractors got listed in it so that companies could contact them. There was a one-time fee for a lifetime listing. My first assignment covered that fee and repaid it thousands of times over.
What was your first assignment and how did it go? My very first assignment was not a shop. Shortly after I registered in the directory, a company called me and asked if I would be interested in doing an audit. I thought it might be a scam, but I took a chance. The fee was the exact amount that I paid for the directory listing. Fourteen years later, I am still auditing. My first mystery shopping assignment was for a bookstore. I made a list of all of the details that I had to check and kept it in a portfolio so that I could pretend to be working in the café while I kept track of what I was doing. It went very smoothly and I received high praise for my report, so I was hooked!
What is your favorite type of assignment? The fun and easy ones, of course! Seriously, I like grocery stores, gas stations with lottery tickets (when I hit big, I’m having everyone over for soup!), some restaurants, demos, casinos and anything with a big bonus. However, I make most of my money doing various types of audits and merchandising. I dislike the tedium of cell phone and bank shops and stay away from those unless there is a high fee.
What kind of assignment haven’t you tried out yet? Considering that there is a dry ice company and an adult bookstore on my resume, I don’t think I’ve missed many types of assignments. I haven’t done, and don’t know if I’m interested in, a time share shop.
What’s your #1 tip for other shoppers? Don’t flake! When you take a job, commit to it! It is amazing what a good reputation can do for you in this business. Don’t overbook . Be realistic about how long a job will take. I have never flaked on a job because I keep my calendar organized. I have a set of different colored pens that I use to schedule my shops. I use a different color for every shop and note the time frame, date range, company and location. The colors make every job stand out on my calendar so that I don’t miss something.
What is your biggest pet peeve with mystery shopping? What a loaded question! My list includes, but is not limited to: Guidelines that are inaccurate or confusing, repetitive reports, critical editors who write poorly themselves, schedulers who don’t—or won’t—communicate with you and retail shops that require a return but don’t pay for the extra work.
What’s your favorite MSC? As I’ve said many times on the Forum, my area is very competitive and it has recently become even more so. I hate to seem rude or selfish, but I feel that it’s in my best interest not to advertise my favorite companies. I will say that my current favorite does some very different types of jobs, mostly web-related. The staff is accessible and they work with shoppers to overcome issues. The pay is good to exceptional and on time, too!
MSPA Certification: I have been Gold Certified for 10 years. It was an all day seminar and not available on the internet. It has definitely been worth it for me because I was immediately accepted for shops that I could not get before the certification and I was offered better jobs that were only available to Gold Certified shoppers.