I dabbled briefly in mystery shopping in 2009, which I should not really count, since I had no idea what I was doing and it was such a short-lived venture. My specialty was Maritz and whatever they dared to send my way.
Fast forward, four years later: We relocated from the frozen tundra of Illinois and bought ourselves a little piece of paradise in sunny Florida. Amazingly, Maritz welcomed me back with open arms. No more dabbling for me. This time I was serious. Slowly and methodically, I signed up with new companies and expanded my repertoire. Along the way, I also stumbled across the Mystery Shop Forum. The Forum alone has turned out to be the most educational and invaluable resource for me thanks to the generosity of the members!
I love mystery shopping because of the flexibility it allows, the new experiences it offers and the satisfying feeling found in creating the perfect backstory. There are also numerous intangible benefits which I have yet to hear anyone mention, so allow me to name a couple. If you want to opt out of attending an upcoming social engagement, it provides a perfect excuse, “Oh, I’m sorry, but I have three shops scheduled that day. No can do.” If you don’t want to talk to a caller, it enables you to say, “Hey, I’d love to talk to you now, however I am in the midst of submitting reports. Can I call you back tomorrow?” Over time, these skills become so refined, the words just roll off your tongue.
On my “Ten Foot Pole” aka “You Could Not Pay Me Enough” list are grocery store out-of-stock audits, repo lot insurance verifications, the infamous IKEA shop, purchase and return assignments, funeral home calls and any shop which requires taking a discreet photo of the associate.
My “Five Foot Pole” aka “If the Fee or Bonus is High Enough, I Could Be Bought” list includes fast food restaurants, select gas station and grocery store audits and furniture and mattress shops.
“Shops I Do For the Going Rate” aka “My Faves” are business verifications, apartment rental and new home sales assignments, Medicare presentations, employee reward shops, income tax and cell phone audits and hair salon visits.
My favorite mystery shopping companies are Maritz, TrendSource, Second to None, Market Force, CIMA, InTouch Insight, Harland Clarke and Customer Impact. The commonality among these companies is that their fees are usually commensurate with the amount work required, the staff is helpful and friendly and they all pay like clockwork.
In the interest of full disclosure: I have a love/hate relationship with the Mystery Shopper Magazine. When it lands in my email, its allure is so irresistible and so much stronger than finishing a “paint us a picture” narrative that it has caused me all sorts of pain.