Written by Michael C
I started shopping in late 2011, or maybe it was 2010. I have changed the story so many times, I honestly don’t remember. I had heard over the years that legit mystery shopper work existed. I didn’t bother to look until a friend, who is an attorney, told me she was doing fine dining shops and it was all smooth sailing and following seas. About the same time my daughter in law started talking about all the fun and easy new car shops she was doing. This was enough to convince me to finally give it a try.
My first shop was at a new car dealership. My instructions, stated in part, to set up a follow up appointment, flake, then report on how the salesman handled it. I couldn’t sleep that night and felt like a heel. When he called, I told him everything. I told him I was going to write him a good report and never shop again. It was all down hill from there. In the next six months, I was stiffed by Freeman and Franchise Compliance, and found myself crying in the parking lot of Ikea at closing time.
Actually, it wasn’t all bad. I kept finding jobs and, more importantly, kept finding promises of bigger and better things to come. The bigger and better (big ticket dinners, casinos, and fat last minute bonuses) trickled in just enough to keep my interest and keep my mind off all the ways I was being directed to ignore the moral standards that are considered fair game by the industry. This twisted road has led to a place where I can cheerfully ignore the rules of big business (this email is for the exclusive use of the intended recipient), big government (employees and ticketed passengers only beyond this point) and tinpot dictators (photography in this facility for purposes other than recreational are prohibited).
My daughter in law no longer shops. The attorney friend was tragically backed over by an ambulance. I am still going strong. I sleep at night because I make my best effort to help the people at the bottom-the people I am evaluating, without creating a paradox or unusable report. If I have to report failure, I do so in the best possible light. This seems to sit well with the companies which hire me. I have never had a report rejected due to content, and the only company to deactivate me is one that I never did any work for. Who knows, maybe the mystery shopping companies are just that desperate for men.
My area is the high rent triangle between Baltimore, Annapolis, and DC. My funny little alphanumeric code is gold. My writing samples are totally fabricated. My favorite shop is the one that pays the most. My favorite company is A Closer Look. This is interesting because ACL rarely actually provides any “pay”. I don’t have any pet peeves. There is something to love and loathe in everything.
My “number one tip”? Read. Not just what the MS companies tell you to read. Read the prospective client side and see what kind of promises they are making about you. Read the blogs and forums of your targets. Read the MS forums, but don’t believe everything, particularly when I write it. This is a wild, unregulated industry where risk is rewarded, but there is no one for the mystery shopper to call for help. You eat what you kill.