Company Overview: Mystery shoppers were among the interested and curious audience tuning into their television sets when a new reality series made its debut in spring of 2012 on Food Network. The show, called “Mystery Diners”, led many to believe that this series would be about mystery shopping in the restaurant industry, especially since a mystery shopping company was involved in the project.
Mystery shoppers were disappointed to learn that this series was more of an undercover sting operation than anything resembling traditional mystery shopping experiences. Even still, mystery shoppers on the lookout for new opportunities wanted to know which mystery shopping company was part of the series and if the company offered the more standard shopping assignments.
The company that was part of the Food Network project was Mystery Shopper Services. This business, founded by Charles Stiles in 1996, is headquartered in Arroyo Grande, California. Mystery Shopper Services is a division of Business Evaluation Services. MSS has been a member of the MSPA since 2001.
MSS states that assignment opportunities are available throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Puerto Rico. Among the types of assignments that this company does evaluations for are restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos, banking, specialty retail, health clubs, theme parks, and auto sales. The names of a few highly recognizable clients are mentioned on their website.
Speaking of the website, I encountered a few glitches when completing the research for this article. At least four links were dead.
Payments are made 45 business days from date of approval of the assignment via PayPal. That payment policy seems a bit vague, as there is no telling when an assignment will finish going through the review and editing process. Couple that with the company specifying business days, and it would be difficult if not impossible for a shopper to nail down when they could realistically expect a payment.
Comments on www.mysteryshopforum.com reflect this. Several shoppers complained that this is one of the slowest paying mystery shopping companies in the industry.
Others complained that even though they have been signed up with the company for a long time, they have never been awarded an assignment. It is also relevant to note that MSS has not posted assignments on the forum job board in over a year, although previously they had done so regularly.
It had also been mentioned that it was not easy to communicate with the company when needed.
On the positive side, shoppers state that they enjoy working with their schedulers and find the company to be fair and reliable. Reporting is said to be simple.
Although there wasn’t much discussion on the forum about this mystery shopping company, MSS lists a lengthy page of glowing testimonials from shoppers on its website.
I was annoyed by the logic loops I got caught up in when signing up with Mystery Shopper Services. This company uses the iSecretShop software platform. Some mystery shoppers have also stated their confusion with this, and some have thought that the software is actually a mystery shopping company in and of itself. It isn’t.
The platform is altogether too cutesy for my tastes, using terms like “Agent Control Panel” and “Missions”. However, I could deal with that without complaint if the signup process were straightforward. Go to www.mysteryshopperservices.com and click on “Become A Shopper” followed by “Register Now”. Each part of the application is under a separate tab, making it tedious to complete. It’s not user friendly or easy to understand.