SurfMerchants Announces the “Uber of Mystery Shopping”

We just got a press release from SurfMerchants, publishers of the Sassie and Presto mystery shopping software platforms.

They’ve just announced their plans for new software that could change the industry dramatically.

Businesses will be able to order “spot check” mystery shops with the press of a few buttons.

Here’s what they sent us:

John Hsu, Managing Partner, SurftMerchants LLC:

This summer we’re running the Spot Check Us promotion, which will let small businesses order a free mobile mystery shop, in as little as two minutes, right from their phones. It’s essentially the “Uber of Mystery Shopping”—hit a few buttons and magically a mystery shop gets performed!

It’s run on our Presto Insta-Shop platform, which empowers shoppers to quickly find, self-assign and complete very short mystery shops, all on their mobile phones. The best part is that they get paid really quickly, within one to four days of the shop’s approval.

All Presto Insta-Shops can be found on We also post SASSIE shops on PrestoMap from over 100 mystery shopping companies, so it’s easy to build a route of SASSIE shops and Insta-Shops.

This past weekend we tested the Spot Check Us program at the National Restaurant Association conference in Chicago, where we talked to 180 restaurant owners and industry people, who were interested in the program. As a result, we expect to see Insta-Shops popping up all over the country, especially for restaurants that have never done mystery shopping before.

We’re covering the entire cost of the promotional Spot Check Us shops, including the shopper fees, which is the most expensive part of the promotion.

Why are we doing this? We believe that this promotion will expand our base of mystery shoppers … and businesses, which buy mystery shops.  We’re really interested in bringing new shoppers to the Presto platform; the kind of shopper who wouldn’t do long, complicated shops, but who WOULD do faster mobile shops. We’re also really interested in marketing mystery shopping services to the kind of businesses, which couldn’t afford a full-fledged mystery shopping program.

Our next step is to branch out beyond the National Restaurant Association crowd and start advertising free Spot Check Us shops for all different kinds of industries (retail, professional services, marketing) and purposes (price audits, compliance checks, merchandising and advertising execution, etc.). This will put a nice volume and variety of Insta-Shops on from which our shoppers can easily choose.

We also are adapting the Spot Check Us promotion for our mystery shopping companies. Since we don’t have any customer service or account management people to talk directly with businesses, we’re not equipped to handle larger volume companies, of which 100% expect a contact they can call and receive advice and set-up assistance. We can, however, help our mystery shopping companies use Spot Check Us to give those kind of prospective clients a really fast, slick, free demonstration of what Insta-Shops can do for their businesses.

So, we’re gearing up for an exciting summer on – I hope that Mystery Shopper Magazine readers and Mystery Shop Forum members will give us a try!

MSM talks briefly to John Hsu:


MSM: What is the projected launch date for Spot Check Us?

John: The National Restaurant Association shops are up and running (and growing in number).
We’ll be branching out into other industries in June.
MSM: Will Spot Check Us only be available in the US?

John: Right now it’s just available in the US and Canada, however once we work out some currency and shopper payment issues, we’ll make it available in more countries.

MSM: Shop Check Us is available to businesses other than those who use the SASSIE platform, correct?

John: It’s available to ANY business, period!

MSM: Who will be marketing Spot Check Us? (How about shoppers promoting the program to local business owners?)


John: Initially, it will be us marketing to small businesses; our mystery shopping company partners marketing to medium and large businesses; and yes, we’re certainly open to shoppers advising local businesses to give it a try!

MSM: Are new clients limited to ONE free Insta-Shop demonstration shop?


John: Yes – I should have pointed that out! We have yet to figure out to turn infinite free mystery shops into a sustainable business model … but when we do, look out world!!!  🙂

MSM: Just wondering……If one of the goals of Spot Check Us is to attract small, independent businesses, isn’t SurfMerchants now essentially switching philosophies to “collecting guppies” instead of “growing sharks”? (See


John: Good question! The answer is YES, if the guppies come to US and can take care of themselves, but NO if we have to go running each one down and pamper each one. That’s why the “Uber” model is so important – make it so easy for people to use that they can take care of themselves.

Of course, we know some sharks will fall into our net – and that’s why we really need our mystery shopping company partners on-board, since they have the harpoons to land those beasts … and now I’ve reached the limit of my fish analogies!


MSM: John, thank you for interrupting your busy, long holiday weekend to bring us this scoop and for being so gracious and talking with us further.

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