I started mystery shopping during a time when I was between full-time jobs six years ago. After researching the subject online, I discovered the MSPA and their list of companies. As you might imagine, I signed up for a few and searched the job boards. The first shops I did included many gas stations and retail outlets from companies including About Face, CoRI (now called Expert Solutions), and Service Intelligence. As I learned, I made my share of mistakes and had to do a few re-shops.
When I landed a day job shortly after that I decided to continue to mystery shop because I liked the flexibility and rewards this business can offer and I have been shopping part-time ever since. As my list of MSPs grew, I was accepted for work for more demanding assignments with Amusement Advantage, Coyle and Ardent. Restaurants were attractive for me because of my years of experience in restaurants as a server and bartender. I found the more demanding assignments, especially those with significant narratives, to be rewarding when given a high grade.
Next, I found the forums and started learning more about this profession. I found especially valuable the information about MSPs and certain of shops that allowed me to make informed decisions to apply or stay away. Later, I found myself able to contribute with answers or experiences to add to the body of knowledge available for perusal. Today, I use the forums to add to my knowledge and share what I know with others. I also enjoy mentoring shoppers on the forums and hope they find my assistance valuable.
I have done more than 1,000 shops and find that I gravitate toward those that could be called purchase shops rather than role playing shops. These are when you go to purchase something rather than mostly evaluate the salesmanship of an employee without making a purchase. My favorite types of shops include restaurants, convenience stores, oil change shops, supermarkets, postal service, museums and aquariums. I regularly perform bank shops, but routinely seek out bonuses for apartments, car dealers, competitive price audits and gas stations with photos. Additionally, I have done fewer revealed shops or audits because I don’t want to present myself as a mystery shopper to employees that could later remember me during an unrevealed shop.
My preferred MSPs are those that pay on time, have responsive employees, provide clear guidelines and questionnaires, furnish meaningful feedback that allows me to improve, don’t clutter my inbox with excessive emails or misleading language, have adequate fees for the work, and of course have shops in my area that I like to do. Current favorites include Ardent, Bare, Coyle, Mintel, Data Quest, Amusement Advantage and Creative Image Associates. In the future I would like to get into video shopping.