This guide shows you how to get the most luxurious mystery shopping assignments around, even if you’re starting from scratch.
These 14 steps will get you started as a mystery shopper, and end up with you getting paid to stay at 5 star hotels.
Step 1: Set up a Mystery Shopper email for yourself.
Mystery shopping is an online job system and heavily driven by emails. In order to keep your regular emails from being overwhelmed by the sometimes hundreds of daily mystery shopping emails, it is best to keep them separate.
If you don’t already have a free email available through your internet provider, go to any one of the free systems like Yahoo, Gmail, or Outlook.
Step 2: (Optional) Get a Government issued Employee ID (Employee Identification Number EIN)
While mystery shopping can provide “hobby” income in addition to “business” income, it none the less provides income. The people that provide the income, MSC’s (Mystery Shopping Companies), need information from you. This will include in most cases, either a social security number OR an employee id number. Employee id numbers are quick, easy, and free to get from the government. In most cases, using this number will eliminate having to provide MSCs with your social security number.
Step 3: Get A Feel For Mystery Shopping
There is a wealth of information on Mystery Shop Forum and the IMSC Website. Here, they answer many questions you didn’t know you had about mystery shopping. There are also tools, techniques, and sample spreadsheets. Especially important are tracking requirements.
Sign up for the free Mystery Shoppers Magazine and check out the section for New Mystery Shoppers https://www.mysteryshoppermagazine.com/new-shoppers/ .
Get started with the best companies for new shoppers, and the best assignments for shoppers.
Step 4: Sign Up With Multiple Mystery Shopping Companies (MSCs)
It’s a numbers game. Not every MSC will have shops in every city all the time. However, it is important to remember that just because an MSC does not have the shop you want in your location today, they may have it tomorrow. Being on their email list improves your chances of being contacted when the right shop is available.
A list of MSC’s provided by Mystery Shop Forum at the following website:
Use it to start with. And yes, it is long.
There is also a list on the IMSC website at http://www.imscinfo.com/community-enhancement/imsc-member-companies/ .
After you have signed up with the companies from Step 4, develop a system for signing up with a few more each day/week/month. How many are enough? A lot of experienced shoppers are signed up with roughly 150 – 200 companies. Some are signed up with many more.
Step 5: Set Up Your System
There are two reasons. First, mystery shopping provides income that you must track. Second, if accept multiple shops, you must track such things as the progress and status at different times. Examples, when is the shop due? How much is the fee? How much is the maximum reimbursement? How much mileage was used to complete the shop? Have you received payment for the shop and if so how much?
Most shoppers use either a spreadsheet or an application to track this information. Which of these is used depends upon preference. There is no need to reinvent the wheel as multiple spreadsheets are listed on the Mystery Shoppers Forum. One of the spreadsheets provided for shoppers with Excel experience, is listed at http://www.mysteryshopforum.com/read/10/282597 . You can also ask other shoppers to share their tracking tool and in some cases, even SAMPLE reports.
As for payment systems used by the MSCs, again it varies. There is direct pay provided by some MSCs, PayPal, which is required by some MSC’s and paper checks, still used by a few MSCs.
Step 6: Find Out Which MSC’s Have Shops In Your Area.
This can improve the number and quality of shops that you get. Remember, don’t eliminate any MSC’s as they may not have shops in your area today, but tomorrow may be different. Initially focus on the MSC’s in your area while continuing to add additional MSC’s.
Sign up for the free Jobslinger at http://www.jobslinger.com . Here you can specify shops within a certain radius of your home. Note, not all MSCs post to Jobslinger, however, it will get you started. Also try the phone app Gigspot, where you can key in on your specific area.
Another place to search is the Mystery Shoppers Magazine for specific types of shops at: http://www.mysteryshoppermagazine.com/category/assignments/ . These articles offer a wealth of contact information.
Search Mystery Shop Forum. If you read between the lines, you will sometimes get the names of MSCs in certain areas. Note, ICA’s (Independent Contractor Agreements) will still be adhered to. You can also try the MSPA North America Opportunity board: http://www.mspa-na.org/jobboard/jobsearch.aspx
Step 7: Start By Completing Small Shops Such as Fast Food Shops.
This will teach you the ins and outs of mystery shopping. In addition, you will learn the basics of how to write reports, one of the most critical aspects of mystery shopping.
Mystery Shop Forum has an article entitled “A Game Plan for Beginning Signing Up for Shops” http://www.mysteryshopforum.com/read/10/33098 . It provides you with three companies to sign up with as a beginner.
Step 8: Perform Your Shops With Efficiency And Integrity.
This will help you to get more shops and better shops that pay higher fees and bonuses.
Follow steps outlined in the shop guidelines. Look at “How To Get Assignments” on the Mystery Shop Forum, “A Game Plan for Beginning Signing Up for Shops” on the forum, and “Tips for Successful Mystery Shopping.”
Step 9: Whenever Possible, Communicate with Your Scheduler on a Personal Level
Plain and simple, it can help to improve your chances of getting better shops. It is believed that the best shops go to shoppers that schedulers know and TRUST.
Become a trustworthy shopper by performing your shops with efficiency and integrity. Get to know your schedulers by attending and mingling at conferences. Respond to personal (not broadcast) emails in a timely fashion. When appropriate, call and speak directly to your scheduler. Help a scheduler out sometimes. Typically, towards the end of the month, schedulers have needs for shoppers who can pick up dropped/missed shops at the last minute. Be someone they can depend upon to help them out in a bind.
A few good articles to read are the “Access More Mystery Shops – Contact Your Email List of Schedulers,” and “How Can I Make Myself A Scheduler Favorite” by Cathy Stucker
Step 10: Hook Up With “Experienced” Shoppers Willing to Mentor
These shoppers can give you the education that typically is not written. They will share tools, techniques, do’s and don’ts along with how to’s. Example: How do you remember a new phone number for each new house shop? I tape a label on the BACK of my phone that says “If found, please call 123-456-7890”. I lay my phone face down on the table so that it does not appear that I am looking up a number on the front of the phone. If asked about it, I say it is my “new” work number.
At conferences, these will usually be the presenters. Talk to them, maybe get a userid from the Mystery Shoppers Forum. Then follow up by communicating with them. First check out these topics on the Mystery Shoppers Forum: “Frequently Asked Questions” and the training available on the IMSC board.
Also, if you look at the New Mystery Shoppers section you can get a feel for who the experienced shoppers are by reading the responses. Experienced shoppers will most times be the ones giving constructive advice. You can send a PM (private message) to them asking for help or even asking for a mentor.
Step 11: Make Sure You Can Absorb the Cost.
Fine dining and hotel shops are typically reimbursable ONLY if you submit a well written report on time.
A couple differences between these and other types of shops, are the level of detail and the “shopper projection”. With higher pay, more detail is typically required. Sometimes it will be in the form of more pictures, i.e. pictures of the hotel room, the bathroom, the balcony, the gym, the pool, etc. Also, the shopper should be able to project an image that qualifies them to shop the location. Examples, ability to speak using correct grammar and driving a late model high in car to shop a $500,000+ home.
There is no specific “How” to absorb the cost. Every shoppers’ situation is different. As for how to project an image, this comes in to play in every communication with the scheduler. Written and verbal communication aside from reporting. An outgoing personality when meeting MSC’s and schedulers also helps. Income information, type of car, education, etc. are usually requested on the shopper profile. If the MSC has a requirement, the profile is where it is checked.
Step 12: Step Up To Restaurants, Fine Dining and Retail Shops.
Fine restaurants, fine dining and upscale retail shops are like Five Star Hotels in the level of details and reporting required. They are NOT to be feared!
The difference here between a restaurant and fine dining refers to the amount of a meal. While fast food shops are typically under $10, a restaurant may be up to $20 for one person or $40 for two people. Fine dining shops are usually upwards of $75 for two people.
If you have signed up with multiple MSC’s, you should be getting shop notices for fine dining and upscale retail shops. If not, sign up with more MSC’s.
The next step is to pick a restaurant where you would like to enjoy a meal and would be willing to pay for it yourself. This is because if you fail the shop, you have at least enjoyed the meal.
Go through the guidelines and memorize them. When you are at the shop, have your companion help you with the timing. There are multiple ways listed on the forum. I wear an MP3 player that records so I don’t have to worry about timing. (My state is a one-party state. Know your state rules first! http://www.rcfp.org/reporters-recording-guide/state-state-guide )
Take more notes than required, it will help. Ways on how to remember the details can be found in the article “How do you remember everything?”
Most upscale retail shops do not require a purchase. Just check to make sure first.
If this is your first fine dining or upscale retail shop, try emailing the schedule and asking them if there is anything that you should pay specific attention to.
Step 13: Take on Some NON-5 Star Hotels
They sometimes require less reporting while still offering the benefits of upper tier shopping (higher fee, bigger reimbursement, free overnight stays).
While these are not available everywhere, you can find them by widening your search area and increasing the number of MSC’s that you shop for. Be sure to look towards the end of the month and for locations that remain on the job board. These are shops that are harder to fill. By taking one of these types of shops, you will be helping the scheduler.
Step 14: Go For The 5 Star Hotel
This is an exercise in luxury AND it will look good on your shopper profile when asked what types of shops you have completed.
Try searching the Mystery Shoppers Forum Job Board for “overnight”. You will need to skim through the articles to locate the MSCs with shops in the area you want and for those shops with overnight hotel stays. Many hotel shops are associated with bar shops, so you must be qualified and prepared to do bar shops. Qualifications for bar shops is dependent upon the MSC. My recommendation is to do a bar shops prior to accepting a 5 Star Hotel with a bar shop.
For questions or if you would like a digital copy of this article, PM me at CureMs on Mystery Shop Forum.