How long have you been mystery shopping? I have been shopping since May 2013.
Where are you shopping? I mainly shop in Denver, CO and its surrounding area. On occasion, I shop in the cities south of Denver, such as Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Whenever I travel, I also find shops that are convenient and along the way.
What got you started? Around the time I began mystery shopping, I was also a year out of finishing my undergraduate studies. During college, I was like any typical college student in their late teens or early 20s; I was living paycheck to paycheck and living the frugal life. During my first year of college, I had to figure out ways to cut costs. From attending random clubs meeting on-campus for lunch to riding my bicycle to get around, I also learned to cut my own hair. I figured if I invested $20 on a budget-friendly kit of haircut tools, it would be a worth-while investment.
For about five years, I cut my hair with this same $20 haircut kit. And then one day, a haircut became dreadful to do. What once was a hobby became a chore. Even though I was able to come up a long ways financially from my college days, I wanted to venture out and see if there were any other alternatives to avoid paying for one. My internet searches landed me on articles relating to mystery shopping. As a result, I completed my first mystery shop at a local salon to save money on a haircut. After receiving payment for this shop, I was convinced that mystery shopping was not a scam. From this point on, I became hooked on mystery shopping.
What was your first assignment and how did it go? My first assignment was at a local salon for a flat-rate payment of $20. The assignment was to evaluate the salon’s cleanliness and my experience with a haircut. I was a bit nervous and skeptical that my $15 would go to waste if I ended up not getting paid for the assignment. In the end, I obtained all the necessary information needed for the report and was paid for it. My haircut totaled to $18. With a three mile round trip drive and time to report, I netted out a couple dollars in exchange for a haircut.
What is your favorite type of assignment? My favorite type of assignment is fine dining. I enjoy the ambiance, food, drinks, server interactions and time out of the house in exchange for my evaluation and report time. While this gives me the opportunity to try out drinks and food I have not experienced yet, fine dining is also an opportunity to treat out friends and family to a nice outing with yours truly.
What kind of assignment haven’t you tried yet? I have not tried theater checks apartment shops, casino shops, mortgage refinancing shops or cell phone shops that require the shopper to purchase and return the phone. Additionally, I have not tried any sort of shop requiring video or on-site audio recording.
What is your # 1 tip for other shoppers? With digital storage becoming more and more affordable, it is becoming easier to store paperwork that could fill a warehouse into a USB drive that could easily fit in our pockets. From saving assignment information that lists the payment to email/text correspondence stating guideline variances, all this information should be saved.
My # 1 tip for shoppers is to save the following for every assignment:
- Assignment information that lists location, date assigned and payment.
- Guidelines and all related documents for this particular assignment. Never assume the guidelines were the same as the assignment you did for the same client yesterday.
- E-mail correspondence or text messages that can directly affect the assignment, whether it is bonus money agreed to, guideline exceptions, etc.
- Useful feedback that can help improve your shops in the future for this mystery shopping company / client.
What is your biggest pet peeve with mystery shopping? Inconsistent guidelines. On occasion, there are shops I perform that are not clear and are conflicting. Sometimes I am able to resolve on the spot and use my best judgement if I do not receive clarification from the mystery shopping company in time, but sometimes I would have to reschedule rather than risk any of out of pocket expenses.
What is your favorite MSC? Ardent Services. The level of respect this company has for their shoppers is unmatched. The assignments are clear and straight-forward. Additionally, the schedulers are personable and responsive.