One of the best things about working as a mystery shopper is that you can get paid to shop. You decide when you work, where you work and, to some extent, how you work. Of course one of the worst things about being a mystery shopper is that you run your own show. You don’t go into the office every day to find a list of shopping assignments waiting for you. As boss, secretary, and employee of You, Inc., you’ve got to come up with those opportunities yourself. Fortunately, there are some reliable sources out there which can lead you to the shopping opportunities you’re looking for, insuring that your money making ideas work for you.
The MSPA Website
The Mystery Shopping Providers’ Association (MSPA) was established to bring professional standards to the mystery shopping business. It currently represents over 400 companies worldwide, hosts industry conventions, has implemented a shopper training and certification program, and dedicates itself to helping mystery shopping become an ethical occupation which provides clients with reliable information on how to improve their customer service. For shoppers themselves, MSPA provides online forums, a resource page, and a list of job assignments under the sobriquet, jobslinger. If you would like to look up company websites that are MSPA members, they also have a list of members.
Online Mystery Shopping Blogs
No matter what the subject, chances are, someone’s dedicated a blog to it, and mystery shopping is no exception. Blogs are a great source of practical information on running your business, from recognizing scams, improving your reports, learning how to create customer scenarios, and other job-related hints. Many blogs also provide (or link to) lists of reputable shopping and/or scheduling companies (“middlemen” businesses who assign shoppers for a large number of clients). Some blogs you might be interested in are:
While some blogs may not be very actively maintained, make sure you look around. For instance, while Mystery Shopping Tips looks like it is updated very rarely, they do have a good list of mystery shopping companies which is a great place to start.
Online Mystery Shopping Forums
Another invaluable source for mystery shopping assignments is the industry-related online forums. On the forums, you’ll be able to connect with other mystery shoppers to ask questions, share advice, and discuss employers and assignments. If the forum is an active one the information on who’s hiring and where is more likely to be up-to-the-minute and therefore useful. You may also be able to gain a sense of each company’s “personality.” Who pays well? Who pays late? Who doesn’t pay at all? What kind of shopper is each company looking for? What do they want on their reports, and what leads them to reject work? Which companies are legitimate and which are scam artists? The 24/7 world of online forums will keep you informed, entertained and, most importantly, working. To get started in the forums, you might want to look at:
Books and Periodicals
Nowadays, we’re so accustomed to getting all the information we need by hopping online that it can seem odd to think of looking things up the old-fashioned way–you know, in books or magazines. But you’ll find plenty of mystery shopping information in both, including lists of reputable mystery shopping companies. Online booksellers list several titles dedicated just to mystery shopping; however, books on how to run your own business and money making ideas might also contain valuable information. Magazine articles may offer the same advice as do books, but their lists of mystery shopping companies and contacts will likely be more up-to-the-minute. Why choose a book or magazine article? Portability and ease of use. While you’ll find vast amounts of information online, sifting through the fluff and finding the useful information might be painful. Instead of just relying on this one source, supplement your online work with a book or two, and discover assignment prospects while soaking in a warm bath!
Word of Mouth
This is not the easiest way to find a reputable company, but it can work for you. If you know someone who works, or has worked, for a mystery shopping company, simply ask them who they work for or which scheduler they use. While it’s possible that they might see you as competition, and prefer to remain tight-lipped, most people like to share helpful information. Similarly, if you work in retail or the restaurant business, or know someone who does, find out which mystery shopping services those businesses use. Chances are, if one company in your community uses that agency, others do, as well. You should, however, keep two important caveats in mind. First, if your secret shopping friend or relative is kind enough to share her information with you, don’t blow her cover! Second, if you do get your information from a store employee or manager, it’s probably best not to accept an assignment to rate that establishment; you may feel obligated to give it a good review or, worse, you may be recognized!
No matter how you get your assignment listings, remember these helpful hints:
- If an employer seems to good to be true, he probably is.
- Never, ever pay money to get on a list, or to obtain a list.
- List with as many companies as you can, because you never know which one will end up with an assignment in your area.
- Keep your contact information updated, so a company will always be able to reach you about a job.
- Keep a list of the companies you’ve applied to, along with any user name or password information safe in a journal, email or a document (eg., google docs).
Mystery shopping is one of the most flexible, and entertaining, money making ideas. But getting it to work for you depends on finding quality companies to shop for. Use these sources and take the mystery out of mystery shopping!