By in Business

8 myths about mystery shopping

1. It's always secretive -

This is true most of the time. I usually carry out a transaction in a business and report on the interactions I have. But today there is no secret. I am visiting 5 convenience stores with clipboard and a checklist. The employees will help me check on the list of products. I will spend about 40 minutes at each location. Each report will take about 20 minutes to do; I will be paid about $19 for each job. It's worth it as none of these places require me to drive out of my way.

2. It's easy money

when I spend 7 minutes getting gas I need at a gas station, spend 20 minutes writing the report and get reimbursed $5 from the convenience store and $15 worth of gasoline it seems like easy money. On the other hand some jobs are a lot of work and require lengthy narratives in the reports. Even for the $15 gas station I have to write many sentences and two descriptive, paragraphs. At first those reports took me a lot longer than 20 minutes. One gets more efficient with practice.

3. It's more work than it's worth

It’s funny that I hear it’s easy money as often as I hear this one. It is a lot of work at the beginning for many shoppers, including me. One has to sign up with the companies and look at their job boards often to learn what's available where you live. One has to find the jobs that either can earn a lot in one shop or one has to find many close to each other to make the drive worthwhile. It takes time to plan a day. Today’s plan was easier as all of the shops are the same and are from one job board. I had to pay attention to the addresses of the locations on the job board to come up with a route that did not take me out of my way. I had to print off the checklists for each location and make sure I knew how to find each address.

4. It's a scam?

I am asked this often. Mystery shopping is not a scam; some people pay all of their bills with mystery shopping. However, there are scams out there. I received phone call from someone using the name of an actual mystery shopping company inviting me to sign up. So I did. They sent me a check for $2400 dollars with some instructions about using some of the money to do a transaction at a local business; keeping some for my fee and wiring the rest back to them to “assess” Western Union. They even included a form to fill out about the service. I took it to the police. It is a common scam that they are well aware of. If you cash the cheque it will bounce and you will be out whatever money you used.

5. I am trying to catch people out

I am there to provide the opportunity to do a good job and get a good report. I am not there to look for mistakes. A lot of reports have boxes to tick yes or no someone did a certain action. If I tick no, I usually have to do a lot more explaining than if I tick yes. I hope everyone does the things they’ve been requested to do. I am not zealously looking for mistakes.

6. I have to spend a lot of money

I have spent money for expensive meals and for hotel rooms. If I don’t do my job properly to the client’s satisfaction I won’t be reimbursed or paid my fee. But I never have to spend money. I can do mystery shops such as banks, touring fitness centres, retail, and many more that don’t require me to spend anything. I can also do grocery and gas station shops that require I spend $15, but it’s for things I need anyway.

7. They want my opinion on service

Some people tell me they want to mystery shop so they can let people have it who give them bad service. Sometimes service I find annoying is exactly what the employees are expected to do. My job is to observe what I am asked to observe and fill out the report objectively. Some reports do have a place for my opinion, or ask a question about whether I would go back, but most do not

8. I get to keep a lot of products

The products I keep are the pop and small items from the convenience store, my gasoline and groceries. There are some shops where I must purchase something to create a receipt, so I try to find something that I actually need like shoelaces. Sometimes those shops will have a small reimbursement added to the fee; ranging from $1 to $10. I get reimbursed for food quite often. I get reimbursed for services like haircuts, oil changes and movies. The only retail shop where I got to keep something a little more valuable was a toy store. I got to keep a $30 purchase. There was no fee on top of the purchase. The shops where I had to buy something expensive I then had to return the purchase and evaluate that part of the process also.


sandralynn please consider this for the 8 challenge

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LeaPea2417 wrote on June 21, 2015, 1:23 PM

I have considered mystery shopping but some of the ads I see for them involve me driving to another town to shop in a certain store. I may get paid for the gas, but I really don't like driving too far.

Fleur wrote on June 21, 2015, 1:25 PM

I'm impressed that you can spend 20 minutes writing about buying gas! How can you find so much to say?

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 1:32 PM

lol, Part of the 20 minutes is taken up just answering the 50 or so questions, which are things like how many seconds did I wait for service, what did the attendant say to greet me etc. After answering all of those questions I have to write a paragraph describing the "event" step by step. lol
It gets easier and faster each time I do it.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 1:34 PM

I select the jobs off a job board so never have to select one that involves driving too far for me. I am signed up with about 150 companies so I can find every chain that is shopped in my town and only do those ones if I want. I end up doing one or two jobs per month for about 20 different companies.

CoralLevang wrote on June 21, 2015, 1:40 PM

I am fascinated by this whole mystery shopping phenomenon. When I worked in retail, I actually was "shopped" and got a perfect score. The company paid me a bonus of $100 for that honor.

irenen1 wrote on June 21, 2015, 3:01 PM

This was very helpful for me since I'm considering becoming a Mystery Shopper. You might want to find a different category.

BrenndaMarie wrote on June 21, 2015, 3:04 PM

I have tried to do this a few times. It was not always worth. The phone ones are the worst when you break it down. The companies never stop calling you back. Over the years, I have tried many different ways to make money. I have not had much luck at any of them.

rescuegal wrote on June 21, 2015, 3:11 PM

I joined one site and the only thing they offered in my area was an oil change at a local shop. I had just had my oil changed.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 3:15 PM

Now that is what I am always hoping for when I mystery shop.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 3:17 PM

irenen1 Thanks, I changed the category now. I meant to include that a list of reputable companies is at The MSPA website (mystery shoppers providers association) and at http :// www . mysteryshopforum . com / . If you use those lists you will be safe from scams.

Last Edited: June 21, 2015, 3:17 PM

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 3:21 PM

I do some $4 phone ones. They take me about 1/2 hour total. Not a great wage but nice for when I want to stay home. There are some better paid phone ones; they are few and far between. It has taken time to find all the work, but I can drive to town and make $100 by working for several different companies at different businesses. I like visiting one business when I am in town for my own errands or for work. I don't go out of my way for one job, only if it is going to make me a profit after vehicle expenses.
I will probably do mystery shops that are on the way to where I am going for the rest of my life. I like it that much. :D

Last Edited: June 21, 2015, 3:22 PM

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 3:24 PM

That job will come up again the next time you need an oil change. And if no one takes it off the job board they will offer a bonus.
I haven't paid for an oil change in years. I am signed up with about 150 companies so I can find the jobs at each chain in the small city where I do my shopping. So, I might only do one job for a particular company in a month or I might do 5. In the city I could do more for one company as there would be more locations with the same job. My goal is to make $1,000 dollars per month in July and August.

To make that much I will be going to other towns and cities, not just my local area.

Last Edited: June 21, 2015, 3:27 PM

Carmelanirel wrote on June 21, 2015, 5:41 PM

I considered doing this, but I had no car and now that I do have a car, I don't have the time.

BrenndaMarie wrote on June 21, 2015, 6:13 PM

I am glad, that you are doing well with it. I do not drive so doing shops was limited to bus route that is why I did not make much with it. It sounds like you are having fun doing it.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 6:46 PM

As far as I know I have never had anyone fired. I have had to say that people didn't do what was expected, or that the food was served cold etc. Overall, it seems that the businesses that get mystery shopped provide good service.

wetnosedogs wrote on June 21, 2015, 7:09 PM

I did a mystery thing on the phone a few times, but they always wanted more of my opinion.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 7:12 PM

Was this a phone call to a business to report on their service over the phone?

wetnosedogs wrote on June 21, 2015, 7:21 PM

Yes and I always got such nice response. I seemed to always have to report more.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 7:50 PM

That happens. :D

Anja wrote on June 21, 2015, 8:16 PM

I was looking at an app called Gigwalk, and the idea is that you can walk to the locations, but they also have a lot of opportunities that you can supposedly do without going anywhere. I am not sure I want to do it, but it sounds like you rather enjoy your mystery shopping.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 8:46 PM

I don't have much data on my phone, so haven't wanted to try an app unless I know it's going to work. First, I don't know if they have it in Canada. And second, how much would gigwalk earn in a month?

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 8:48 PM

I will always mystery shop. Adding it on to errands I am doing anyway, or getting reimbursed for part of my errands is interesting, enjoyable and easy for me. Planning full days of mystery shopping to earn enough to pay bills is work. But it is flexible work.

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 8:50 PM

It does take time!

paigea wrote on June 21, 2015, 11:01 PM

It's really sad when someone get scammed like that.

BarbRad wrote on June 22, 2015, 2:44 AM

I've always thought this would be fun, but now I don't' really want to go shop. I can hardly make myself even go grocery shopping until I don't have the makings of a meal. I'm getting to be a real hermit.

scheng1 wrote on June 22, 2015, 8:53 AM

Those who think that they are trying to catch people out will be a terrifying mystery shoppers. They will destroy the career of the retail staff.

paigea wrote on June 22, 2015, 3:36 PM

Funnily enough I do not ever shop willingly unless it is for "work"". I never was a recreational shopper.

paigea wrote on June 22, 2015, 3:37 PM

If they are working for the companies I work for they should not be doing that and will not be kept on as a mystery shopper. My job is to report the facts. Not look for mistakes.

valmnz wrote on June 22, 2015, 4:09 PM

I enjoyed reading this. I've often been fascinated by the concept of mystery shopper, though I wouldn't want to be one myself.

LindaCPearson wrote on June 22, 2015, 9:56 PM

Very informative post. I have sometimes wondered what is involved in being a secret shopper and would I like doing it. Now that I've read your post, I'm thinking maybe it's not for me. It sounds like a lot of work and lots of reports. I don't like doing reports. I hope you're enjoying it and making some decent money for all your efforts.

paigea wrote on June 22, 2015, 11:02 PM

I do make some decent money as I have tried so many different mystery shops and I know what works for me. I don't like shopping and I like sitting at the laptop. So, when I started I was looking forward to the reports - sitting on the deck with an ice tea, or sitting by the fire with a glass of wine. And now as you point out, the reports are tedious. lol However, the more I do the same job, the quicker I get at the report. I like how I can fit it around what ever I am doing in a week.

paigea wrote on June 22, 2015, 11:03 PM

Some reports are literally clicking a list of yes no boxes and take very little time.

msiduri wrote on June 23, 2015, 10:09 AM

This was interesting. Having worked retail for far too long, I was mystery shopped a number of times. I don't remember any bad scores, but I was never rewarded with $100 like CoralLevang ! That would have stuck out in my memory.

paigea wrote on June 23, 2015, 11:35 AM

An award of $100 for a perfect score would pay better than most mystery shops!

msiduri wrote on June 23, 2015, 11:49 AM

I bet. emoticon :smile: The most I remember getting was "Good job."

iwrite28 wrote on June 25, 2015, 4:01 AM

I have been considering mystery shopping so this post is very helpful.

paigea wrote on June 25, 2015, 11:55 AM

ask me anything, it is my "pet" topic.

AliCanary wrote on July 1, 2015, 2:41 PM

This is spot-on. I've done mystery shopping for years, and I have had these same experiences. I especially loved when you said, " Sometimes service I find annoying is exactly what the employees are expected to do."--I find this so true for sales evaluations, because I hate pushy salespeople, yet you can see by the evaluation form that they are SUPPOSED to push for the sale. Sometimes I have had salespeople didn't push that hard, and although I noted that they didn't say or do this or that specific thing that they were supposed to, I often note that I personally appreciate a lower-key approach...just a little extra market research for them, lol!

AliCanary wrote on July 1, 2015, 2:47 PM

I got shopped once as a waitress and received a very good evaluation by the shopper, but I got rewarded as well as msiduri , lol

paigea wrote on September 19, 2015, 11:57 AM

I do the same. Or think of something they did that I appreciated even though it might not be what they are being evaluated on.

cheri wrote on September 21, 2015, 1:26 AM

I do not do mystery shopping. This is something I am not comfortable doing