OK, I am sure in your quest to find ways to earn extra money from home, you will all have come across the concept of Mystery Shopping. Now, you know that, when it comes to working from home, I am a great advocate of keeping your eggs in many baskets in order for a number of different home based activities to provide a wealthy income. And mystery shopping to me is one of them. The real questions that many ask are these: why should I bother to work as mystery shopper, is it worth the hassle to become mystery shopper or is it a waste of time and resources? Can I make money as mystery shopper? Well, let me tell you what I think of it.
What is mystery shopping
For those who are not aware or sure, mystery shopping is a legal and legit way of monitoring performance adopted by many companies both in the private and public sector. Employers hire specialized mystery – or secret – companies who have an army of mystery shoppers, who will pose as customers and in the course of their interaction with the employee, they will assess the performance received.
So, for argument’s sake, you may have a supermarket who hires a secret shopping company to send one of their mystery shoppers to a supermarket store to assess the quality of service delivered. This means that the mystery shopper may be told to purchase a specific item. They may be told to approach a sales assistant in the store asking for specific questions about the item. And they then may be instructed to pay at a self serve machine. During the transaction, the mystery shopper may be given guidelines to check whether the item was easy to find, whether it was on a top shelf too difficult to reach, whether there were enough sales assistants available to find, whether the assistant was helpful enough and knew the answer to the questions on the product, whether the self serve tills were user-friendly, and much more.
But mystery shopping extends to services rendered over the phone or online too. In my role as customer advisor for the local authority for the area where I live, I am pretty sure that at times I have received calls from secret shoppers who posed as dissatisfied residents, and who put me before a fictitious scenario to find out how I delivered my service.
Yes, it really makes you feel like secret shoppers are everywhere nowadays, watching your every move. But believe me, it’s not as bad as it sounds!
Why hire mystery shoppers!
Buy why would organizations pay to have strangers monitor the performance of their employees? Surely this is part of employment assessment which human resource departments are paid to do. Or even line managers of individual department!
The idea is that, if I knew that my manager is going to monitor me for the whole day today, listening in on the calls I receive, or sitting next to me when I serve customers at the front desk, surely it would be instinctual and natural reaction of me to perform at the best of my abilities.
But, not knowing when my performance is going to be assessed will encourage me to perform at the best of my abilities ALL THE TIME.
Who can become mystery shopper?
When described in such terms, you may be thinking that you need special training to become secret shopper and to work in covert like this. Or you may be thinking that your life is going to turn into the one of a pseudo 007.
Well, sorry to burst that babble. Because the news is that absolutely everybody can become mystery shopper. No particular skills are required, other than a straight face and the mind set of acting as naturally as possible.
You may be required to travel, so for certain assignments you may need access to public transport or to a car. And you will need access to the internet, as most mystery shopping companies are online based nowadays, where you will be required to submit your assessment by email or by internet.
The only other final requirement may be for you to have a phone that takes good pictures. This is necessary as often enough you may be asked to take photos of merchandise or of the front of a shop. But, let’s admit it, who doesn’t have a smart phone nowadays.
Especially if you are already working from home and consider this as extra source of income, you will be equipped with all the technical tools you may need.
Mystery shopping – is it worth the hassle?
OK, do I consider mystery shopping as one of those home based activities where you earn enough to be able to pay your monthly bills? No.
But, can I make substantial pocket money through mystery shopping? Yes, most certainly YES!!
With secret shopping, the earnings come from saving on the merchandise or service you are acquiring as part of the assessment, as much as from the actual cash you earn.
Mystery shopping companies normally refund the agent travel expenses, the expense of the item purchased and a commission, which varies depending on how long it is estimated that it will take you to do the assignment.
When I first started working on mystery shopping assignments, I remember making an average £100 a month, and got free petrol, free meals out, free grocery and housewares, and lots of other things that I would not have been able to afford otherwise.
The drawbacks to mystery shopping
Admittedly, like with any business, mystery shopping has some downsides.
As a mystery shopper, every day you will be alerted to new assignments by email. You can work for a number of different companies – the more ’employers’ you have, the more opportunities you will get. The choice then remains yours as to whether you want to accept that assignment or not.
But, the time and date of your assignment may interfere with your daily commitments. Equally, some assignments may require traveling, even if companies will aim to send you alerts of assignments as close to you as possible.
The secret to making the most of mystery shopping is a strong organisational ethos.
Assignments will never be given to you on a short notice basis. Once you have accepted a job, you can easily work your day around it.
One of my favourite jobs is to monitor petrol stations. This is because I will get part of my fill-up paid for. But I may be required to go to a petrol station that is 20 minutes out of town. I shall organize my assignment in such a way so that my car will need filling up when I am supposed to do the job, and in such a way so as to have those 20 minutes to spare.
Watch out, I am a secret shopper!
Yes, I am still a secret shopper. And the fact that I am still working on secret assignments should tell you that it is definitely worth going for it. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be wasting my time for something which indeed does take a bit of your time in actually executing the job as well as typing your assignment afterwards.
I started secret shopping in 2015 and during that summer I tried to do as many assignments as I possibly could. This does not mean I was working every day, but on average I ensured I had an assignment every week.
Now that my home business has taken a different direction where I physically work on my laptop most of my days, I cannot afford to break my day with trips out – not unless they were either first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening. For this reason, I try to work on a couple or three assignments per month. This still gains me pocket money that I would not have otherwise, as well as a meal for me and my husband paid for, or the fill-up for my car paid for, or even some grocery.
And, for the not much money you get for the inconvenience, you don’t loose out either, when the company you work for refunds all expenses.
If you think of all the money you can save by getting things you would otherwise have to pay out of your pocket, I’d say that’s opportunities not to be missed. Wouldn’t you?
So, if you feel like giving mystery shopping a go, and need advice which company to go with, or if you are already a secret shopper and would like to share your experience, leave your comment below.