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As a mystery shopper, you get to visit stores and restaurants, try their products and services and evaluate your experience. You are usually reimbursed for some of your purchases and receive a small payment for your feedback. Although this may sound too good to be true and many mystery shopping scams exist, you can find legitimate, paying mystery shopping jobs.
Understanding Mystery Shopping
Mystery shopping is not a traditional job where you are paid for the time you work. You will be an independent contractor and your pay is dependent on correctly completing your assignment.
Although your assignment often includes making a purchase or eating a meal at a restaurant, this is not what you are paid for. The purpose of your shop is to evaluate the service you receive and the experience you have as a customer so the company can make improvements to its business. After shopping, you must complete the questionnaire or other paperwork provided by the company to offer your feedback on the experience.
Each company has different requirements and priorities that are laid out before you accept the job. As of 2015, the average pay for a mystery shop is between $8 and $20, advises the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America. Companies may reimburse you for your purchases or offer discounts on merchandise.
The availability of mystery shopping assignments varies. Cities often have more opportunities than small towns. Search for legitimate jobs through reputable mystery shopping organizations such as:
- Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America
- Dynamic Advantage
- National Shopping Service
Register for an account with one or more organizations to view their job boards. Search for jobs in your area and review the terms. Consider how far you are willing to travel to complete an assignment, and determine whether the discounts or reimbursement amounts offered are sufficient for your needs before accepting a job.
Residents of Nevada must be employed by a licensed private investigator to provide mystery shopping services.
Some mystery shopper organizations, including the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America, offer certification programs for mystery shoppers. These are not required to find work, although some companies may give preference to certified shoppers.
Certification programs teach you the details of mystery shopping and how you can better serve the companies you are working for. They may include examples of mystery shops and training on how to write better reports.
Legitimate mystery shopping jobs pay you to work for them. Although you can pay to obtain an optional certification, you should not be charged a fee to get a mystery shopping job.
Other signs that a mystery shopping job or advertisement is fake include:
- Guaranteeing you a shopping job.
- Requiring you to purchase a directory of companies.
- Demanding certification for access to jobs.
Another common mystery shopping scam is one that requires you to wire money. If you are asked to deposit a check into your personal account and then use the cash you withdraw to wire funds using Western Union or a similar service, this is likely a scam. Often the checks are fake and you will be required to pay back the full amount to your bank.