How to get the most out of mystery shopping

Mystery shopping isn’t going to make you rich by any means. For me, it’s a nice little side extra that gets me freebies such as gas, meals and prescriptions – what’s better than getting things for free that you’d otherwise pay for? I also do bus surveys regularly as I bus to and from work everyday, and have an unlimited travel pass. I make the most of that by mixing up the routes I catch as much as possible, getting off the bus halfway through and catching a different one the rest of the way, or fitting in a few extra on my lunch break.

Generally, the more work a survey entails, the more you get paid. You’ll soon work out which ones are worth your while and which aren’t. Some require you to make a purchase, and will reimburse some or all of the cost. If it’s something I need, or something I’d like to buy for myself but might not otherwise, I’ll jump at the offer. But if it’s something you have no use for, what’s the point? It’s like buying food in bulk to get a good deal, and never using it all up.

To really get the most out of it, you do need to be organised. Check your email frequently – for notices, and for new assignments. Most companies either email you when new jobs are up and direct you to the site, or email you the available assignments directly. And you need to get in fast! The plum jobs get snapped up right away – I’m talking within the hour for popular shops like restaurants and the like. The more regular and reliable you are, the more you’ll get and they will turn to you when they’re desperate to fill an assignment.

If there are assignments at the end of the month that still haven’t been filled, the company will also call and email shoppers to try and get it assigned. At this stage, they’ll usually offer a sweetener such as an extra bonus or mileage. Even if it’s for a store that’s out of your way that you’d never accept otherwise, a fat payment can make it worth your while.

Most companies will have a training guide of some sort, and/or guidelines on how they like surveys written up. For example, one of the companies I work with frowns upon using comments on race or skin colour when describing staff. Seriously, read this, and familiarise yourself with their style. Some companies rate their shoppers, and if they have to spend a lot of time editing your reports to get them up to scratch, this will affect your grading.

Some require you to write detailed comments about your experience. This is a bore, by and large, but be as specific as you can. Explain WHY you gave a salesperson a “satisfactory” rather than “excellent” score (because they didn’t greet you right away, or didn’t mention a special promotion).

Obviously, you do need to be observant. Read the brief thoroughly. Then condense the key questions and use these as the basis for your note taking. I usually try to jot a few points down in my phone while I’m in there, and then get the rest down as soon as I leave and head out of sight of the store.

Make sure you follow your chosen shopping dates and times. Most of the time, you need to get your survey written up and uploaded that same day. If you’re going to have trouble completing a shop or submitting it on time – let them know! Treat it like you would your regular job.

And lastly, always, always, always get a receipt! You won’t get paid without a receipt, if the survey requires one of you. You don’t want to have to re-do or forfeit a shop because you forgot to get proof of purchase.

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