July 13, 2020
  • July 13, 2020
mystery shopper

The Complete Guide To Becoming A Mystery Shopper

By on October 26, 2019 0 488 Views

If you are looking to become a mystery shopper then you are in the right place. There is a lot of information on this site relating to the different components and skills needed to become a successful mystery shopper. But here is the complete guide from start to finish on becoming a mystery shopper. Let’s get started!

Is Being A Mystery Shopper For You?

We need to start here. This isn’t for everyone. You can’t make stacks of cash mystery shopping. I see it as a way of going out for a meal once or twice a week, getting some extra spending money and getting my hands on some free stuff. You might be able to stock up for Christmas, have presents for birthdays and treat yourself every now and again. Some of the free things I’ve got in my time include –

  • £50 pair of Nike trainers
  • £30 Tommy Hilfiger T-Shirt
  • A week of shopping from Morrisons

And these are relatively easy to get, if you know how. But you need to do a few things to get there. We’ll look at these in more detail later on, but you need to be able to follow instructions, remember facts and complete an online form with the results of your mystery shopping expedition.

So, the first question to ask yourself is – shall I be a mystery shopper? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then read on!”

Getting Started

It is really easy to become a mystery shopper. There are scores of companies out there looking for people to work for them. First things first here – don’t pay money to any company to become a mystery shopper. Unfortunately there are some scams out there. Avoid these, legit mystery shopping companies will sign you up for free.

The registration process is usually quite straightforward. They will ask you a few questions, such as –

  • Why do you want to become a mystery shopper?
  • What skills and qualities do you have?
  • Where are the locations you can conduct a mystery shop?
  • Do you like shopping?
  • Do you like eating out?

These are to establish that you have the basics and are the right fit for them. They are looking fort people with the following basic skills –

  • Good timekeeping
  • The ability to read and understand the instructions
  • Being objective in their assessments
  • Wanting to help retailers and hospitality venues with their service
  • Discrete
  • Professional
get started as a mystery shopper

As you might expect, these skills will help you to carry out a mystery shop, assess the service objectively and stay anonymous. If you are ever spotted as a mystery shopper then the service might not be natural – and you might not get paid. Don’t worry, though. We have tips on what to do if you are spotted as a mystery shopper. Yes, we’ve thought of everything!

Who To Become A Shopper With

This is probably the most asked question we get. Who do I shop with? There are many companies out there all with their pros and cons. The top ones at the moment have been around for a while now. And they stay at the top by innovating and improving what they do. It gets better for the companies involved and for the mystery shopper population too.

Try Market Force

Our personal favourite is Market Force. They are a good bunch who always have a good selection of assignments available. The pay is regular (twice per month) and reasonable too. You get to keep all of the goods you buy during the course of the mystery shopping assignment. They also cover many bases with mystery shopper assignments including –

  • Restaurant mystery shops
  • Clothing store mystery shops
  • Jewellery store mystery shops
  • Pub mystery shops
  • Coffee shop mystery shops
  • Fast food mystery shops

And there are many more. Sign up with Market Force and you can see all they have to offer.

But they aren’t the only ones on the market. You don’t haver to stick with just one either. I personally have signed up with around 15 different mystery shopping companies in my time. Now, I have been doing this for around 10 years now, and love every minute of it.

I suggest you start with Market Force and then sign up with a couple more. If you take your time to learn what it is you need to do then you can get better and better at it. From there you can look for a handful of companies to work with and check their sites regularly.

You will get to know how often they update their sites and wen the good assignments come online. Market Force often have a flurry of exciting assignments all come up between 9 and 10 on a Monday morning. That’s a great time to have a look and fill your diary for the week.

Becoming An Active Mystery Shopper

Of course, the next step is to start mystery shopping. Signing up won’t get you paid. You need to find the right assignments. In the modern day, with technology this can happen via the website or app for a mystery shopping company.

They have a system whereby you can sort out the assignments in terms of how close they are to you. This gives you the chance to see at a glance what is happening in your local area. As someone takes an assignment, it disappears from the list. As the mystery shopper company releases more assignments they appear on the site or app.

After a while you will get used to the way each mystery shopping company operates. Each one is slightly different but here are some general rules that apply pretty much to all of them –

  • Assignments come up once per month for most of their clients
  • There are very few assignments released on a Friday afternoon
  • Most of the companies don’t operate much in terms of support over the weekend
  • Monday morning is a good time for most mystery shopping assignments to be released
  • They update on a regular basis so check back several times per week
get active as a mystery shopper

As you get to know how this works then you will know when and where to look.

Your First Mystery Shop

And then the exciting thing happens – you get a mystery shop assignment!

Happy times!

There are a few things you need to know here. Some mystery shopping companies just let you select the assignment. You might have to answer a few questions relating to the assignment, but you can just put it in your account if you get the answers right. With others, you need to apply for the assignment and then you are told whether you have been successful or not.

It make sense to look at the companies that let you select the assignment yourself. In many cases the ones that await a few applications and then make a decision tend to prefer more experienced mystery shoppers. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get any assignments, but you might have to be a little more patient.

Market Force (that we spoke about earlier) sit in the first category. You answer some questions. Get them right and you are the chosen one! Don’t forget though that with Market Force you can only have 2 assignments in the first month. It takes a little longer to get up and running but you know once you have selected it that it is yours.

Now is the time to read and re-read the notes. Get familiarised with the assignment so it comes naturally when you are actually doing it. If you have any questions then ask away. The mystery shopping company will have been through it before with a newbie. Just ask and they will help.

Just before the assignment, read the instructions again. It’s always best to be sure and to have these fresh in your mind.

During The Assignment

There are a few things to remember as you carry out your first assignment. Stay cool at all times. They have no idea that you are a mystery shopper. It’s only by being nervous that you might give the game away. People in these establishments see hundreds if not thousands of customers per week. They don’t stand there wondering if you are a mystery shopper. If they did then they’d never get any work done.

Take your time. We can all get carried away thinking that we need to remember all sorts of things so we should get on with it. It’s not the case. A clear, positive mind remembers far more than a cluttered one. If you are racing through thoughts at a rate of 100 per second then there’s no wonder if you don’t remember what you are supposed to do.

Find places to make notes. They might not be immediately obvious, but there are often places in a shop or restaurant where you can have a few moments and make any notes you need to. A changing room or toilet are perfect. Just make sure you are not spotted making notes or this could really give the game away.

Getting yourself in the right place with mystery shopping will protect your time and money. If you make mistakes then there is a chance that you don’t get paid. And none of us want that.

The Mystery Shopper Report

Once you’ve completed your assignment then you have to file the report. These are online – but don’t let that bother you. They are easy to access and navigate. The mystery shopper report more often than not consists of simple yes/no answers. Where more information is needed, you are required to put a few words together.

For example, they might ask the question –

Was the location neat and tidy as you entered?

And you might respond ‘no.’ If this is the case then you would be required to add a little more detail. This could be something like –

There was litter on the floor to the right of the entrance as I walked in.

You see, it really is as simple as that. There is no requirement to write War And Peace. Just a simple explanation that backs up your answer. That way they can see what you are talking about.

The average mystery shopper report will take you ten minutes. That’s as much as you’ll need. If you are computer savvy then it will take less time than this. Once you’ve completed a handful of mystery shops for the same company then you will whizz through the reports in no time at all. We’ve put together a guide on how to complete a mystery shopping report anyway.

Some companies have an app where you can complete your report. I find these really useful as you can complete on the go. Market Force are one of these companies and I like to use their app to complete the report before I even get back home! The app is free to download and really simple to use. You can even upload your images here too, so it’s all in one place.

If you are unsure about any aspect of your assignment once you’ve completed it then contact the company. They will help you to understand all you need to know. Reading the notes on paper before you head out might make perfect sense. But when you arrive it might not look exactly like what you expected. Don’t worry. Just get in touch with them for clarity.

mystery shopper report

Mystery Shopper: Any Questions?

Now once you’ve completed the report, it will go back to the mystery shopping company. Someone there will check it for accuracy before they send it off to the client. This can take a little longer at the weekend but usually it’s a matter of a couple of days.

With most companies the status of the assignment will move from ‘pending’ to ‘completed’ once it’s been checked. If they need any more information then they will be in touch with you. This is usually a call or an email asking for some more clarity. Don’t get worried, upset or offended by this. They are just doing their job. And if your report doesn’t make it totally clear to them, then their job is to ask a question or two. Once you’ve answered these satisfactorily, then you are on the road to getting paid!

It doesn’t happen very often. I’ve conducted thousands of mystery shopper assignments and only had to answer questions fewer than 20 times. It’s par for the course. As long as you’ve done the right things, you will be fine.

That’s the basics. Let’s look at some of the things where you can multiply your income.

Multiple Mystery Shops In One Location

If you wat to save time and travelling costs (and parking as well) then multiple mystery shops in one location can help you. This means looking across the mystery shopping providers for a common location.

In the past I’ve managed to carry out 12 mystery shops in one day, in 3 close locations. I walked away with –

  • A pair of Nike trainers
  • Headache tablets
  • A T-shirt
  • A pack of underwear
  • Coffee and cake for brunch
  • A lunch at a pub
  • Some supplements
  • £120 in cash

Now that was a heavy day, but well worth it for one day’s work. I started out of the house just after 9, arrived home at 3. Then in the evening it took around 2 hours to complete the reports. Not bad at all for around 8 hours work, including travelling and sitting on my backside eating lunch!

Plan your day or week around these assignments. Most of the providers give you flexibility on when you carry out an assignment. It might give a date range of a week or even two, so you can move it around to suit.

Line up a handful of these and you can make good money.

Shops With No Money Down

One of the issues with mystery shopping can be that you spend up front and then wait for the money to come back to you. With some providers this wait is always less than a fortnight. With others it could be almost 2 months. That’s a long time to wait.

The last thing you want to do is run up a credit card bill or overdraft while you are waiting. Once you have been a mystery shopper for a while then the flow of money works a lot better. But at the start it can feel a little funny.

So, looking for a mystery shopper assignment where you earn but don’t spend is always welcome. And these do exist.

There are often assignments where you are asked to assess service but not necessarily make a purchase. And these come up for –

  • Jewellery stores
  • Concession stands
  • Electronic equipment stores
  • TV/broadband/telephone stands
  • Financial services

As you can see, this is often places where there are high value transactions. They are not going to expect a mystery shopper to buy a £600 TV. And they are not going to reimburse you for it either!

If you find these then you can start earning without having to put your hand in your pocket. I often fins that these are left over – many mystery shoppers don’t like them. This means more for the likes of you and me!

Mystery Shopper Success

And all of this leads to success. If you get the basics right then you can move forward quickly. We want all of you to become successful mystery shoppers. The more people out there helping retailers, etc get their service right, the better that service gets. And that’s a win for everyone.

Success in mystery shopping is all about getting the basics right, as it is with many things in life. It isn’t difficult. It is quite easy to make strides forward as a mystery shopper and become a success.

Find the right company. That’s step number one. Of course, we have already mentioned Market Force. They have a wide range of assignments and are one of the faster payers on the market.

Success comes in many forms, so you should define what that means for you. For some it will be the odd meal for the family. For others success looks like making a few hundred pounds a month or more.

And you can do either of these if you know what you are aiming for. If you want a choice of places to eat then you should sign up for more than one mystery shopping company. If you want to make a few hundred pounds or more then you should sign up for around 8 to 10 mystery shopping companies. Many of them have restrictions for new shoppers so be patient and build up to it.

celebrate success

Mystery Shopper Training

There isn’t a great deal in the way of training and support for mystery shoppers. That is one of the main reasons this site was set up. We are here to help.

Browse the site and you will find all manner of information. This is helpful for the budding mystery shopper or the more experienced ones. If you still have any questions after reading our articles then don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

Use this site to build your skills. Come across something you’ve not seen before? The use the search facility and see if we have the answer. We’re adding new articles all the time so you can build your knowledge with us.

And if you have any suggestions for future articles then let us know. We can write it for you, or we’d be more than happy to let you post a guest post sharing your experience with the Mystery Shopping Tips community.

We’re all into caring and sharing so drop us a line and we’ll work together to get mystery shopping top of the agenda. That way we can all make a little extra cash. That’s all for this guide, subscribe to the newsletter to see all the latest and greatest. And if you follow us on Facebook then you can become an even bigger part of the community. Hope to see you soon!