Mystery Shopping Review: Is It For Me?
So many of us are looking for some extra income nowadays. The days of finding a single job and being in it for life are long gone. In addition, the days of having only one source of income seem to be over. I remember my grandmother working 2 or 3 jobs at a time to bring home the bacon. Although this is a mystery shopping review, it is worth looking at the alternatives. In order to understand mystery shopping better, you must look at the options. And I speak to so many people who have some form of side hustle or second job. These range from –
- Dog walking
- Selling fragrances
- Working a 2nd job
- Mystery shopping
While it’s true that you can make extra money in different ways, what is the best one for you. None of these are a one-size fits all. Personally, I’m not that enamoured with digs that I’s like to spend a big chunk of my time with them. Other people love dogs and would jump at the chance to look after a dog or two (or there or four) a few times a week.
With this in mind, let’s explore the possibility of becoming a mystery shopper.
What Is Mystery Shopping?
The first thing you need to know is what this is all about. So, you know that companies spend vast amounts of money on recruiting staff members and then training them up? Well, what keeps them in the good habits that they have been trained in? There are a few answers here –
- Supervision from the management team
- Repeated training exercises (such as e-learning)
- Mystery shopping
As a mystery shopper, you visit somewhere (usually a retail store or hospitality establishment) and act as a regular shopper. In your time there, you may have to ask certain questions or buy certain things. And you are asked to report back on what you observe.
This is a great measure of customer service. The team members that might provide excellent service when a manager is watching but less-than-excellent service when they are left alone will be better measured with a mystery shopper. The team members that might need some training and support are helped when a mystery shopper report hits the desk of the manager. They can see what will help their team, their performance and their company.
Mystery shoppers provide a vital service. If you are to become a mystery shopper (and this mystery shopping review will help you make your mind up) then you will be helping others. Yes, that’s what you do. Your experience will help a company to get better at what they do. Let’s take a look at the next section of this mystery shopping review and see what that might mean by way of a couple of examples.
Example 1: A Restaurant
Meet Johnny. Johnny has been mystery shopping for a short while now and is headed out to a restaurant today. One of the most important instructions on the mystery shopping questionnaire relates to being vague. Now, you might not think that a set of instructions would encourage you to be vague. But it’s there for a reason.
When approaching the order point at the restaurant, Johnny is prompted to ask for a drink like this –
“What kind of beers do you have?”
“What soft drinks are available?”
The reason for this is they want the team member to display their knowledge. They have been trained in the available drinks. Johnny’s vagueness helps the team member to showcase their knowledge.
In addition, Johnny has been instructed to ask for a meal that can have other items added to it. In the mystery shopping arena, this is called upselling. So, for example, he might order a chicken tikka masala. The restaurant offers the option for an extra naan bread and an onion bhaji. But Johnny doesn’t ask for these. He’s been asked not to. The idea behind it is that the team member who serves Johnny asks him if he’s like a naan or an onion bhaji. This tests if they are asking for upsells. It shows the company if this team member is following their training. When Johnny sends his report, it will outline how the team member has done in this area.
Example 2: A Shop
And you will find many assignments for mystery shopping companies in retail stores – shops. Now it’s time to meet Sally. Sally has just started out as a mystery shopper. She wanted something to do while the kids were at school but couldn’t commit to regular hours due to the school holidays.
One of the things she loved the most about mystery shopping was the variety. She could grab a cup of coffee and a cake one morning. The next day she might have the chance to go into a clothing store and treat herself – or the kids. The very next day she might have an assignment to get lunch with a friend. That’s the beauty of it – and no mystery shopping review would be complete without mention of this.
The variety means that you can pick and choose the assignments that work for you. Some have time restrictions; others might have purchase restrictions. But there are enough to go around that you always have choice. Don’t forget that you can sign up to multiple mystery shopping companies at the same time, so you can start to build it in as a regular part of your life if you enjoy it.
Why Mystery Shop?
The first question we need to ask ourselves is why we would want to become a mystery shopper. And this is a good question. There are some real benefits to becoming a mystery shopper. And, as you’d expect from any decent mystery shopping review, we don’t ignore any of the downsides of mystery shopping either. Mystery shopping helps out companies, we’ve already looked at that. But what does it mean to you? Let’s take a look.
Benefits Of Mystery Shopping
We start this section of the mystery shopping review by looking at the plus side. If you want to become a mystery shopper, you need to know what’s in it for you. Here are some of the benefits.
Money. The most important thing for many people is the cash. You can earn good money as a mystery shopper. The average pay for an assignment in a restaurant is around £12 to £25. This is designed to cover your meal and any other expenses. These include travel, parking, etc. The average pay for a social media assignment, which usually takes only a few minutes, comes in at around £3. Obviously, there are only so many of these to go around. But the money is often a reasonable return for the time you spend. If you wear clothes, wash yourself and eat then you can get your hands on free things all the time.
Something to do. This happens more than I’d like to admit. But mystery shopping is something to do when you have a little free time on your hands. The options can be as varied as bowling, the cinema, something to eat, the betting shop and then all the way up to some major theme parks. I’ve been on an all-expenses mystery shopping assignment to a major theme park in the United Kingdom. I was paid my entry fee, a coffee and cake, my lunch, two additional rides, a photo souvenir and something in the gift shop. I was also paid a fee in addition to having all of these reimbursed. Pretty handy!
The free things. And that leads on nicely to the freebies that you get as a mystery shopper. Some assignment might not have a massive fee. But you might get something of value when you shop. The clothing shops are a good example, as are the fragrance shops. You will get a decent whack of money to buy an item of clothing, a pair of shoes or a bottle of perfume. And they are yours to keep. This means that you can spend a bit of time to get a new pair of trousers or trainers. I’ve been on holiday in Spain for 2 weeks, only wearing the items I got as a mystery shopper over the previous 6 months. That was the plan – and I managed to build up a big enough collection of clothes to do this. Happy days!
Gifts For Others. This is an amazing part of mystery shopping that not many people get straight away. When my kids were young, mystery shopping used to provide sticking fillers for Christmas. I started after the eldest’s birthday in October, putting aside some of the gifts I got from mystery shopping. There are plenty of assignments out there for fragrances shops, clothing shops and supermarkets. Putting aside little bits every week takes a lot of the pressure off at Christmas when your cash is under strain. And I always used mystery shopping for new outfits on summer holidays. Clothing store assignments are plentiful, so I used to grab trainers, shorts and t-shirts for the kids in the first half of the year, so we were ready for the family trip to Spain. It’s an easy way to get all the clothes you want and need for an occasion.
Get Out Of The House. For many of us, we have spare time and not a great deal to do with it. There are many lonely people across the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. Mystery shopping gives you the opportunity to get out of the house and speak to other people. This may not be relevant to everyone, but I’ve spoken to mystery shoppers who’ve helped their loneliness and mental health by getting out there and shopping. If you want to see a bit of the world and spend time around others but don’t have the ready cash to grab a coffee every day of the week then make use of mystery shopping to do the same thing. Any mystery shopping review wouldn’t be the same without mentioning this.
Downsides Of Mystery Shopping
Now, it’s true that you can’t become rich as a mystery shopper. The money that’s there is good in many places, but you can’t replace your full-time job as a mystery shopper. As an example, as I write this, the coronavirus is taking over the world. Mystery shopping has almost stopped – as has most shopping to be fair. So, if you relied on mystery shopping alone as an income, you wouldn’t be earning at this time in the moment. There are quite a few mystery shopping assignments available at any one time. I have carried out around 12 assignments, earning over £100 and getting around £200 worth of freebies in one day. But that’s a one off.
But mystery shopping isn’t all positives. There are a few potential downsides that any mystery shopping review needs to outline for you –
The Failed Assignment. If you carry out many assignments, then you will have already experienced one of these. You might make a mistake, forget to go at the right time or buy the wrong item. Because of this, the mystery shopping company can’t use your report. And they have to send someone else out to do that task again. What also goes with this is the fact they don’t pay you for the assignment. You lose any cash you’ve spent. Now, the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to read the notes thoroughly – and ask questions if you’re not sure. This doesn’t happen very often but doesn’t feel good if it does.
The Low Pay. This isn’t for all assignments, but the cash that mystery shoppers earn isn’t going to make you rich. I’ve never seen it as a major additional income. It’s more of a nice extra on top of what you’re already earning. Sure, there have been some big days, with a stack of assignments, loads of cash and a good range of freebies. But these days are few and far between. I’ve been mystery shopping for the best part of a decade, and these have only happened maybe 20 to 40 times. A few times a year. The money for most mystery shopping assignments probably don’t cover minimum wage if you add up all the time in prep, travel and completing the report. But the freebies and the extra cash make it more than worthwhile as far as I’m concerned. This is even more so if you’re already going somewhere shopping. Just get someone else to foot the bill.
The Quiet Times. Mystery shopping can be seasonal. There will be times where you head on to the chosen site of your mystery shopping company and find loads of assignments. You think it’s amazing and you stick ten in your account, completing them all and making good money. Then there will be other times where you look on the sites and find nothing. Absolutely nothing. Christmas and Easter in particular are quiet times. Shops have enough going on without having to worry about mystery shoppers. But, if you have kids, then you don’t want to be shopping loads in these times. These are for family – not for mystery shopping. It can be the same in the 6 week school summer holiday. And, again, you will want to spend time with the kids instead. It’s not that there are no assignments available at all, just that the numbers drop. In the week between Christmas and New Year, for example, there is usually nothing at all. Come January, there will be hundreds of assignments across the different sites.
Being Spotted. I’ll be honest with you. There are times when it feels a little bit stressful mystery shopping. And being spotted as a mystery shopper is one of those times. If you think that you’ve been rumbled, then you can feel really bad. You’re supposed to stay a secret – that’s how you can measure the service well. But don’t fear, there are things you can do if you get spotted as a mystery shopper. Whatever happens, don’t admit to being a mystery shopper – it can result in a failed assignment, the likes of which we looked at earlier.
Mystery Shopping Review
It can be easy to look past mystery shopping. But there are many reasons to become a mystery shopper. Sure, there are downsides, but they are few and far between. If you don’t like the pay, then don’t take the assignment. But that shouldn’t stop you from signing up in the first place. It’s free to join and there are no requirements to conduct a certain number of shops a year. For some of the mystery shopping companies I’m signed up with I haven’t shopped with them for years. But I’m still signed up, I still get emails every now and again and I look at what they have to offer.
A mystery shopping review that doesn’t mention the downsides doesn’t give you he full picture. But the upsides are very good. You can get paid to shop. Now that sounds like a great thing for many of us. If you already buy things, then you can get these things paid for by someone else. In return, you must ask a few questions and file a report. But pay for a mystery shopping assignment can be as high as £50 for a restaurant or clothing store assignment. Not to be sniffed at. There are also financial services mystery shops and holiday mystery shops too. These pay much more, but the money you spend is much more too.
Mystery shopping stands up well to the other ways of making money while working from home. It is good for the following reasons –
- Flexible. It works around your existing commitments. You can switch it on or off to suit your time.
- Pays well. The money for a mystery shopping assignment is pretty good on the whole.
- Free stuff. You get to keep the items you buy when you are out mystery shopping.
- Interesting. There are loads of diverse assignments from theme parks to betting shops, restaurants to hotels.
If you have any questions at all about mystery shopping, then drop us a line. We’re here to help you understand mystery shopping and all it can be for you.