Mystery shopping is a dream job for many. The benefits are easy to see – you get paid to shop and most of your purchases are free. The downfalls, however, are a bit harder to find in the clever dialog on websites urging you to sign-up. In truth, mystery shopping is a great gig if you can get your foot in the door. But even then, it’s a better hobby than career.
A mystery shopper is an individual paid to visit a store and who must answer a very detailed questionnaire about her experience. She doesn’t get to share her actual opinions very often, however. Instead she answers pages of questions such as “How long did it take before you were greeted?” The shopper is often compensated for a small purchase so that she can experience the full shopping spectrum of the establishment.
The mystery shoppers we envy are those that are invited to partake in resorts, cruises and airline travel so that they can analyze the experience. Even the shoppers invited to spend time in fine restaurants and who are allowed to buy trinkets in designer stores are worthy of envy from those eager to begin their own mystery shopping career. Unfortunately, like professional sports or acting, only a few get the glory – the rest have to find part-time jobs to support the habit.
The Truth of Mystery Shopping
In truth, mystery shopping is a great opportunity for those who have the right connections and experience to land the big jobs. Granted, you have to spend years and have more than a bit of luck to find those connections and gain the right kind of experience. There are thousands, if not millions, vying for mystery shopping opportunities, so the likelihood of being asked to fly to Barbados to report back on your resort stay is slim to none.
That’s not to say you never will have your chance to experience Las Vegas for free and be compensated for your time and travel. You simply must work your way up the ladder and do more than a little independent marketing and public relations to get to any job beyond reporting serving times of the local fast food restaurant.
Making it as a Mystery Shopper
If you sign up with a company as a prospective mystery shopper, you have some likelihood of being offered a job down the road. The first gig or two might make you the equivalent of minimum wage for the hour you invest. And while some people simply get lucky, the rest of the mystery shopping community waits endlessly for their big break only to find themselves doing the same sort of odd jobs once a month or so.
If you want to truly find success as a mystery shopper, you must gain valuable experience and get to know major industry players. Contact local businesses in your area and offer to shop their establishments for free just to gain experience. As you get to know the owners and, of course, do an excellent job of reporting, your experience will grow and so will your references. Eventually, you will become a major player in your own right. However, to reach that level of success, you must invest as much time and energy as you would starting any business.