When people hear that I’m a Mystery Shopper, they usually say, “Oh, I love to shop. So, you just shop and get paid for it? How does that work?” Um…not like that. If I could just shop for things I want and get paid, I wouldn’t have time to blog. You’d be reading about me in Forbes. That job does not exist.
Mystery Shopping is all about following specific guidelines provided by a client and carrying out a scenario they created. For example, a client might want you to gauge how long it takes to get your change and your order from a drive-thru window, or from a fast food counter. I am thinking of a specific client I worked for that wanted this information. It sounds easy, except you are expected to time the cashier with a stopwatch, gathering several different timings, while watching exactly what’s going on with preparation, getting names and descriptions of several people handling your cash and food, reading the menu boards and counter cards for specific information and doing it all while blending in, not getting noticed and finishing by the time they hand you your food. Simple, right? Maybe it does sound easy to you, in which case, you’d be a good mystery shopper.
The fun starts when nothing goes like it should and then…you have to improvise. If you don’t mind getting outside your comfort zone, you’d be a good mystery shopper.
I don’t like to lie to people. I’m who I am. I try to face all my shortcomings and either make fun of them, ignore them or fix them. So, I really don’t like to lie and be fake Joy, but in mystery shopping, sometimes not only am I fake Joy, I’m fake Carol, or fake Jackie or fake whomever’s name I can come up with. Sometimes the shops require that you not reveal your actual identity or that you retain some of your identity but answer the employee’s questions as if you have a totally different history. So, if you’re going to mystery shop, get ready to fake it. The people you are shopping will ask you things and respond with answers that aren’t part of what the client requires or has prepared you for. You can’t answer the person you’re shopping by saying, “Um, that’s not on my list. Please just answer the question I asked the way corporate has instructed you to do.” No. Don’t do that. If you can’t think on your feet. You can’t be a mystery shopper. So, don a fake identity, even if it’s only in your mind and immerse yourself in it. Hey, you just never know when you might need it.
I used a mystery shopping faux identity the other day at the Sam’s Wholesale gas station. Some old guy walked up to me, introduced himself, shook my hand and started telling me all about himself while we’re both pumping gas. I was about to cover him with fuel and light him up when I decided to play it cool and remember my martial arts training. Which, at the very least, has taught me to think first. Meaning, I should move myself and car before lighting someone up at the pump. All this to say, I was trying to keep things non-felony while I finished pumping gas so I could bolt. He asked me my name and there it was as if I’d been saying it since I learned to speak, “I’m Kelly.” Yeah, old guy. I’m Kelly. (…and Kelly doesn’t make a martial arts pledge regarding self-control, so she’s about to light you up here at the pump.) No, Kelly told old guy “so long” and waited for him to leave the parking lot so she didn’t have to ram his car. That Kelly, what a nut. Anyway, you never know how mystery shopping could help you think quick in other situations.
Also, you’re not going to get rich mystery shopping. If you think you’ll be the exception, you’re wrong. Most of those stories about making thousands of dollars a month mystery shopping aren’t true or at least they are a version of the truth. Here’s the truth. For the majority of your shops, you will be laying out money up front and will be reimbursed in about 30-60 days. So, if you’re doing so many shops that you’re laying out thousands of dollars a month, you will be receiving thousands of dollars a month. Let me caution you about laying out money in the beginning. You really need to try out a few different mystery shopping companies before laying out much or any money. That way you can decide what kinds of shops you like to do, which companies suit your style and how quickly they reimburse and/or pay you. Not all shops require you to pay for things. Some are just an information gathering “shop” and you fill out the forms and you’re done. There are so many kinds of shops that are available. I’ve only really touched on one today, that’s the fast food shop. I mentioned it first because even though they are tedious, they’re also some of the easiest to get started with. Frankly, if you can do those, you’re probably a decent match for mystery shopping.
Next, I’ll tell you what else you need to be a mystery shopper. Yep, we’ve only just begun. (cue the music…)