Mystery Shopping 101

What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery Shoppers go into businesses as customers. The purpose of Mystery Shopping is customer satisfaction reporting. The shopper interacts with employees, by making a making a purchase at a retail or service business. It is necessary for shoppers to complete an evaluation form describing what happened during their visit. Mystery Shoppers get paid for providing this service as an independent contractor.

What kinds of businesses use Mystery Shoppers?
Any business which deals with the public may use Mystery Shoppers—stores, restaurants, bars, banks, hotels, salons, home builders, apartment complexes, gas stations, casinos, auto dealers, auto service centers, movie theaters, health clubs, pet stores, amusement parks, optical providers, websites and more.

How much will I earn?
That depends on how much time you can devote. Many shoppers do this in their spare time, and earn several hundred dollars or more a week. Some consistently earn more—often a lot more.

There are Mystery Shoppers who prefer this type of work full time and earn a living this way. It will probably require that you work with many Mystery Shopping companies—perhaps 50 or more to earn enough for full-time wages.

My advice to you is not to sign up with any Mystery Shopping company that requires you to pay a fee. Keep in mind that you are doing this to earn money...YOU DO NOT NEED TO PAY TO BECOME A MYSTERY SHOPPER.

What is the typical pay like for a Mystery Shopping assignment?

The pay for a mystery shop (including purchase reimbursement) may range from $10 to $100 or more. Fees depend on the time required, and complexity of the report, the time required to complete a shop and filling out the form. Shops can range from a few minutes to an overnight stay at a hotel.

What are the requirements to be a Mystery Shopper?
You can be any age eighteen or older, male or female. You may be employed, retired or a full-time homemaker. You need to be observant, have good writing skills and able to follow directives. You must be reliable, when you accept an assignment; you need to complete the assignment. You do not have to have a degree or any special training, although people who have experience as trained observers do very will as a Mystery Shopper. People who work or worked as nurses, doctors, police, customer service or any industry were observation is important is helpful.

How do I apply to be a Mystery Shopper?
Signing Up with Count On Us is a great first step, or with as many Mystery Shopper companies as you would like.

Are there jobs available in my area?
Mystery Shops are done everywhere. Almost any business that does business with the public may be Mystery Shopped. You can check for available jobs in your area after signing in with Count On Us. Jobs do not exist only in heavily populated areas. Certainly there are more jobs in a major city, but there are also more shoppers competing for those jobs. In fact, you may find yourself in demand if you live in a sparsely populated area because it is often difficult to find shoppers in those areas. Doing a good job, being reliable will make you a highly valued Mystery Shopper to us, which means you will receive as much work as we can give you.

What do you look for when you hire shoppers?
Most importantly, we want to know that you are reliable, observant, can write clearly and are able to follow directives.

How long will it take to get my first job?
If you apply you are automatically placed in our database. As soon as work becomes available in your area you will receive an e-mail from us advising you that we have an assignment available. The more flexible and available you are, the more jobs you can get. However, you will not hear from us unless we have a job for you. Watch for email notifications daily! Count On Us' dynamic job notification feature will make sure you never miss job opportunities available in your area.

What will I do when I am Mystery Shopping?
You will be given specific instructions for completing your Mystery Shop in the form of a client fact sheet. We will gladly answer your questions, so do not be afraid to ask. We want you to be comfortable doing the shop, and we want you to get it right. While you are on your Mystery Shopping assignment you will be observing cleanliness, service, quality, integrity and other standards important to the business and its customers. Questions on the evaluation might include things like: Were you greeted within 60 seconds? Were the floors clean? Did the person who took your order suggest additional items? Was the salesperson able to demonstrate product knowledge by answering your questions? Was your food fresh and served as you ordered? Did the cashier count back your change and say thank you? Was the restroom clean and fully stocked? When you leave the business, you will enter the answers on a report form or write a narrative report describing what you saw.

May I take my spouse, friend or child with me?
Sometimes, if it were a place they would normally go with you. For example, you might take your children to the grocery store or a family restaurant, but not a formal restaurant or bar. Do not take anyone along if you will distract from properly completing your assignment, or if you have not been told that you may. Remember you are a Mystery Shopper. If you have young children, do not tell them you are Mystery Shopping. You do not want them asking, loudly, in the middle of a shop, "Mommy, are we doing the Mystery Shop now?” Adults who accompany you must know that they are not to talk about the job or give away that you are the shopper. Confidentiality MUST be kept or the shop may be ruined.

Will the employees know that I'm the Mystery Shopper?
No. At first, you might feel like you have a neon sign that says I am a MYSTERY SHOPPER blinking on your forehead, but they really will not know. If for some reason someone asks you if you are the Mystery Shopper, just say no or play dumb. "Mystery Shopper, what's that?” NEVER REVEAL TO ANY EMPLOYEE WHO YOU ARE! If this happens your whole report will be invalid, and you may not be paid for the shop.

How do I get paid for my assignment?
The job scheduler will explain the payment procedure when you are hired for an assignment. You will need to submit your completed report, receipts and your invoice. Once you have submitted all your paperwork you will be paid during the company's regular payroll cycle, of between 2 and 3 weeks.

Do I get paid for mileage?
It depends, on the contract made with the client. Some times the mileage is included as part of the fee. However, since Mystery Shoppers act as independent contractors you can get a deduction by claiming all your mystery shopping mileage when you file your taxes. You can also deduct your home office, your computer, auto insurance & maintenance, postage, office supplies and any other expenses. Check with a tax professional to find out more.

Will I receive a W4 or a W-2 form at the end of the year?
In almost every case you will receive a W4 from us.