Perhaps you’ve read about mystery shopping in the news or online, or heard about it from friends. You’ve decided mystery shopping is for you, and you can’t wait to get started.
But before you jump in over your head, make sure you have what it takes to get the job done!
Ethics, Schmethics. As a mystery shopper, you’re being hired to provide an unbiased and nonjudgmental report of the store you visit and its staff. You must, above all else, provide an accurate accounting of what you observed at the shop.
Feeling sorry for a store clerk in a store that is understaffed is OK; we all have emotions. However, in your report, you would need to report that the store was understaffed, but that you felt the store clerk was doing her best given the circumstances.
If that same store clerk, however, spent the whole time you were in the shop with her ear glued to the phone taking a personal call, there are obviously other issues that need to be reported. If you overhear the store clerk say she just had a car accident or some other sob story, don’t take part in her pity party. The fact is that she is still taking a personal call at work and not servicing customers.
At all times, you should keep in mind that the point of mystery shopping is to help the store improve itself. Issues such as broken toilets in the restrooms, long lines at the checkout, or a grocery store that smells of rotten produce are all things management should be made aware of, among many other things.
If you don’t believe you have the ability to be impartial and provide an accurate accounting of what you observe, mystery shopping is not for you. But if you DO have this ability, then keep reading.
On The Dot! Mystery shopping is all about meeting deadlines. Shops are required to be done either on a certain date or before a certain date. Some shops are very specific about times you need to shop. For instance, if you’re doing a lunch shop at a restaurant, you likely will need to do the shop between 11:30am and 1pm.
Companies hiring mystery shoppers may want to check on service being given by certain staff members, or under certain management.
So you may get a shop with a window of completion required to suit those employees or manager’s schedules, for instance between 4 and 8pm on Wednesday. The time of your shop may be verified by the receipt you provided with your paperwork, or also by a video camera on-site.
Once your shop is complete, you typically need to complete the required report very quickly. Some shops require the report completed that same day, while others need it within 12 hours. Failure to complete the report in a timely manner will hurt your “shopper rating”, which affects your ability to get new shops with that company. It may also mean you won’t get paid for doing that shop.
If you are habitually late or terrible about completing paperwork on time, mystery shopping isn’t a fit for you.
Seeing Is Believing. As a mystery shopper, your job will be to observe various aspects of the shop, including number of staff on duty, number of checkout lanes open, names of staff, times you started and stopped the shop, how long you waited in line, the cleanliness of the store and restrooms, if displays were set up correctly, and various other things.
The trick is taking in all of this information while acting like any other casual shopper. If you are obvious about reading name tags, checking your watch, or blatantly going from display to display saying “Well, that’s not right…”, you’ll most certainly be caught in the act.
To be a good mystery shopper, you need to put on your acting hat and play the part of a real shopper, all the while making as many discreet mental notes as you are required to do.
Just The Facts, Ma’am. There are two parts to mystery shopping. The first part is the actual shop itself, visiting the store and collecting the information you need. The second part of mystery shopping is completing and filing the report based on your observations.
The report you provide may be multiple choice or yes/no. However, more often than not, you will be required to complete essay-style questions as well. You will need to have a strong grasp of the written word and the ability to accurately convey your observations in written format. Reports with grammatical errors may be returned to you to correct before you will be paid on them.
If you’re strong in all of these skill areas and also have a love of shopping, mystery shopping may be for you!