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Five Myths About Mystery Shopping

If you search the internet for information about mystery shopping, you’re bound to find some conflicting ideas. It’s important to educate yourself about the industry before you start signing up for secret shops in order to avoid getting scammed. Here are five myths that we’d like to debunk.

Mystery shopping
Image by ilya_batikov via Flickr

Myth 1: You can get rich by mystery shopping.

I’ve read websites claiming that you can earn up to $50,000 a year working as a part-time mystery shopper. The truth is, you can’t. The mystery shopping industry is made mostly of people shopping part time or in their spare time, as a way to make some extra income. If you are shopping part time, you can earn at least a few hundred dollars a month in fees and reimbursements. The amount of money you can bring in by mystery shopping depends on a variety of factors:

  • Where you live (more opportunities are available in urban areas than in rural areas).
  • The types of shops you decide to do (pay varies based on the complexity of the shop).
  • How often you want to work (you are not required to do a certain number of shops, and the number of assignments you sign up for is up to you).

Myth 2: You get the best mystery shopping jobs by paying a fee to register at a mystery shopping web site.

If a mystery shopping company charges you to apply, it is not legitimate. You shouldn’t have to pay to shop — a sentiment backed by the Mystery Shopping Provider’s Association (MSPA). Always shop with mystery shopping companies that do not require a fee to register. A good idea is to verify the company is registered with the MSPA, who holds their network to a certain set of standards and ethics.

Myth 3: You must be certified before you work for a mystery shopping company.

Certification from the MSPA is not required to become a mystery shopper. You can do as many shops you like without any sort of certification whatsoever. However, it’s not a bad idea, especially if you find that mystery shopping has become an important part of your extra income. By getting certified, you’re showing the mystery shopping companies that you have taken the initiative to educate yourself about the industry, and you’re serious about being a secret shopper. Some companies give preference to shoppers who are certified, so it can be considered an investment in your business.

Myth 4: Being a mystery shopper isn’t much work.

Getting paid to shop does sound like a lot of fun. But it’s not as easy as you might think. Secret shopping not only involves prep work before the shop, but also submitting reports after it’s done. You may have to watch an instructional presentation, take a quiz to test your competence about a shop, or write in detail about your observation. It’s much more than “just shopping.”

Myth 5: You sign up once and wait for shops.

Oftentimes I hear from frustrated mystery shoppers who signed up with one company, waited to be given their first assignment, and never heard from the company. One of the secrets to being a successful mystery shopper is registering with several different companies. This will greatly increase your chances of getting scheduled and brings variety to your workload. Also, not all companies will contact you for shops, sometimes you need to check the job postings on the company’s website.

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of mystery shopping. While it may be hard work, it is still an interesting and exciting industry to be in.

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