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When is it Okay to Pay to Mystery Shop? March 9, 2009

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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If you’ve heard the phrase once, you’ve heard it a thousand times, “Never pay to be a mystery shopper.” So, if you read the title of this post, you’re probably confused or thought we’ve lost our minds.

Let me clarify – when we use the phrase “pay to shop”, we’re referring to the many venues out there that want to charge people money to learn how to become a shopper. These are sites that will ask for anywhere from $10 to $100 and guarantee that you will be provided with either a) a complete list of mystery shopping companies who need you to work for them, or b) you will have steady work and make a great income. Some will provide books on mystery shopping, and others will give you nothing on the outset but the promise of work.

These are sites to stay away from. There are many, many legitimate mystery shopping companies for you to register with, and it is free. In fact, even finding this list of companies is free (a recent post discussed lists of mystery shopping companies and where to find them). It is also good to know that no one company can guarantee a steady income – each company works in different industries in different parts of the world, and no one company will be able to provide a mystery shopper with a steady, consistent workload.

Where the confusion might come in is the thought that mystery shoppers should NEVER pay money at all relative to their mystery shopping work. I’ve gotten quite a few emails recently asking about this very topic and wanted to address it in this blog.

Tomorrow’s post will discuss when it is okay to pay for products and services to better your career in mystery shopping. Like any job, there are tools and courses that may help you better yourself, which will put you one step ahead in some instances.

As a guide, don’t ever pay for the following with regard to mystery shopping:

  • Memberships that insist you will be assigned hundreds of shops a month, steady work, or a “great” income. One tip off here is if they claim you will “make enough money in your first month to cover the cost of membership.” Don’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

  • Companies who will provide you with a list or ebook listing mystery shopping companies’ information. This is free on the Internet and can be found easily through searching online.

  • Of course, scams that find you – emails saying that you can fill out quick surveys for $1,000 gift cards, cashier’s checks showing up in your mail, scams on Craig’s list claiming you can make $250 per shop, or ads in newspapers claiming you can make $150 a day. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

    Until next time….happy shopping!

    The Anonymous Life of a Mystery Shopper March 5, 2009

    Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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    My kids think mystery shopping is “cool” – they like the idea of being a “spy” of sorts. Last year, my second grader’s teacher asked me to come in to talk about my job, which started an array of questions and general interest from teachers and parents alike.

    I dread hearing the words, “Oh, you do mystery shopping? That sounds like SO much fun! Can you get me some work – I’d love to do this.” There are no good ways to approach this, especially when there are people who I know will not do well in this industry. I try to educate them briefly on the industry and give them some general websites to visit to learn more, and of course warn them of the scams that exist.

    I’ve also heard from shoppers who don’t like to share what they do with others, for a variety of reasons. Some worry that competition for shops will increase if more people are aware of it, and others will fear that a dining or shopping companion will loudly ask, “Are we on a shop?” in the middle of the restaurant or store. In small towns, outing yourself as a mystery shopper can ruin your career – if everyone in town knows you’re a shopper, you’re just not anonymous anymore.

    I’ve come across a few sites that discuss mystery shopper meet up groups – groups of mystery shoppers who live in close proximity to each other will form groups to meet on a regular basis. Sharing information about the industry, such as what types of shops are in their area and tips and advice, these groups can be an invaluable source of support for an industry that requires you to keep the details of your job to yourself.

    You can view the Mystery Shopper’s Meetup website, which allows you to search by zip code to see if a group currently exists. If not, you can see a list of people who may be interested in such a group.

    Because it’s a solitary job, having such a group for support and camaraderie can be wonderful. It’s worth looking into – you never know who you might meet!

    Until next time, happy shopping!

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