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Old 11-12-2006, 01:47 AM
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Default Mystery shoppers first stop here

I have noticed and responded to many posts here from people who are interested in joining the world of mystery shopping, but do not know how to begin.

Some very important sites

1. Mystery Shoppers Providers Association at http://www.mysteryshop.org

MSPA offers:
Shopper Certification Conferences-This is not required to become a mystery shopper, although it is helpful in proving to mystery shopping companies your training and experience.
Search Mystery Shopping Companies-Search By Company Name, Location, Industry Served or Services Provided
Search Assignments-By Country, State, Province
The Forums-Bulletin Boards

The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources. With over150 member companies worldwide, their diverse membership includes marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services.

2. Voliton.com at http://www.volition.com is a great resource for mystery shoppers.

Some of the pertinent content includes:
Mystery Shopping Companies List-Legitimate Companies A-Z-Including International Companies
Daily Checklist
Mystery Shoppers Assignment Log
The Forums-Bulletin Boards

The Forums at Volition can be very helpful in finding out information on a company that you have never heard of, obtain current feedback on a company, network with other shoppers, find job openings, obtain information regarding Independent Contractor agreements and taxes, etc.

How to obtain shops:

DO NOT PAY TO SHOP OR OBTAIN INFORMATION ON SHOPS!
Experienced mystery shoppers will say that you should not pay to shop. Many companies that require payment or membership fees are SCAMS.

Be patient and persistent and the shops will come to you. If they can obtain this information, then so can you!

Apply to as many companies as you can. If you have grocery stores, convenience stores, banks, gas stations, fast food/restaurants in your area, then there is a good chance that you will find some shops.

It is common practice for companies to ask you to fill out a W9, your social security number or bank account/routing number.

DO NOT GIVE OUR PERSONAL INFORMATION UNLESS YOU HAVE VERIFIED THAT THEY ARE A LEGITIMATE COMPANY.

Mystery shopping companies require W9 and social security number, because they are required to provide our earnings to the IRS. Independent Contractors will be issued a 1099 Form for Income Tax if they have earned $600 or more in a calendar year.

Many companies offer direct deposit, so giving out your bank account /routing number information is entirely up to you. Other frequent payment methods include check by mail or PayPal. PayPal is a legitimate payment processing center and an eBay company. You can learn more about PayPal at http://www.paypal.com or check the feedback on Volition in regard to them.

Keep a good record of the websites, usernames and passwords. Many companies will provide you with access to self-assign or request shops right on their website. Many companies will send email notifications that shops have been posted on their sites or emails offering a specific shop. Make sure you don’t have spam filters on your email, since job offers could easily get put into the deleted items/trash folder.

Check the sites daily. Check various hours of the day. Many companies post available shops at the beginning or end of the month. But many companies can post at any time, as clients sign on with them. If you request a shop and do not get accepted, do not become discouraged. Continue to request the shop. Some shops require shopper rotation, so eventually it will be your turn. The more a scheduler sees your name, the more likely they are to remember it the next time.

If you get an email offering you a shop, check the legitimacy of the email. Make sure it is a legitimate company that you have applied to shop with.

In my experience, I have obtained emails from individuals offering mystery shopping at a well-known restaurant, accepted the shop and did not get paid. The individual was in fact representing the restaurant, but was not part of a company. It turned out that the individual was in fact paid by the restaurant to locate shoppers and report information-he was simply keeping the money for himself and never paid shoppers.

Tips, Tricks and Other Information

Do not cancel a shop unless you have a serious reason. Shop cancellations cost companies money and make you look unreliable. Do not repeatedly cancel shops.

Start out small and do not pick up too many shops. Relax and do not worry that the employees know you are a shopper, trust me, they will not know. Just be yourself and pay attention.

Submit shop report on time and with accuracy. Check for spelling errors. Use adjectives. Be specific. Report only facts, not opinions. Keep detailed notes for up to 3 months. Submit additional business cards or receipts on time.

Use caution when taking notes or recording messages for shop details. Notes are best used when shopping a grocery store shop, where a grocery list is common. It would not be appropriate for, say, a cell phone shop. Do not use a cell phone to record messages when completing a casual dining assignment, this makes you appear unapproachable and may affect service timings. Use caution when leaving a cell phone message, later you may find that your message is inaudible due to interference/bad reception.

Do not inform everyone you know that you mystery shop. Not only does this possibly compromise your shopper identity, later you may find that they are competing for the same shops you wanted.

Many shops require specific electronics/equipment, such as a scanner, fax machine, digital camera, digital timer/stopwatch, or printer. You can find plenty of shops that do not require all or any of this equipment. Scanners or fax machines are used to scan and submit business cards, receipts or payment invoices. There are many digital shops available that require a series of photographs. If you own a digital camera, take the time to learn how to download the images to your computer, rename and email them. A digital timer/stopwatch is frequently used for fast food shops to obtain service timings. Sometimes you are required to print a shop report and mail it to the company. It is very convenient to print the location of a shop, time and shop details to take with you on an assigned shop. You can then file this information by date and later verify that you have been paid.

You should not bring anyone with you on a shop; unless your shop instructions clearly state that this is acceptable. Specifically, bringing children on a shop can be a distraction. There are times that it is acceptable, some restaurant shops or daycares. Remember, you are providing a service in which you need to report with 100 percent accuracy what occurred. Many clients are requesting their companies to be shopped to check on regular service and/or service problems, and you wouldn’t want someone fired because you reported something inaccurately.

Remember, mystery shopping is not a full time income. While many shops pay a flat fee, generally speaking, there are more reimbursement shops available. I generally make from $300-$500 or more in any given month, however, much of my *income* is reimbursement for grocery or retail purchases, fast food/restaurant reimbursement, movie theater reimbursement, etc. It really does put extra money in your pocket though, its money you spent on groceries and got paid back for, so essentially, you got those groceries for free. Most reimbursement retail shops are very minimal amounts from $1-$9 or so. Fast food and restaurants are usually from $5-$50, more for upscale dining establishments. There are some really good topics on Volition-I don’t remember the topic, but it is similar to: “You know you are a mystery shopper when”...you have 20 bags of kitty litter and only have 1 cat, you have a glovebox full of ketchup packets, you have public restroom pictures in your digital camera, your child refers to shopping as “shops”, etc. It’s really very funny for those of us who know what they are talking about.

HAVE FUN!
It is not as hard as it may sound. In fact, it is quite rewarding if you do your job correctly. Even if you have not yet obtained shops, start practicing now obtaining names and descriptions of the people you come into contact with at local places you visit. You will be surprised to realize that you never before have noticed someone’s name or hair color. Pay attention to details such as whether the employee smiled and gave you their undivided attention or ignored you and chatted away with another employee. These are things you will be looking for.
Edited by: Mom2
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~Christina~

Last edited by starbirdy66; 02-08-2012 at 06:14 AM.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 11-12-2006, 01:48 AM
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With all the recent topics on here from people with questions on how to get started, I thought this might be some helpful information. I have ended up repeating the recommendations for MSPA and Volition in many topics. <?:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" /><O:P></O:P>


Can someone please request that this be a sticky? I am unable to request it as the poster. Simply click the report button and Cheryl will review the request as far as I know. Please post here that you requested the sticky to avoid multiple requests.<O:P></O:P>


Also, experienced shoppers, please feel free to add anything that I left out.<O:P></O:P>


Thanks![img]smileys/smiley2.gif[/img][img]smileys/smiley1.gif[/img]Edited by: Mom2
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Old 11-12-2006, 06:03 PM
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Looks like you covered it all-Mom2! I would only had if you have friends who mystery shop have them refer you so that you will be offered assignments quicker...Some MS companies take referrals and even pay for their current MSpers to do so...plusthey pay you to offer a restaurant/retail to be shopped and if the potential client agrees you are paid a bonus/commission...Great hobby for SAHMoms!
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Old 01-12-2007, 11:43 PM
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Hi all! Mom2 gave some great advice. I definitely agree with NEVER paying to shop and being careful to whom you give your Social Security Number (hint: on Prophet sites, it's not required so you can skip that spot). I just had to add onto the info from Mom2 and give my twodollars here. LOL Yes, that means this will be long, but I've been shopping for many years and learned much of it the hard way. I've got suggestions below for you to ponder to hopefully save some hassles by learning it the hard way. The most important thing is to do what works for you.


Two fantastic forums:


First, my two favorite shopping forums are Mystery Shop Resources (http://p216.ezboard.com/bmysteryshopresources) and Mystery Shoppers Freedom (http://www.msfreedom.org). Both sites have an extensive list of mystery shopping and merchandising companies as well as their websites or emails if you have to apply that way.


For MSF, you'll need to register in order to view the forums. Unfortunately a very unethical person on the MSP (mystery shopping providers) side of the business would log on as hidden to spy and post under aliases. It became such a problem that no one can use hidden status or see the forum unless you're logged in, but it's FOR the shoppers' protection against unethical behavior.


To Certify or Not to Certify:


It is most definitely not required to be certified to shop. I don't what it costs for the NCMPS certification, but it's $115 to get both MSPA silver and gold certified. Unfortunately, most jobs are very low in pay and often cost shoppers more in expenses than they receive in pay and/or reimbursmentsso it's important to weigh the benefits of certification against the fees. Very few companies recognize the NCPMS certification andmaybe a forth of all companiesbelong to the MSPA, which is a requirement to use the MSPA certifications.Most shoppers aren't certified and the training is basic stuff that will be learned with a little experience or reading up on the boards. The silver certification test is overly simplistic but required to become gold certified, which is the basics. I would never tell anyone not to get certified, but I don't want people going thinking that they'll learn a world of new information, especially if they've been shopping for a few months. It's mostly useful for networking with other shoppers and sometimes with company owners and/or schedulers. As someone who's worked on the MSP side of the business, I can promise you the biggest influence on your reputation as a shopper is whether you get the jobs done on time, done correctly, and have decent writing skills. Sadly, many shoppers are lacking so a strong shopper, certified or not, is a valuable asset.


Finding Jobs:


The number one rule for successful mystery shopping is to apply, apply, apply! There are literally hundreds of companies out there. One company might have one or two clients in your area while another might have five and yet another none. You'll find out who shops who by applying.


RoboForm is a fantastic tool to have. It's an online form fillerand it's tax deductible. It's good for any online forms and not just mystery shopping related. I use it for personal, MSing/merchandising, and my Party Gals accounts. I'll tell ya right now I LOVE my RoboForm and couldn't live without it. I do not want to have to look up 200 user IDs and passwords every time I want to log into a MSP's website. Plus, it doesn't have spyware the way the Gator form filler does.


Also, whenever you're asked about your experience, to write about your best/worst restaurant/hotel/shopping experience, zip codes you'll shop, cities you'll shop, or whatever it may be, it's best to save a copy to Word. Always check for typos, spelling errors, awkward syntax, and such. Some companies don't offer automatic approval (some do) and will use your application to decide whether you have the basic skills to complete assignments for them. By saving it to Word, it will alsoprevent you from having to type the same writing sample over and over and over and...well, you get the point.


Shops, Fees, and Payments:


You'll need something to keep track of your shops, fees,and payments received or those you're waiting on still. I'd suggest using the MS Bible (http://www.mysteryshoppingbible.com/) or emailing Gary for a Shop Sheet (shopsheet@juno.comI believe is the email address). You can go to the MSF forum and find Gary there. The MSB costs $10 last I knew while the Shop Sheet is free. The main difference between the two is that the MSB has more formulas andabout 200 MS companies listed in it, though there are about twice that. It's been awhile since I've seen the Shop Sheet, so Gary could have made even more upgrades to it. Either way, you can't go wrong.


More Record Keeping:


You will want to keep copies of acceptance emails, especially if a bonus is promised, until after you've been paid. It happens that bonuses get left out or fees/reimbursement amounts change, so it's good to have proof to fight it. I have a folder for assignments in my email and I put all correspondence in that folder and leave any assignment I haven't done marked as unread so I can see at a glance that something needs to be completed. I also enter it into my MSB, which highlights the dates of assignments that are upcoming.


In My Documents, I have a folder labeled MS Companies and then in that a folder for each company. Inside each company's folder, I keep my shop comments, confirmation numbers to prove I've submitted the repots, instructions, and blank reports for each job. I don't print out the instructions because that would cost too much in printing supplies,but I do print up the reports using the two pages per sheet of paper option. When I'm done with the shop, I staple the receipt or business card and anything else needed for the shop to the report so it's all together and also file those away.


It's important to keep good records because many times companies will need clarification on an assignment or want more detail.If you can't answer the questions, your reports could be rejected. Since it's impossible to remember all the details about a particular assignment,having a copy to refer to is a great way to refresh your memory. Plus, if the report doesn't submit, then you've got a copy to redo it, too. Plus you'll need proof for taxes. Don't forget to count mileage, printing supplies,pens,DVRs, et cetera thatyou use for MSing on your taxes, too.


Ok, it's way late and I'm actually exhausted (I'm a terrible night owl) so I think I'm gonna mosey on to bed now. Hopefully, the info helped. Just be choosy when taking jobs. There's no need to take a $5 job where you're expected to evaluate 10 employees in order to "prove" yourself. There are better jobs out there that you can use to establish yourself. Good luck!
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Old 02-13-2007, 03:24 PM
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I have to add to this board, definatley check monster.com every now and again. On a whim I applied to a listing there, and it actually was a legitamate job. Not freelance! I start train next Friday. To start it pays $8 and change an hour for my training period, and $10 and change thereafter, also pay for mileage and purchases. I guess I got lucky this time! Happy searching.
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Old 03-08-2007, 11:21 AM
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We have a little mystery shopping guide (an ebook version) for free downloads for all our SP Power of 10 Income System website members</span></span>. This includes everything stated here and more. Most of all, members gain access to over 350 Mystery Shopping Companies in our directory of 5 full pages</span>.

Visit Our Website Now</span> to download this FREE guide</span> today...

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Old 03-08-2007, 02:26 PM
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what a great thread...


it's going to take me some time to go through all this great info!
Nancy
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Old 03-08-2007, 09:02 PM
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No offense to SPSystem, but they normally want $20 for a list of companies that can be found all over the 'Net for free, so I do NOT trust them or their site just because they're offering the info for free fora limited time. Why would they charge to begin with?


You can go to www.msfreedom.org or http://p216.ezboard.com/bmysteryshopresources and get the info for free without the need to download anything. And it's ALWAYS free.
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Old 03-09-2007, 07:52 AM
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partygalgoddess, not many people out there have the time to search out these companies you claim are available free. Have you ever wondered why people signup with Survey Scout, Survey Premier, et al?
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Old 03-09-2007, 08:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spsystem
partygalgoddess, not many people out there have the time to search out these companies you claim are available free. Have you ever wondered why people signup with Survey Scout, Survey Premier, et al?




Ok, now I KNOW that you're a company people can avoid! A list of companies that I "claim" is free?ROFL! What a joke. What do you think you're trying to pull over on me and the others here?I've been mystery shopping for over six years, know people who've been doing it much longer, and I visit the different mystery shopping forums, so I am one informed cookie. The number ONE cardinal rule of mystery shopping is: NEVER PAY TO SHOP. FREE lists of shopping companies can be found at numerous shopping forums, so don't act like it's anunheard of thing.It puts you in an untrustworthy light when you make claims like that. Mystery Shop Resources and MS Freedom are only two shoppers forums that have the lists, but I have a great deal of respect for those boards and they have the most thorough FREE lists of mystery shopping companies out there. Lists I have no doubt that will give your list a run for its money.


If anyone wants to pay for your list or download it for a limited time for free, they can knock themselves out and more power to them. BUT if they want the SAME information--information composed BY shoppers FOR shoppers that is ALWAYS free--then I suggest they go to http://p216.ezboard.com/bmysteryshopresources or www.msfreedom.org and click on the Mystery Shopping Companies threads. They don't need to take my word for it. They can look for themselves and decide.


Another thing, "Survey Scout, Survey Premier, et al" are SURVEY companies and NOT mystery shopping companies. You're confusing industries and you should know better if you're legit and have had any actual dealings with mystery shopping companies. However, under Earning Opportunities at MSR, people do have listed their favorite survey companies, companies that do more than waste people's time taking endless surveys with little or no rewards offered.
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