I started mystery shopping after reading about it from someone over at Saving Advice Blogs. She had listed a couple of companies to start out with and I took her advice. That was in March of 2016. In the first 9 months that I was mystery shopping I made over $2,600. Not too bad for something on the side! This year, I’ve already booked more than $2,900 worth of jobs. Here are some tips I’ve learned to help increase my mystery shop earnings.
Make Your Scheduler’s Life as Easy as Possible
In each mystery shopping company, it is someone’s job to make sure every shop gets filled. Even the low paying ones, or the ones far away from a city, or the complicated ones no one wants. They are always working on a deadline.
Whenever I can, I try to make their lives easier. Or at least not harder. At the very minimum, I don’t cancel shops I have signed up for unless there is an emergency. If the shop needs to be completed within a date range, I try to do it early so they don’t have to worry about it not being completed at the last minute. And if they ask me to fill a shop last minute, as long as it’s reasonable I will.
In exchange for all of this, schedulers will keep me in mind when they have better shops. Mystery shop companies often hold back the higher paying, more prestigious shops for their most reliable shoppers. By securing my reputation as a trustworthy shopper, I get put in the pool of potential shoppers for these shops.
Schedulers also have the ability to offer bonus pay for shops they are coming up on deadline with. By being a reliable shopper, I am more likely to command the bonus pay that I request. I try to keep it reasonable, but I once secured $25 for a shop that originally paid $0.
Schedulers can offer their better shoppers shops before everyone else. I have been doing a lot of phone shops, which I have a love-hate relationship with. I had finished my latest round of shops when the scheduler told me someone else backed out and she assigned me two more. Then she asked if I wanted to do more on another platform. I agreed, but to a limited number since the deadline was coming up. She asked me if she moved the deadline could I do more. So I agreed to 10 more shops, with a later deadline, all that paid more than the original shops I signed up for.
To recap: Make your scheduler’s life easier by maintaining a reputation as reliable, and they will be more likely to offer you bonuses, better paying shops and shops before everyone else.
Put in Your Time
There are several hospitality based mystery shop companies that offer days or weeks long cruises and stays in luxury hotels. Don’t think that you will get assigned those shops if you have never completed a shop for them before. It’s like when you submit a resume for a job opening-you might get invited to an interview, but you probably aren’t going to be hired sight unseen. These companies want to make sure you can perform to their standards before offering you all expenses paid jobs. They might not tell you, but you will have to complete some of the less complicated shops before being eligible for the more ritzy shops. You might have to complete several phone shops before being allowed to complete fine dining shops before they will consider you for 5 Star Hotels. Once you have proven yourself as a reliable shopper, doors will open up for you!
Rule number one of mystery shopping is don’t call attention to yourself. Rule number two is make sure to collect every bit of information that is asked of you, and then some. So, how do you take copious notes without outing yourself as a mystery shopper? Here are some tips:
Your Camera Phone is Your Friend
One of the instructions in most restaurant shops is to time how long it takes for orders to get to the table. Instead of using a stopwatch, I take photos of the drinks and food once it arrives. Luckily, everyone and their mother likes to Instagram their meals-even when they’re at fast food places. It won’t seem out of the ordinary if you’re taking pictures. The pictures tell you what time they were taken, so it’s an easy way to discreetly keep track of how long food and drinks take to get to the table.
You can also discretely take a picture in your pocket when you walk into an establishment so you have a timestamp without even looking at your phone.
Text Yourself Notes
Instead of taking a notepad and pen to take notes, text yourself a few words here and there to write down key details. Now, there are going to be shops where texting will be incredibly out of place, so do it sparingly and use your best judgement. Many retailers and restaurants have security footage, so if they catch you on your phone for the entire shop then they can throw the results out.
Go to the Bathroom
The bathroom won’t have security footage, however. Many shops require you to evaluate the bathroom. It is also the perfect place to text yourself, or as one mystery shopping company suggested- call your answering machine and leave yourself a message. (That seems weird to me, especially if the employees also use the restroom.)
Take a Friend!
Not all mystery shops will allow you to take a friend, but most dining shops want you to be accompanied. If you are allowed to bring an extra person, use them to your advantage! If you have to ask a series of questions, give a couple to your partner so it doesn’t seem weird you’re doing all the talking. They might have a better vantage point to help you see a nametag. They also can help you remember some of the details you need when you go back to write your report.
Write Your Report ASAP
This may seem like a no brainer, but write your report as soon as you can so that all the details are fresh in your mind. If I’ve spent a couple of hours completing a few mystery shops, I usually want some down time before I get back to work. And that usually is a mistake. It takes a little longer to complete the reports because I have to stop and think. I don’t miss any crucial details, but I could probably add more details in the reports that I start hours after I finished my shop.
There are also deadlines to consider. It’s pretty standard that the shop be reported within 8 hours after completion, or by midnight. Some companies may give you 24 hours to complete the report, but if you get it done by the next morning, they will tack on an early report bonus. Get the reports done as soon as you can!
Do Your Homework!
This might seem like another no brainer, but make sure to read all the materials for each shop. This will definitely include the guidelines, but there might be an additional set of guidelines to look at. It also might include a sample report.
Study the sample report! Model your report after the sample report. If the sample report refers to the shopper in the 3rd person, then you should also refer to yourself in the 3rd person. If the sample report starts with “I entered the establishment at 6:45 PM on Saturday, August 19, and was immediately greeted by a smiling woman who identified herself as Ann,” don’t write “I saw Ann when I walked in the door.” If you are REALLY lucky, the mystery shopping company will have a style guide for you to use to write the reports.
By using these tips to write better reports, I have increased my mystery shopping pay. Schedulers are happy to schedule me better shops and sometimes even give me bonuses.