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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Demystifying mystery shopping

W ith the holiday season around the corner, be on the look out for telemarketing calls and junk mail that may try to recruit you as a mystery shopper.

Mystery shopping, spotting, secret shopping, call it what you will, is becoming increasingly prevalent as businesses try to improve their operations. Most private investigative agencies have a branch of their agency that performs this type of work. There also are companies that solely provide mystery shopping to companies.

What is mystery shopping, what can you expect and what about all the companies out there looking for candidates to do this work?

In a nutshell, a mystery shopping company recruits, trains and pays undercover guests to visit businesses to check on service, cleanliness and integrity, among other areas of concern. Nearly all businesses that provide a service use such a company, including small businesses. Our agency performs such a service for numerous taverns in the Southland.

The mystery shopper is given a predetermined list on what the client wants the shopper to look for. Examples of concerns are how you were greeted and served, speed of service, overall and restroom cleanliness and integrity issues.

The shopper will visit the business at either a specific time or randomly, posing as a normal paying customer. During the visit, the shopper closely observes the operation and gathers data to address the items on the list provided by the client.

Most mystery shoppers use a small, digital recording device to hold the information. When the visit is over (the length is dependent on the client), the shopper either writes a narrative report or fills out a form or check list, depending on the client's wishes. The report is then given to the mystery shopping company, which passes it on to the client.

Mystery shopping normally is a part-time job, and you work as an independent contractor. Your work normally is divided among several clients. For example, you may visit a quick-change oil company in the morning, move on to several fast-food restaurants and finish at a movie theater. The pay usually is minimal, but most of the time you get to keep what you purchase or you get to enjoy a meal or some type of service.

The mystery-shopping business has been penetrated by marketers and others who are requiring money up front to become a mystery shopper. You never should have to pay a fee to do mystery shopping.

There are people out there who are selling lists of companies that use mystery shoppers. Purchasing such a list is not necessary. We live in the Internet Age, and finding companies that use mystery shoppers can be done through any search engine.

If you're interested in becoming a mystery shopper, be sure to find out how the company will pay you. Some companies do not pay you until they get paid by the client, which can be up to 90 days. It's a rare mystery-shopping company that gives you money up front to make purchases. The initial money comes out of your pocket, and you want to be reimbursed as quickly as possible.

Article Source : Demystifying mystery shopping

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