Mystery shopping companies are the fulcrum to the mystery shopping industry. Business owners and managers contact mystery shopping companies to have people visit their locations. Mystery shoppers sign up with mystery shopping companies to apply for these assignments.
It starts with the business owner or manager of a company who wants mystery shoppers to visit their location. This can be a visit to a physical location, a phone call or internet inquiry. It can be a large company with hundreds of locations throughout the country or a small business owner who has one or more locations in a town.
The owner or manager can ask for a mystery shop, an audit or both. The person who poses as the mystery shopper will keep their true identity a secret, even after the assignment is over. An audit is where the mystery shopper will be considered a vendor. They will record specific numbers and prices for their report. A grocery store assignment may require prices on 30 or more different food items.
The client of a fast food restaurant may want you to begin the assignment as a mystery shopper. Usually, the goal here is to see if you’re offered an upsell from your order taker. After you’re done with the meal, you can reveal your identity and record some details for an audit. The audit would most likely be taking pictures of menu boards and writing down prices of items.
The mystery shopping company will write up a questionnaire and talk about pricing with the client.
After the assignments are set in place, the mystery shopping company will have a scheduler post them on a job board. You can apply to become a mystery shopper through the encrypted website of the mystery shopping company. If the company adds you to their database, you can apply for these assignments. You can see if anything in your area is open to you or in areas where you plan to travel.
The scheduler will look at all the people who apply and assign them. Some assignments will draw a lot of interest. Other times, the scheduler will have to find people to do them. This happens a lot with assignments in smaller towns.
One thing to remember is that you never send an email to anyone when applying for a mystery shopping assignment. Legitimate mystery shopping companies have websites where your information is safe in their databases. If you’re asked to send personal information in an email to someone you don’t know, you’re probably working with a scam artist.
Learn more about mystery shopping scams.
After the mystery shopper has completed an assignment and submitted their report, the editor will take over. They will look over the report and prepare it for the client. The editor should not have to fix a lot of errors in punctuation and spelling. They should only make some minor modifications.
If they have to make a lot of corrections, the editor may have to call you to make some clarifications. If the report is full grammatical errors and missing too many details, the editor may decide that the report cannot be sent to the client. If that happens, the shopper will not get paid.
Many mystery shopping companies will give shoppers a rating on their reports. A 10 rating is a perfect score, with no corrections to the report. A 1 rating is a pathetic report that probably won’t be good enough to send to the client. Mystery shopping companies only deal with shoppers that have a 7 or above rating. Anything below that, you probably won't get too many more assignments from that company.
Some mystery shopping companies have large organizations that operate worldwide. Others are smaller companies that employ less than five people.
The first company I worked in mystery shopping was Business Resources, which was owned and operated by Judith Rappold. She (and the business) are now retired, but she only had one other person work for her. Two people in the business. She did this for over 30 years and had a lot of client satisfaction and happy mystery shoppers. Judith gave me a list of assignments every month, which is rather unusual.
You don't have to pay mystery shopping companies to be in their databases. They pay you after you complete assignments for them. You don't get paid before doing an assignment either. If you receive a check for thousands of dollars before doing any assignments, don't cash it. It's a fake check.
Read about the legality of mystery shopping.
Get a complete list of mystery shopping companies from my book (and eBook) "Take That Job And Mystery Shop It!" I break down what companies focus on and which ones I have had a lot of success with.