Video Mystery Shopping is something you may consider if you don't mind walking into a business with a hidden camera and microphone. This is a very effective tool for business owners, because they can see and hear what happened at their place of business. They don't have to rely on written information from a shopper, who may have missed an important detail or two. With hidden video, the owner has a better tool to train people.
That’s what video mystery shopping is all about -- training people so they
can be better on their job. It’s not
always about catching people doing something wrong or to get them to say something
wrong. Once a mystery shopper enters a
location, most of the time they will answer a few questions and/or listen to a
One of these buttons is actually a camera. Can you guess which one? (fill out the form below for the answer)
When you talk about video and audio recording of any kind, there are some legal issues to consider. In the United States, there are either one-party or two-party states. A one-party state requires that one person must have knowledge of a recording taking place. The mystery shopper would be the one party. In a two-party state, both you and the person you shop must have knowledge of a recording. Currently, there are about a dozen states that are considered two-party.
The video mystery shopping companies I work with consider all states to be two-party. These companies require company owners to have each one of their employees sign a waiver agreement. This waiver says that mystery shoppers with hidden equipment will be entering their locations to record their performances. Both parties know that mystery shoppers will be around, but the employees won’t know who they are.
There may be some assignments where a company owner wants information on the competition. This is common for new home builders. One home builder may order one video mystery shopper to visit five or six competing home builders in a community for pricing information or to see if they talk negative about them. This would be acceptable for a one-party state, but not for a two-party.
- The pay per shop is much better than the written shops. Video
mystery shopping assignments usually pay double what a written assignment will
pay. Big bonuses will be given to mystery
shoppers who don’t mind driving to areas where there are no video shoppers in the
area. I drove to Victoria, Texas once
for a dental visit and was paid four times the normal rate.
Most video assignments I have done over the years have been for new home builders. They pay extra if a spouse joins you. It’s more believable to a sales counselor when two people are there. People who do video mystery shopping full time will take their spouse with them and travel around the country. Or they will choose routes and do a bunch of assignments in a few days’ time.
- You don't have to write as much detail about your visit. Most of the time, I have to answer a few
questions and write a couple of sentences online about the video shop
assignment I did. Some written
assignments require more time to write a lot of narrative about your
visit. I once spent more than one hour
writing long narratives for an apartment assignment. After that, I didn’t ask for any more
of those assignments.
There are several things to be aware of before going on location for a video shop. You will not be paid if any of the following problems occur.
- Your recording stops during your shop. If you have technical problems that are your fault, you will not get paid. That can include a battery that runs out of juice because it wasn’t fully charged. I have accidentally stopped a recording during my shop and didn't know about it until after the visit. You must have extra batteries and video cards with you during the mystery shops. If you feel your recording time is getting close to the end, you must excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and change these items out.
- Your camera is shooting too much floor, too much ceiling or the audio
is bad. You have to have a good recording to send to the client. They pay a
lot of money for these videos so they expect the best in return. You have to
have the camera pointed at the sales agent most of the time. It's impossible to
do it 100% of the time, but there are tricks you learn in the training that
will help you point the camera at the subject. Also, if the audio is so bad that
you can't understand anything, the mystery shopping company will decline your
- You didn't follow instructions. For every assignment, you are given specific directions on what you MUST and MUST NOT do. For a new home shop, there are specific instructions that you are supposed to say "yes" to. If the agent asks if you would like to see a lot to have your home built on, you must say "yes." You can't have an excuse like I have to pick up the kids. The home builder wants to see a complete presentation from their agents. Saying "no" could mean a reduction in pay or no payment at all.
- You didn't talk to the specific person you were assigned to. For many new home and apartment shops, you may have to shop a specific person. This can be a little challenging, because some companies don't want you to call the location before you visit. If the agent is not there when you visit, you have to find an excuse to leave. You will usually be paid half the fee for your efforts if you were unable to reach your target. You’ll receive the whole fee (in addition) if you’re able to shop that agent later.
I think it's safe to say that all video mystery shoppers ran into a problem once in a while where they didn't get paid. That's the nature of the beast. The plain fact is that over time, you will make more money with video mystery shopping, even if you lose a shop once in a while.
The key to making a lot of money is to register with several video mystery shopping companies. The assignments come in cycles. You may have 8 assignments one month and none the next. Plus, once you visit a location, you won’t be able to shop that place again for at least a year, if at all.
To learn more about the mystery shopping business, you can read my book (or eBook) "Take That Job and Mystery Shop It!"
Look out for scam artists in mystery shopping.