Mystery shopping. On their own they are two lovely words, but together they suggest easy money, free stuff and a bit of James Bond-esque secrecy. What’s not to like? Well, before you get carried away and start thinking of how you’re gonna be spending your millions, you might want to consider what’s actually required of you as a mystery shopper and weigh up the pros and cons of being a part of this multi-million pound industry!

There are two types of mystery shopping carried out by O2, explains Toby Cummins, Compliance Projects Lead at O2; experience and compliance. The first is all about assessing customer service;”the second, compliance checks, are end-to-end surveys, which means the mystery shopper buys the product and then returns it, testing out both transaction procedures,” he says. So mystery shoppers will look at whether O2 stores are complying with the financial conduct authority regulations when selling regulated products such as O2 refresh, including treating customers fairly and not selling to people who can’t afford it.

Pros

Money

This is the biggest pro and probably the most popular reason why people do mystery shopping. You’re told what to spend, either in the region of, say, £10-£20, on certain items or what dishes to order if you’ve bagged yourself a foodie  job and you’ll get your money back, as well as an extra amount for your time. Although this won’t be huge amounts (see below), it’s a fairly easy way of making some extra cash.

Free stuff

What’s almost as good as money? Free stuff! And you could end up getting quite a lot as your employer is only concerned about your experience in the shop and not the actual product, so you can keep whatever you’ve bought (so make wise purchases!). And if you’re eating out then obviously they won’t be expecting that back so you’ve just got your morning coffee/lunch/dinner absolutely free! Yay.

Helping fellow shoppers

But it’s not all about you (well, not all the time anyway). By mystery shopping you’re ensuring that your fellow shopping/eaters/drinkers/holidaymakers are receiving the high quality service they deserve and you’re helping businesses retain or achieve high standards. “Experience mystery shopping is all about understanding how our people in our stores do when it comes to giving our customers great experiences, treating them the way we want them to be treated, providing our customers with what they need in a timely fashion and basically testing that the frameworks we put in place as a business to make sure that our customer service is tip top in stores is actually how it happens in stores,” explains Toby Cummins, Compliance Projects Lead at O2.

So you can have a warm and fuzzy seflless glow about you when you’re doing it.

Cons

It takes time

You’ll have to get to the shop/restaurant/cafe, spend enough time there to get what you need and then write up your report, which all takes time; the report in particular. And we don’t just mean half an hour here or there; it can be a couple of hours. So before you commit to anything make sure you actually have the time to do it.

It’s not constant work

The amount and time work you get as a mystery shopper isn’t constant, so if you’re looking to make extra money regularly, try bar work or retail. The amount of work you can get mystery shopping depends on where you live and how much competition you’re up against in your area. You won’t be staying in fancy hotels straight away, either. You need to build up your mystery shopping reviews through smaller jobs first before you’re entrusted with the big stuff so it pays to provide thorough, detailed feedback.

The money isn’t instant

This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme so don’t go into it thinking that you’ll earn an easy grand because, well, you won’t. It’ll be nowhere near that. And, just like most jobs, you won’t get paid straight away and it depends on the job or organisation but you might not be paid travel expenses either so although you are earning money, you’ll need another source of income if you’ve got bills to pay! So if you’ve read down this far and are thinking ‘yeah, this sounds good! I think I might give it a try’, beware! There are a few scams out there, mainly sites that ask you to pay: that is a scam, do not do it! Check a company’s credentials at www.mspa-eu.org first.

What qualities do you need?

A good memory is essential, as you can hardly go to a restaurant and start looking around you, asking questions to test the server’s knowledge of the menu then start scribbling stuff down because that’s not very mysterious at all. Similarly, you can’t be reading off a piece of paper what you need to buy in a shop. So if you often find yourself in a room wondering what you went in there for, mystery shopping probably isn’t for you!

Attention to detail, as some tasks can be quite challenging. We might need lots of details about things in store, different steps you’ve gone through, what a salesperson says, photos, copies of receipts; so it can be quite involved,” explains Matthew Webster of GFK mystery shopping. “And honesty and integrity. As a reputable company we’ll quickly identify if they’re [a potential mystery shopper] trying to fabricate, so we look for genuine and honest people,” he adds.

If all this has got you a bit excited and you think mystery shopping is for you, check out GFK. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be able to log in and see the assignments on offer (or, if projects or more urgent, you may receive a call). When you’ve chosen a survey to complete you’ll receive a brief, on which you’ll be asked a series of test questions. This is to check you’ve read the briefing in detail; if you don’t answer the questions correctly, you don’t get the assignment. Good luck!

Image Credit: John

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