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Save money and have fun with Mystery Shopping

by Carolyn Hopping (follow)
Save Money (126)      Australia Wide (101)      Shopping (45)      Freebies (35)      Mystery shopping (1)      Extra cash (1)     
If you love shopping and would like to pick up a bit of extra cash doing what you enjoy, mystery shopping may be just the excuse you're looking for. Mystery shopping is a form of market research in which retail chains enlist the help of individuals (generally contracted through an agency) who pose as regular shoppers at their stores and report back to them, noting various important features of their shopping experience. This information is vital for businesses as it gives them an insight into the impressions of their customers, with the goal of improving their service and keeping ahead of competitors. While you won't get rich by mystery shopping, many people consider it a fun hobby which they enjoy in their spare time. As well as getting paid to write reports on specific businesses, you often have to purchase a small item which you'll also get to keep.

Image courtesy of Debbie Mc/Wikimedia Commons

Mystery shopping assignments are many and varied, although the vast majority are at the large retail chains that can be found in most Australian shopping centres. These include some of the country's most well-known clothing, gift, jewellery, home-ware, surfing, stationary, book and music stores. Other businesses that frequently engage the services of mystery shoppers includes mobile phone companies, auctioneers, fitness centres, vehicle sales companies, accommodation providers and foreign currency exchange vendors. Most require a personal visit, although in some cases you'll simply need to make a phone or email query to a company. Many popular eateries also employ mystery shoppers to visit and assess their food and customer service, and this always involves a free meal or coffee.

Image courtesy of Jobsearch/Wikimedia Commons

Each mystery shopping job is quite distinctly different, as are the companies which contract them. However, many features are the same, regardless of who you work for and what shops you're reporting on. As a mystery shopper you'll be required to visit a store during particular hours that the mystery shopping company will instruct you on. With some assignments you can visit at any time during the store's opening hours while others will request a specific time: for example, during the lunch-hour rush. In the online report that needs to be written shortly after your visit, you'll have to write the time you entered the store as well as when you left. Therefore, it's extremely important to thoroughly read the mystery shopping company's instructions before you visit the business. To not do so may mean that your pay is forfeited.

Image courtesy of Bill Branson/Wikimedia Commons

Anonymity is essential for a mystery shopper, and you're strongly discouraged from visiting a store where you know the staff. For a mystery shopping report to be of any value to a company, it's important that staff members aren't aware of what you're doing so that the service you receive is typical of what any other customer will experience. If a shop is badly-presented and the staff-members surly, the company will want a realistic appraisal, not one that is artificially glossed because they know you're writing a report. However, it's important not to be too harsh, and when I've written reports I've always tried to list the positives as well. After all, we all have our bad days and someone's job may depend on what you write.

Mystery shoppers report on every aspect of a business and after your visit you'll need to answer an online questionnaire asking particular questions. Sometimes these are multiple-choice or just require a simple yes / no answer. At other times you'll need to elaborate more fully on certain aspects of the business, such as writing a description of the staff-members you interacted with, the store's presentation and the type of sales techniques the staff employed. Therefore, although there aren't any educational qualifications or other prerequisites needed to be a mystery shopper, you need to have a reasonable level of literacy or your reports won't be of much value. Other qualities of a good mystery shopper include honesty, good memory, ability to follow instructions and keen sense of observation. Punctuality in submitting your reports is also crucial and each report has a deadline that must be adhered to. If you submit your report late you risk not getting paid at all. Finally, computer literacy is crucial, as is your own computer so you can easily complete your reports on time.
As mentioned earlier, although mystery shopping won't make you wealthy, it's a fun way to make a bit of extra cash and to get some freebies, if you like shopping. While not all mystery shopping assignments require you to make a purchase, some do. When this is necessary you need to pay for the item out of your own money, and you'll be reimbursed for it with your next pay. Always keep your dockets as you'll need these to verify your purchase.
Payment varies depending on the job, and the time involved in the visit and writing the report. Generally it ranges from about $5.00 up to $50.00 for more time-consuming assignments. Freebies are many and varied. Most are just small items $10.00 or under (the requirements will be described when you're accepted for a particular assignment), but others may include a free night at a luxury resort, a meal at a restaurant, or a makeup session at a department store. When I tried mystery shopping a few years ago I personally found it a great way to pick up cute little items to use as Christmas and birthday gifts.

If you're interested in giving mystery shopping a try, take a look online and apply to several companies. As mystery shopping is a casual, and therefore irregular, source of income most mystery shoppers are registered with various companies. I worked with Retail Reality, Mystery Customer and Armore, all of which I strongly recommend. Other Australian mystery shopping companies include Shop Angels, Retail Mystery Shopping Australia, The Realise Group, Australian Retail and Service Integrity.

To become a mystery shopper you'll need to complete an online application form. This usually involves a short exercise to demonstrate that you're competent in written English. Even if you're accepted, it may take a while for some companies to get back to you. Since mystery shopping is incredibly popular, sometimes companies have more than enough shoppers on their books and will wait until some drop out before they add more.

Mystery shopping companies welcome people of all demographics, as to get a fair assessment of any business they need to hear from people of various ages and backgrounds. Therefore, whether you're a young student, senior, stay-at-home parent or full-time worker, they're eager to get your perspective on some of Australia's best-known retailers and businesses.

In a nutshell, if you enjoy shopping and love getting freebies, mystery shopping may be a great new hobby for you. To find out more and apply, go to the websites of the mystery shopping companies mentioned above.

#Mystery shopping
#Australia Wide
#Extra cash
#Save money
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I did this for about 6 companies for 2 years and gave up in the end as the pay did not even cover my petrol! Most of the Australian companies pay up to $15 per visit with the average being about $7 or $8.

While it was fun at first, eventually I realised that it was actually costing me to drive say 6 kms each way, and get paid $10 for 30 minutes work, plus then another 30 minutes, at least to write up the job.

There was one exception where I got runners worth $150 to keep, but the everyday ones were all similar.
by Finy
Mystery Shopping is a great way to earn some extra money, and it can be fun choice for stay at home parents who are trying to combine child care and earning a bit of extra cash.
Mystery shopping is a great idea, however just applying for a set job doesn't guarantee work. Ive applied for dozens of them close to home, yet never been able to secure even one. Maybe it's time I start applying to other companies!
You need to register with several companies and pick and choose what comes up on the boards.
Check your settings to make sure you are receiving notifications daily as it is unusual not to get any notifications.
by Finy
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