5 On Your Side

Mystery shopper shares secrets of the job

Posted September 1, 2010
Updated September 3, 2010

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— In this economy, it's all about customer service.

“Can you find someone to check you out? And then, how quick does that process go?” said Elaine Buxton, who runs Confero, a firm that uses mystery or secret shoppers to check out everything from mechanics to retailers to restaurants.

“A restaurant may want to know how they're doing on a Friday night when it's busy. They might want to know the timing of entrees, greeting, hostess, server, experience, ambiance, cleanliness - all the factors that go into that customer's experience,” she said.

Jennifer, whose full name was withheld to maintain her identity as a mystery shopper, works for Confero.

“We're given a specific list of instructions, or we're given a specific scenario,” Jennifer said.

Mystery shopper shares secrets of the job Mystery shopper shares secrets

She shops for about six different companies, but not for the money.

“The shopping itself doesn't give you enough work to keep you occupied 40 hours a week,” Jennifer said.

The pay depends on the amount of time involved in the shop. Often, the payment is the free stuff Jennifer gets for doing the shop, such as car maintenance when she shops a mechanic and a free meal when she shops a restaurant.

But she said there is a lot more to it then just eating a meal.

“Everything we do is about checking what the company standard is. So, if the company provides some sort of a service and speed is their biggest issue, then you would go in with some sort of a timing device, and you would time the different things that they're looking for,” Jennifer said.

“You have to make sure that you're hitting everything that they ask for. Otherwise, you won't get paid. You won't get reimbursed,” she said.

Jennifer also does it for fun.

“It exposes me to a lot of different industries that I've never been exposed to before, maybe experiencing products or services that I hadn't tried, or companies that I hadn't tried and it was really more of an education for me than anything else,” she said.

Jennifer said there is one drawback to the job.

“There's one part I don't enjoy about mystery shopping, which is when I have to say that somebody did not meet the standard or made a mistake. I feel terrible about it,” she said.

For people searching for a job as a mystery shopper, Jennifer and Buxton recommend starting with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, where reputable companies are members.


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  • mddavis Sep 2, 2010

    3 years ago I was a victim of something similar. But the scam was based more so on me saling some items that was suppose to be sent to me. I applied for it online. I received a phone call asking me info and I was skeptical enough to not give my social security number or bank number. They told me that a check was in the mailbox but they needed me to go to the bank right away and send them some money, I refused. I received the check and went to my bank and the check was a fake and my bank charged me for it. I have sympathy for the people who lose money attempting to gain money and I honestly have no mercy for the scammers.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Sep 1, 2010

    "Unless a company is listed on the MSPA Website, they aren't reputable."

    BULL DUNG! Footage at 11 from the meddler!

  • mwarrior7 Sep 1, 2010

    Marketforce is a good company to do this with and has plenty of jobs around the Raleigh area. I did some work for them when I had the time. They mail payment checks once a month and are reputable.

  • rescuemom15 Sep 1, 2010

    A few tips for those interested - Unless a company is listed on the MSPA Website, they aren't reputable. Sign up for multiple companies and you can control how many emails you get. Lastly, do not EVER cash a check and wire money - ever. Most companies pay by direct deposit or paypal. Occasionally, mailing a check for exactly what you are owed. You won't get rich off of it, but it's a way to get free stuff.