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  1. #1
    Contributor LouiseMS
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    Mystery Shopping - Squiggles' Guide

    If you fancy earning yourself a little extra cash and have a bit of spare time to play with, Mystery Shopping could be the answer for you. It's fun, rewarding, not too time consuming and assignments are varied and interesting.

    So what exactly is Mystery Shopping? Do you really get paid to shop?

    It's not as simple as being paid to do your weekly shopping, if only! You're normally asked to complete an assignment at a specified store, or restaurant, or hotel and to act out a scenario whilst posing as a normal customer. The job involves assessing staff performance, customer service and store tidiness and cleanliness. You might also be asked to check on merchandising or asked to audit a store in some way. Each assignment is different, depending on the needs of the client. But the one thing you must never do is reveal yourself as a mystery shopper - posing as a normal customer is essential!

    Some assignments require you to make a purchase to assess customer service and efficiency at the till, some may ask you to return a purchase to evaluate the stores return/refund policy. Some scenarios may involve asking a simple 'product knowledge' type question, to assess the knowledge of a staff member. Be prepared to be flexible!

    How do Mystery Shopping Companies select their shoppers? Is there an interview process?

    The selection process differs from company to company (and there are several MS companies in the UK). The majority ask that you complete a detailed application form and may then expect you to complete a 'test' shop to determine your observational and reporting skills. A few may require a face-to-face interview, but in my experience, this is pretty rare. One of the companies I am registered with rang me out of the blue for a phone interview, but again, this isn't common. These days, most MS Companies have taken advantage of internet technology which means that potential shoppers can apply online.

    Do you ever meet the company face to face?

    In my experience, this is fairly rare. One or two companies I have approached have asked me to attend an Open Day to learn more about the company and the way it operates, followed by a formal interview. In most cases, work is allocated to you either online or by telephone or in writing from your area allocator. You'll possibly get to know voices very well, but not necessarily faces! Some Companies have no vetting procedures at all; you simply complete an online application form and are accepted immediately.

    Is it difficult to be selected?

    Being selected will depend on a number of factors, but first and foremost, your geographical area. If the company already has a lot of shoppers employed near you, then they may not want new recruits. It's always best to check with the company concerned that they have a need for shoppers in your town before filling out lengthy application forms.

    You will also need to show commitment, have a very good memory and excellent observational and report writing skills. You must also be prepared to work to strict deadlines and return your reports as soon as possible after completing each assignment, normally the same day or the day after at the latest! Flexibility and enthusiasm are a must!

    Can you make a full time living out of mystery shopping?

    MS is rarely full time and work is normally allocated on an ad hoc basic. You may be offered lots of assignments one week, and then nothing for a month or two. It's a great means of supplementing your income or an opportunity to earn a few extra pennies in your spare time. If you register with as many MS companies as you can, your chances of receiving a lot of assignments will increase. And one nice thing, you are never obligated to accept any assignment offered to you, so you can pick and choose! However, if you show willing in the first instance, and accept pretty much all of the assignments you are offered, it may help you in the long run to secure the 'most wanted' types of assignments, as you will have proven yourself to be reliable and committed.

    Does mystery shopping always involve physically visiting stores?

    Not always! Mystery Shopping can take many forms, one of the most popular currently being telephone mystery shopping. This involves ringing an organisation or Company and assessing how well you are dealt with, the staff members' knowledge, the manner towards you, and courtesy etc.

    Some companies offer covert video mystery shopping, where you actually film the staff and shop interior with a concealed camera, whilst acting out your scenario. This is a great (and sneaky) way of really seeing how well staff deals with customers!

    Does every company use a standard report or questionnaire?

    No, each company has its own way of obtaining results and each will have its own report format. Some are just tick sheets; others require lots of comments and detail. A lot of Companies like you to enter your feedback via an online reporting system, but a few still prefer the old-fashioned paper, ink and snail mail option! So it's important that you can record your findings in an objective and detailed way. Some Companies will call you, to take your feedback over the telephone.

    Does it pay well?

    Pay rates differ from company to company, but as a general guide, telephone assessments pay on average between £1 and £5, physical mystery shopping visits pay up to £12 per assignment, and covert video mystery shopping up to £25 per visit. Each job comes with its own fee dependent on the amount of work involved. Some Companies also refund your travelling expenses (public transport at cost, a mileage allowance averaging about 22p per mile and car parking charges) and all will refund any necessary purchases, although current trends have seen a reduction in mileage allowances. All Companies refund the majority of required purchases, although some will set a maximum reimbursement level.

    What’s the best thing about being a Mystery Shopper?

    It's fun and it's varied. You never know when the phone is going to ring offering you a job at your favourite local restaurant, pub, hotel, or clothes shop and so on. The brief for each job differs each time and you find yourself discovering outlets that you may not have come across before. You get to travel to local towns and cities and see new sights, eat at different restaurants and pubs (with most costs refunded!) and are paid for the privilege too - in some cases!

    What's the worst?

    There are a number of factors you should consider. Some jobs are very poorly paid for the amount of detail you have to remember and record. Some jobs offer a reimbursement level that is difficult to keep within. Deadlines are often very tight and you should never accept an assignment unless you are 100% sure you can complete it in the required time. Sometimes scenarios don’t pan out the way you expect, or a staff member may suspect you of being a mystery shopper - don't ever let on that you are, always plead ignorance! You have to be flexible and be able to think on your feet. It can be tiring, and stressful and can involve travelling a good distance. One other negative factor is that some assignments may require you to make a major purchase, and although you will be reimbursed, bear in mind that this can sometimes take several weeks, depending on pay schedules.

    What advice would you give to those thinking of becoming mystery shoppers?

    If you're looking for an easy way to make a fast buck, MS is not for you. But if you're diligent, have a good memory, pay close attention to detail and can write objective reports, then this is one line of part time work that you should thoroughly enjoy. Work is varied, if intermittent, and fun in the main. Once you've had a taste of a few assignments, apply to more companies to try and increase the scope of work available to you. Be prepared to be flexible, accept a few of the less desirable jobs and you may just be offered that sought after expensive hotel stay as a valued reliable shopper!

    Keep an eye on this forum, as we hope that many Companies may post work available here!


    All above text is copyright the author 2006/2007

  2. #2
    Contributor vixff
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    i am guessing 18 is the minimum age for mystery shopping
    do u know if this is correct
    thanks

  3. #3
    Contributor LouiseMS
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    In most cases, yes, but not always! Sometimes companies advertise for 16-18 year olds for specific assignments - it does depend on the type of job involved!

  4. #4
    Rpoints Elite blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute blythburgh has a reputation beyond repute
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    And sometimes they need a child to do the shop but observed by the adult (I lurked once as a friends child bought a video game - Mum and I were disgusted because they happily sold an 18 video to a child of 12 who looked 12).

    The most important thing to remember this is a job, it can be difficult as you often have to remember a great deal to do the job and remember a fair bit about the job. I recently got an insurance quote, it meant I had to remember a set requirements which were different to what I would have got for myself. And to remember what was/was not mentioned to me. Including the exact words used by the person trying to sell me the insurance. I discovered how much I could have paid for my insurance instead of getting for half the price plus £70 cash back from RPoints.

  5. #5
    Contributor angeleyes
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    Why, oh why are there never ones in my area????

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by angeleyes
    Why, oh why are there never ones in my area????
    Angel, if you register with all the companies who post, you may get lucky! :P

  7. #7
    Legend & Competitions Guru RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute RudeKev has a reputation beyond repute
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    Quote Originally Posted by angeleyes
    Why, oh why are there never ones in my area????

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  8. #8
    Contributor cocko1
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    Tax implications

    I work full time and am interested in mystery shopping. I pay tax and NI as any full time employee does. If I complete an assignment where I get paid:

    £5 fee
    £15 re-imbursement

    What tax implications are there? Do I pay tax on the fee only or the reimbursement as well?

  9. #9
    Rpoints Elite One Eyed Snake is a jewel in the rough One Eyed Snake is a jewel in the rough One Eyed Snake is a jewel in the rough
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    You only pay tax on any profits you make. Probably none if you make sure you include all your costs in your calculations (travel/communications/equipment depreciation etc)

    The reimbursement is not subject to tax.

  10. #10
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    Thanks OES. Tax is payable on all profits, as OES says, and the best thing to do if not sure about any tax implications is to give the friendly (yes, I said friendly!) people at HMRC a call. They are very nice and will discuss everything with you - the lady I got even chatted about TV! Website for self-assessment here:

    http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/individuals/t...sessment.shtml


 

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