Things you will need
You shouldn't have to spend a lot of money on supplies, etc., however there are some items you will need to get started:
- A computer with Internet access (preferably your own)
- An e-mail account to use for shopping (it's better to have a separate account-you can get free ones from Yahoo or Hotmail. I highly suggest Gmail. If you need an invite, e-mail me).
- A way to keep track of your MS applications, shops, etc. This can be in a notebook or an Excel spreadsheet. It's your choice, but keeping it on your computer is best (remember to always back up your data).
How do I start applying?
There are literally HUNDREDS of Mystery Shopping companies out there. It is going to take some time to get registered with all of them. The first thing you should do is register for a couple of e-mail groups (these are groups that companies post their openings to) and check out some of the shop posting web sites. This will allow you to start receiving offers while you are applying directly with the companies. Here are a few to sign up with and check on a daily basis:
There are many e-mail groups (or list-servs) out there for mystery shoppers. I own over 50 of them and have been running them for over six years. I was the first one to start groups for specific states.
The first group(s) you should sign up for are the ones for the state(s) you are available to mystery shop in. For instance, if you live in Minnesota, but also shop Wisconsin and Iowa, you should sign up for all three groups.
Go here to sign up for your state's list.
I also have a main group called Mystery-Shops. These are postings for ALL states, so you will have to pay attention to the subject lines to see if they are for your state. To subscribe, you can send a blank e-mail to: Mystery-Shopsfirstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Mystery-Shops Yahoo Website.
Some companies post their openings on various messages boards. My favorite is Volition.com's Shop Posting Board. I also have a message board located here. Check out the Resources Page for additional links.
Start Applying To MS Companies
As I already mentioned, there are lot's of companies to sign up with and it will take some time. Some companies you will never hear from, some you will start receiving offers from right away. There really is no easy way to tell if a company is going to have work for you, so your best bet is to sign up with them all.
This is where your new e-mail address and spreadsheet (or notebook) will come into play. Almost all of the companies will require you to create a user name and password in order to get into their sites. Some of them automatically assign them to you. There is no way to remember all of them, so you need to keep real good records. It's best to list the following information:
- Company name (try not to use abbreviations or initials-a lot of companies have similar names)
- Company Website
- Your user name and password
- Date you registered
- Do they send out shop offers by e-mail (most do), or do you need to log in and check for open assignments (it will usually tell you if you need to)?
- Then leave a place to indicate if you ever receive a shop offer from them (that way you will know later which companies you should follow up with).
Companies to register with
Volition.com has a wonderful FREE list of MS companies to register with. Click here to access the list. Also, make sure to register with me (I help a lot of schedulers when they need help) and Kern Scheduling Services (they aren't on the Volition list because they are a scheduling company, not an actual MS company).
Receiving Shop Openings
By now you may have started to receive shop postings for shops in your area. Usually, these are not coming to your personally-they are going to hundreds or thousands of shoppers at the same time. These are only shop OFFERS. They are invitations to apply for a shop. The shop is not yours to complete until you receive a confirmation e-mail from the company or scheduler. Most companies will give as many details as possible. Make sure to read over the requirements and shop fee before applying, to make sure it is something you want to do. It makes you look bad if you apply for a shop and then have to cancel it, so make sure you can do it during the required time frame.
Applying for Mystery Shops
You receive a shop offer that you would like to complete. How do you apply for the shop? Follow the directions listed in the e-mail (or on the website if that's where you saw the opening) and reply exactly how the scheduler asks you to. Some want you to put the city and state of the shop you are applying for in the subject line. Some want you to register with their company before applying. Whatever they require, make sure you do it. When shopper's apply for shops without following the application directions, it tells the scheduler that the shopper cannot read and follow directions and probably won't make a good shopper. Most companies (especially those that use SASSIE) will let you know one way or the other if you have been selected for the mystery shop, but NOT ALL COMPANIES DO.
You should go back to your spreadsheet or notebook and keep track of your applications. When you applied, what kind of shop it is, when it is due, how much it pays, what MS company it is for, etc. This is helpful in case you are assigned a shop and can't remember applying for it (it happens!). It will also allow you to see who has shops in your area, even if you don't get them.
Getting Assigned Your First Shop
First let me say that it may take a while to get your first shop. Don't get discouraged. Put yourself in the scheduler's shoes-if someone you have never heard of before applies and they have no experience, they don't want to take the chance that you will flake or cancel the job, so they may choose someone with more experience. The more you apply, the more likely a scheduler will remember your name and think you are serious about Mystery Shopping. Another good way to get "in" with schedulers is to help out with last-minute (someone else canceled or flaked) shops. They WILL remember you.
Once you DO get your first shop, make sure to read and re-read the instructions. If there are certain times or days to shop, make sure to follow that. If it says no children, DON'T BRING CHILDREN. Anything you do that the instructions say not to will make your shop invalid and you WILL NOT BE PAID.
If you have questions, e-mail or call your scheduler. THERE ARE NO STUPID QUESTIONS. They would much rather have you ask them then to try and guess and be wrong.
Submitting Your First Shop
Make sure to read the instructions to find out when your assignment is due. Almost all companies want the results within 24 hours (sometime the same day the shop is preformed). If you receive a shop on Monday and it's due on Friday, that means that if you do in on Tuesday you DO NOT have until Friday to submit it. The DUE DATE is the date the assignment is due to be completed. If you shop on Tuesday, most likely you will have to submit it within 24 hours. AGAIN, every company is different, make sure you find out directly from your scheduler if you aren't sure.
Make sure you write in complete sentences and use spell check before submitting your report. It is also a good idea to print out a copy of your report before you submit it, in case there are any Internet problems or if they have questions. Your copy of the report, along with your receipt should go into a file and you should keep it on hand for at LEAST 6 months (longer if the company requires you to-refer to your IC Agreement with the company).
If you receive feedback from an editor, listen to what they suggest.
It usually takes between 4-8 weeks before you will receive payment for your shops. Some companies pay faster, some pay slower. This is another reason to keep accurate records. Keep a spreadsheet with:
- The company's name
- Shop completed
- Date completed
- Date submitted
- Shop fee
- Reimbursement (if any)
- Date invoiced (if required by the MS company)
- Date paid
This way, you will always know where you stand with payments.
More Help and Information
If you have any other questions, please visit the FAQ Page. Any questions not answered on there I will be happy to answer via e-mail.
Good Luck and Happy Shopping!
**If there is anything you think I need to add to this page, please feel free to e-mail me so I can include it. email@example.com