Shopping: Mystery Shopping Jobs

Get paid to shop! Enjoy free dinners and merchandise! Work on your own schedule! With the economy in a slump and jobs hard to come by, ads like these seem incredibly appealing. But are they on the level?

It helps first to know a bit about what mystery shopping is.

Retailers, businesses and restaurants may at one time or another want to gauge their employees’ customer service skills, adherence to procedure or training in a real-world environment. These companies will then hire people to pose as customers with a specific agenda, then to report their findings back to those companies.

Helen Rodriguez has been a mystery shopper for a national restaurant chain for more than 15 years.

“I go in and order an appetizer, an entrĂ©e and dessert and watch for the cleanliness of the restaurant, quality of the food and the service,” she said. “I always have to take someone with me, so I have a lot of friends who keep in touch.”

In return, Rodriguez is paid $50 and reimbursed for the bill.

The job is far from a walk in the park. Good shoppers must be over 18 years old, have a great attention to detail, the ability to write a clear, fact-based summary of their experiences and, in most cases, be computer literate. Each company provides their own guidelines for what they hope to accomplish with each job, which are paid anywhere from $10 to $50 or more.

Assignments are filled on an application basis from a pool of qualified shoppers, who are free to accept as many (or few) jobs as their schedules allow. Payment typically includes reimbursement of goods or services being shopped, but vary by assignment. In fact, there are jobs that even allow shoppers to keep their merchandise.

Now for the bad news: although most other states allow mystery shoppers to be independent contractors, as of 2005, Nevada has much stricter regulations that require potential shoppers to undergo a background check, get a sheriff’s card and register with the Private Investigators Licensing Board as either a private investigator or an employee of a licensed firm, all of which are at the applicant’s expense (a small price to pay compared to the fines of up to $2,500 per shop without proper documentation.)

Those still interested in applying for secret shopper jobs will need to have a few things handy before starting the application. Most sites require a job history of at least five years; a current photo is sometimes requested; and, in many cases, a short sample narrative is required. Once the initial application has been processed, applicants should expect one or two more in-person or phone interviews before getting an offer, usually followed by training.

Even after the long process, the job can be fulfilling, said Julie Hill.

“It’s not for everyone, and you don’t make a lot of money, but it is great for a little income and you can feel good about what you are doing,” said Hill, a stay-at-home mother of two who mystery shops for a national retail chain. “You have to be aware of a lot of things on your checklist the company gives you, and it’s really specific. Did they bring you what you asked for, mention specials, hand you the receipt not just put it in the bag? And sometimes you know that your report, if it’s bad, is going to cause problems for the employees. And you have to be available when they need you. Slackers need not apply.”

There are only a handful of agencies licensed to run mystery shops in Nevada, but there are a great many internet companies promising jobs for a small administrative fee. At no time should applicants ever need to pay for the information, as it is readily available online for free. Here are the agencies currently licensed to operate mystery shopping operations in Nevada: Service Sleuth; QSI Specialists; Bestmark, Inc.; The Benchmark Collaborative; and A Closer Look.

Published on BestOfLasVegas.com

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