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Taking the Mystery Out of Mystery Shopping

Taking the Mystery Out of Mystery Shopping

During college, my mother accurately described me as someone who has “champagne taste on a beer budget.” For me, stumbling on mystery shopping was a happy accident. I had previously heard of mystery shopping (or secret shopping) in the past, but I dismissed it as a scam to get my credit card information and social security number. When I decided that it could potentially be something I pursued, I proceeded to scour the internet for reputable companies and tips for being a better shopper. Three years later, I am one of the many top secret shoppers in the Atlanta area. Though I have since graduated college, I continue to act as a mystery shopper.

Mystery shopping is a method of quality control for businesses. Any business involving customer service can benefit from secret shoppers. A secret shopping company is recruited by a business to monitor customer service through anonymous visits and evaluations. These secret shopper companies hire independent contractors to perform these evaluations. I have personally performed shops at hotels, bars, restaurants, concerts, movie theaters, gyms, and more.

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Almost anyone can become a secret shopper, but before beginning the application and shopping process, it is important to understand the following:

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  1. Most applications will require a brief logic test (basic math questions, spelling, etc.) as well as a short piece of narrative regarding a recent customer service experience.
  2. No matter what your age is, there is a secret shopper job for you. Certain shops cater to different age groups. For example, age compliance shops (I.D. verification) typically require shoppers between the ages of 21 and 29. Most shops require the shopper to be at least 18 years old. For those requiring the consumption of alcohol, shoppers must be 21 or older.
  3. You are not obligated to perform a minimum number of shops per month, although you can be capped at how many shops you can be signed up for at one time. As an independent contractor for the secret shopper company, you create your own schedule.
  4. You are not obligated to only shop in one area. I have frequently created entire vacations out of mystery shopping jobs. I will stay at a secret shopper hotel, eat at secret shopper restaurants, grab snacks at secret shopper grocery stores, etc. If you are traveling through an airport, there are often special shops that can only be completed by shoppers that are traveling.
  5. Mystery shopping is not a means to “get rich quick.” While you can make money performing shops, the majority of shops only include reimbursement. There have been times where I have gotten paid $25 just to visit a jewelry shop, where I was not required to purchase anything. Likewise, there have been times where I have not gotten paid to visit upscale restaurants. However, I am often fully reimbursed for meals that cost over $100 for two people. While you might not make money, you will have memorable experiences that would have otherwise been out of your budget.
  6. A reputable secret shopping company will NOT ask you to pay to register as a shopper. You should be able to sign up for shops without paying for access to the database. However, many secret shopper companies will require you to front the money for your expenditures. You will then be reimbursed in the form of a check at a later time.
  7. A list of reputable companies (as voted by registered independent contractors) can be found through the MSPA-NA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America). Of the companies listed, A Closer Look is by far the best. The wide variety of shops and flexibility in scheduling make it a perfect choice for most people, from young professionals to retired folks and all of those in between. You can apply to be a shopper for their site here.

Like all things in life, becoming a successful secret shopper will take time. Read over the guidelines carefully. If you are uncertain about any aspect of the instructions, get in touch with the secret shopper scheduler for clarification.

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Failure to follow instructions can result in non-payment (though I have personally never had that happen). In the event an editor has a question, be sure to reply as soon as possible. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful shopper in your area in no time!

Happy Shopping!

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Melissa Manson

Media Planner and Buyer

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps

We all like to dream about being financially wealthy. For most people though, it remains a dream and nothing more. Why is that?

It’s because most people don’t set their mind to achieving that goal. They might not be happy in their current situation but they’re comfortable – and comfort is one of the biggest enemies of growth.

How do you go about developing that millionaire mindset? By following these simple steps:

1. Focus On What You Want – And Take It!

So many people are too timid to admit they want something and go for it. When there is something that you want to accomplish don’t think “I could never actually do that”, think “I could do that and I WILL do that”.

Millionaires play to win, not to avoid defeat.

This doesn’t mean to have to become a selfish jerk. What it means is becoming more assertive and honest with yourself. You don’t have to grab off other people. There is a big pot of unclaimed gold in the middle of the table — why shouldn’t you be the one to claim it? You deserve it!

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2. Become Goal-Orientated

It’s almost impossible to achieve anything if you don’t set firm goals. Only lottery winners become millionaires overnight. By setting yourself attainable goals, you will get there eventually. Don’t try to get rich quickly — get rich slowly.

Let’s take the idea of making your first million dollars and expand on what kind of goals you might set to get there. Let’s also say you’re starting at a break-even position – you’re making enough to get by with a few luxuries, but nothing more.

Your goal for the first year can be having $10,000 in the bank within a year. It won’t be easy but it is doable. Next, you need to figure out the steps you need to take to achieve that goal.

Always look at ways to make growth before cutbacks. With that in mind, you might want to see if you can negotiate a pay rise with your boss, or if there’s another job out there that will pay better. You might be comfortable in your old job but remember, comfort stunts growth.

You may also have other skills outside of your workplace that you can monetize to boost your bank balance. Maybe you can design websites for people, at a fee of course, or make alterations to clothes.

If this is still not enough to make the money you need to save $10,000 in a year, then it’s time to look at cutbacks. Do you have a bunch of old junk that someone else might love? Sell it! Do you really need to spend $10 on your lunch everyday when you could make your own for a fraction of the cost?

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If you are to become a millionaire, you need to start accumulating money.

Here’re some tips to help you: How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

3. Don’t Spend Your Money – Invest It

The reason you need to accumulate money is for step three. Millionaires tend to be frugal people, and that’s because they know the true value of money is in investing. Being your own boss goes hand-in-hand with becoming a millionaire. You’ll want to quit your regular job at some point.

Stop working for your money and make your money work for you.

Rather than buying yourself a new iPad, that $500 could be used to invest in the stock market. Find the right shares (more on that later), and that money could easily double within a year.

There’s not just the stock market — there’s also property, and your own education.

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4. Never Stop Learning

The best thing you can invest in is yourself.

Once most people leave the education system, they think their learning days are over. Well theirs might be, but yours shouldn’t be. Successful people continually learn and adapt.

Billionaire Warren Buffet estimates that he read at least 100 books on investing before he turned twenty. Most people never read another book after they’ve left school. Who would you rather be?

Learn everything you can about how economics works, how the stocks markets work, how they trend.

Learn new skills. If you have an interest in it, learn everything you can about it. You’d be surprised at how often, seemingly useless skills, can become extremely useful in the right situation.

Start developing the habit of learning continuously: How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You

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5. Think Big

While I advise to start off with small goals, you absolutely should have a big goal in mind. If you have a business idea, then that is your ultimate goal – to start that business and make a success of it. If you want to invest your way to millions of dollars and do little work other than research, then that is your big goal.

There is no shame in not achieving a big goal. If you run a business and aim to make $1 million profit in a year and “only” make $200,000, then you’re still significantly ahead of most people.

Aim for the stars, if you fail you’ll still be over the moon.

6. Enjoy the Attention

To be successful, you have to be willing to promote yourself and enjoy the attention to a certain extent. Now the attention doesn’t need to be on yourself, it could be on your brand, but attention definitely attracts money.

Never be embarrassed to get your name out there. That means finding a spotlight and being brave enough to step right up underneath it.

If you run a business, try contacting the local papers. You’d be surprised at how amenable they often are to running a story about you and your business, and it’s all free publicity.

Above all, remember: You control your own destiny. Push hard enough for anything and you’ll get it.

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Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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