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May I Say What Mystery Shopping Companies I Have Shopped For?

Question from a mystery shopper:
Several companies I applied to for mystery shops asked for the names of other mystery shopping companies I have worked with. Is this information something I should provide to the new company or is this considered a breach of confidentiality?

First of all, I am glad that you are thinking about confidentiality. Too many shoppers share information inappropriately, either believing that it is okay to do so or because they are just not thinking.

Let’s take a quick look at what you may and may not disclose, and I will share with you how I answer that question.
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NEW! The Mystery Shopper’s Manual 7th Edition is Hot Off the Press!

The Mystery Shopper's ManualThe brand new 7th edition of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual is here!

More than an update, this is a completely new book. I reviewed every page of the 6th edition and made drastic changes. Although a few of the basics were retained with minimal revisions, several chapters were eliminated, others were revised, and a lot of new content was added. In fact, the word count of this edition is 40% greater than the last one!

The biggest addition? I greatly expanded the section on writing reports. In fact, there are now two full chapters on writing reports with lots of example comments and narratives.

I also added a chapter on avoiding scams, as well as more on making mystery shopping more profitable and using technology to get more assignments.

What got cut? The biggest change is that I removed the company list in the book and point to my online list instead. Printed lists often go out of date before the ink is dry, and I can keep the online list more current. Plus, removing the list opened up more than 30 pages for more ideas, tips and strategies for profitable mystery shopping!

Even if you own one of the previous editions of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual, you will find much that is new in the 7th edition. Find out how you can be one of the first to get your personally autographed copy and how you can save $9 on my DVD, Writing Great Mystery Shop Reports, too.

Where to Report Mystery Shopper Scams

The fake cashier’s check scam has been around for a long time (well before the Internet) and it continues to ensnare new victims every day. The scammers send one or more checks or money orders to the victim, ask them to cash them, keep some of the money, then wire the rest to someone. The latest twist is that instead of wiring the money, victims are asked to buy pre-paid MoneyPak cards and send the PINs to the scammer. That is just a minor variation on a long-running scam.

This is not just a “mystery shopper scam.” Yes, the mystery shopper scam works this way, but this scam has been run on eBay, CraigsList, and in other marketplaces, as well as in direct dealings with victims, such as this law firm.Continue Reading

Market Research Companies and Focus Groups

A popular misconception is that mystery shoppers give our opinions about the businesses we shop. Nope. We share objective observations—opinions have no place in a mystery shopper report.

If you like to give your opinions (And who doesn’t?) focus groups are perfect for you. Not only do you get to tell them what you really think, you get paid for it! What could be better, right?

Focus groups and other opinion research studies are typically run by market research companies. If you live in or near a city of any size, there are probably several market research companies in the area. Many of them allow you to register with them and will contact you when they have a study for which you qualify. (More on that later in this article)

What’s the catch?Continue Reading

Mystery Shop Report Design

Do you ever wonder about how clients decide on the questions that appear on mystery shop reports? In theory, mystery shopping measures what is most important to the business. However, if care is not taken in the design of the shop report, the information the client gets (and the message they send to employees about what matters) will be way off base.

A few years ago, Office Depot hired a new CEO. He immediately noticed that sales were declining although scores on mystery shop reports were incredibly high. What is wrong with this picture? It turns out that the mystery shopping program was measuring the wrong things. According to CEO Kevin Peters, “Our mystery-shopping scores were correct, but our scoring system was not. We were asking the wrong questions.” The report was full of questions about whether the floors and restrooms were clean, and if the shelves were fully stocked. They were doing great at those things, but no one was taking care of the customers.
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Do You Have to Pay to Be a Mystery Shopper?

pay-to-shopShort answer: No. But let’s look at a few specifics where you may be asked to pay.

First, there are companies that represent themselves as mystery shopping companies that can award shops, and they charge shoppers a membership fee or other charge to access available assignments. These are not mystery shopping companies. Mystery shopping companies do not charge you to apply. Never pay to apply, and never pay a “membership fee” to get mystery shopper jobs.

You do not need to pay to view available assignments. Sign up with as many mystery shopping companies as you can, and you will have more shop notices than you can handle. I have a list of 200 legitimate companies (none of them will charge you) here at There are also job boards, such as, where you can view postings from many mystery shopping companies.

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Get Your First (or Next) Mystery Shopper Job

mystery shopper jobsQuestion from a shopper:

I have been applying to mystery shopping companies, but I never get any jobs. What am I doing wrong? Should I give up?

Whether you are a brand new shopper trying to get started, or an experienced shopper looking for more assignments, there are several possible reasons you are not getting as many assignments as you would like. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Did you submit a complete application?
Make sure that you answered every question on the application. If they ask demographic questions (e.g., age, marital status, race, income, etc.) answer them. They are not asking those questions to discriminate against you. They ask because they have clients who need shoppers with certain characteristics. Answer every question on the application to be considered when shops with specific requirements come up.
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Your Mystery Shopping Business

mystery-shopping-businessMost mystery shoppers do not think of themselves as business owners, but that is exactly what we are. As business owners, we are responsible for our profitability. Don’t like the shops you are doing, the people you are working with or the amount of money you are making? It is up to you to change those things.

Start by having a business plan. That’s right, a business plan. No, you don’t have to have a binder full of spreadsheets, charts and graphs. All you really need is about a page that describes your vision for your mystery shopping business.

  • What types of shops do you want to do?
  • Will you take on other types of work, such as audits or surveys?
  • How much money do you want or need to earn?
  • Where will you work?
  • How many days or hours will you work in a typical week?

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The Green Dot MoneyPak Mystery Shop Scam

The scammers continue to come up with new angles for scams. One that is becoming more popular is a variation on the fake check scam. Instead of wiring the money to the scammer via MoneyGram or Western Union, the bad guys have their victims purchase Green Dot MoneyPak Cards or other pre-paid cards and send the PIN numbers to the scammers. Here is how it works:
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