What do you say when friends and relatives ask about how they can get in on this cool job? It seems that everyone wants to become a mystery shopper, and they want you to take them by the hand and show them exactly what to do. Should you help them? Do you want to encourage someone who could suddenly be competing with you for the same assignments? If you do help them, how can you do so without violating your confidentiality agreements? And what if you know they just aren’t cut out for secret shopping?
The question of whether or not you should help them is one only you can answer. Some shoppers are willing to provide information and advice to anyone who asks, others provide a couple of leads and leave the research up to the potential mystery shopper, some refuse to say anything at all and others actively discourage anyone who asks by making mystery shopping sound even more difficult than it is. Let’s look at some of the issues you should consider when dealing with this question.
If the person asking lives in your area, you may be hesitant to help them get started because you dread having even more competition. In some places, assignments are plentiful; however, in others there may not be a lot of mystery shops (or at least a lot of really good mystery shops) to go around. Not wanting to train your own assassin (figuratively speaking) is not selfish, just an act of self-preservation.
Even if you want to help, there are limits on what you may say without violating your confidentiality agreements with secret shopping companies. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to refer someone to a few of your favorite mystery shopping companies. However, you may not say, “Be sure to sign up with Mystery Shopping Company X because they have mystery shopper jobs at <name of their favorite restaurant>.” You may give general information, such as, “I enjoy secret shopping for Mystery Shopping Company X because they have a lot of restaurant assignments.”
Never give any information about clients. That includes any information you have about which clients get mystery shopped, what mystery shopping companies have which clients, examples of blank report forms or completed reports, assignment guidelines, etc. You should also never disclose the fees paid by mystery shopping providers.
You may want to give the questioner a few resources. If they are truly interested, they can follow up and learn about mystery shopping on their own. Someone who is not motivated enough to do that is not going to last as a mystery shopper anyway. You can refer them to the free list of companies looking for secret shoppers at this site, and to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, as well as to a few of your favorite mystery shopping companies.
Many of the people who love the idea of getting paid to shop do not understand what is involved in mystery shopping. They think it is all about going to the mall and eating out, and the thought of time spent on the computer getting assignments and writing reports does not even cross their minds. Or they may not be very reliable, or not have good writing skills, or for some other reason just would not make good mystery shoppers. Fortunately, most of those people will not get past the stage of going to a few web sites and maybe filling out an application or two. You do not have an obligation to tell anyone that he or she would not be a good mystery shopper. Saying that could damage your relationship. Either give them the URLs to a few web sites, or tell them you can not reveal anything due to confidentiality.
Of course, this will never become an issue if you keep your secret shopping a secret.