Whether you are a brand new mystery shopper or you have been shopping for years, there are a few things you should always check before you accept a secret shop assignment.
What is the location? Do not assume when you see the name of the client or a street name that you know where the location is. Verify the address to be certain you know where you will be going on the shop. For example, I live in the Houston area. If all you know is that the client location is on “Westheimer,” it could be anywhere in a 20-mile stretch of that road. And many companies have more than one location on Westheimer.
When is the shop period? On what days, and at what times, may you complete the shop visit? Look beyond just the range of dates to see if there are restrictions. For example, it may say that the shop may be done on dates running from Thursday, April 7 through Tuesday, April 12; however, the shop may not be done on Saturday. Also check to see if there are required times to do the shop, such as before 5 p.m.
What is the report deadline? Can you do the shop then complete the report before the deadline? For example, some fine dining shops may require that the report be submitted within 12 hours. If you complete the shop visit at 9 p.m., and have to be at work at your “real” job at 8 a.m. the next morning, you have to stay up late to do the shop or get it done very early the next morning. Can you do that (especially after having some wine with dinner), or should you wait until a weekend shop date is available?
What are you required to do on the mystery shop? Is it a simple purchase shop, or a purchase and return? If a return is required, when must it be done? Making a special trip the next day to make the return adds time and expense to the shop. Does the shop require you to do anything that would make you uncomfortable, such as a scenario that is far removed from your real life?
How much does it pay? I remember hearing some years ago about secret shops that required the shopper to buy a sink and then return it later. The fee for making two trips to the home improvement store, schlepping a sink back and forth, and writing the report? $10. Gee, and I bet they wondered why they had trouble finding shoppers to do that one. Make sure the pay is worth your time and effort. Remember that a reimbursement can make a shop worthwhile, if it is something you want or need.
Do you want to work with this mystery shopping company? You may find that some companies are not a good fit for you. It may be that they are unreasonable, or it may simply be that your style and theirs do not mesh. Whatever the reason, if you find it difficult to work with the people at that company do not take assignments from them. There are lots of others you can work with happily.
Take a moment to think before you apply for or accept a mystery shopper job. It is better to take the chance that someone else will claim a shop you might want than to get a shop and realize you have no desire to do it.