Company review- Focus on Service

Focus on Service is a company that shops a few casual dining restaurants. From what I can tell, they have a limited number of clients but the company is a great one with which to work. One thing I appreciate about this company is they actually have a scheduler call the shopper before the shop to quickly go over the shop and see if there are any questions. This is the only company I've ever had do this. They also send out multiple email reminders about the shop to make sure the shopper isn't going to forget.  The evaluation form is straightforward and relatively simple. I received my reimbursement check from this company in less than 30 days. To obtain shops with this company, you sign up on their website and they'll email you when they have shop in your area. With this company, you are going to want to be selective about which shops you accept because (at least with the client I shopped) you are only allowed 2 shops per household per year. This is a company I had a great experience with and highly recommend.


Company review- Mystery Guest

       I am thrilled to be writing a positive review for Mystery Guest as they have had some of my favorite shops! I was waiting to get my payments from them to see how long it took them to pay before I wrote my review as I had heard some comments about them not paying very fast. I got my payments in a very timely manner, however, so I have no complaints. The shops are varied and though I do not see shops posted often, I really, really enjoy the shops that they do post. The shop instructions are clear and simple as are the evaluation forms. In my experience, they have not required a lot of detailed narrative and they do not seem to have overly picky editors as long as you follow their instructions and give the information they ask of you. The schedulers have also been great. I had one instance arise where I could not complete a shop on my scheduled date. I called and spoke with a scheduler who easily allowed me to choose a different shop date, no problem. This may be my new favorite company. I'm looking forward to my upcoming shops with them!


Company review- Market Force Information

     One thing I really appreciate about Market Force is that they constantly post new jobs. It is a site that I check at least a couple of times throughout the day if I am able. They have a variety of jobs in my area and the evaluation forms have been simple and straightforward in my experience. This company does not give any feedback on jobs as far as I have been able to tell. This company will offer bonuses for jobs that stay vacant long enough. I also see the many of the same shops pop up for multiple dates in a month so this company has plenty from which to choose. They have been great about paying when they say they will and I have had no complaints with this company. I plan to continue to shop for them.


Company review- National Shopping Service

National Shopping Service does not seem to have as many shops in my area as some other companies but they have been good to work with. Their pay is fair (in my experience it has been more reimbursement than commission) and they pay when they say they will (the last day of the month). Their schedulers have been good to work with. I have spoken with them over the phone and corresponded by email.  They do not send an email for every shop available but they will send one when it is not getting filled. So this is a site to check often if they have shops you want to grab.


Mystery shopping + Family= ??

My goal for mystery shopping is to add supplemental income without taking a substantial amount of time away from my family.  For me, this is working well so far. I usually search for assignments, take quizzes to become eligible for shops, and fill out reports while the kids are asleep and while sitting on the couch with my husband. Additionally, I primarily do "family friendly" shops where I can take the husband and kids along. Of course, some clients specify NO children are allowed to shop with you on a particular shop. Sometimes these may be in a mall where your husband could take the children in another store with him or sometimes you may want to get a sitter for the afternoon. I've actually had several shops that have come up that required me to have children of a certain age with me, so you never know what you might find.  At this point for me, I am enjoying "family friendly" shops and do not find that it is taking time away from my family time at all. Anyone else have a comment on this issue?

Company review- Corporate Research International

I have done several shops for CRI. The positives about this company are:1) Their fast and punctual payment schedule, 2) The ability the shopper has to self-assign all shops, 3) The variety of shops, 4) Straightforward feedback forms.
Probably the biggest negative about this company is the fairly low pay. The interesting thing about CRI is that the shop payments rise throughout the month. So, if you see a shop listed for a very low-paying amount, if you wait it out, you will likely see the pay rise at least a few dollars. In my experience, CRI does the same shops regularly (I see several of the same shop pop up monthly) so if you miss out once, you are likely to see it again later.
When you sign up for this company, you must watch a video and take a quiz to become an auditor. You must also watch videos and pass quizzes for each client you choose to do shops for. That may seem annoying at first but after that you are able to self-assign shops instead of applying and waiting to hear if you receive the shop or not.
CRI gives you feedback on your reports through a rating system. As long as you keep the minimum rating you can self-assign shops. If you have an even higher rating you can accept more shops at one time.
In my experience CRI does NOT email you about specific shop availability, though they do email about commission rises in your area (for shops that may or may not still be available), and occasionally will email about a client that has shops available (though they may not be in your area). So, you need to login frequently to see what shops are available.
Overall, taken into consideration the points I've posted above, I think this is a good company and plan to stick with them.

Company review- Feedback Plus

I have done several shops for Feedback Plus now and have been very pleased. Their expectations are very clear and in my experience the feedback forms have been relatively simple compared to other companies. They pay very timely twice a month and I find their pay to be on the upper end compared to companies that offer similar shops. They offer a variety of shops in my area and I like that they have the option to self-assign many of them. Overall, I highly recommend them and will continue to do shops for them in the future. Signing up with them is easy and, of course, free!


Mystery shopping terminology

MSPA- Mystery shopping providers association. The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources. 

Observation- This word is sometimes used to refer to the "shop" or "job" that you will do.

ICA- The Independent Contractors Agreement- A  legal agreement that you must sign in order to  perform mystery shops.

What IS mystery shopping anyway? And some common myths about mystery shopping.

What IS mystery shopping?
Mystery shopping is a means for a corporation to measure employee integrity and competence. Mystery shoppers are given specific tasks to do while posing as a "normal customer." These tasks may include timing specific interactions, asking questions, purchasing a certain product, and much more. The mystery shopper then gives their feedback about their experiences, usually by way of survey.
Some myths:

Myth #1- Mystery shopping is a scam.
Truth- There are a LOT of scams out there from people trying to get others to pay to mystery shop.  The key is you should NEVER pay a company to LET you shop for them. With that said, I do shops where I receive reimbursement. For example, the company says they will pay me $10 to do the shop plus $25 reimbursement for a meal at a certain restaurant. I am NOT paying the mystery shopping company.  I'm paying my bill as usual at the restaurant, sending in my receipt, and the company is reimbursing me. The best way to know if a company is real is to see if they are registered with the MSPA. You can also find ratings with the BBB.  Unfortunately, some of the scammers have now started using the names of real, legitimate companies. All of the companies I shop for have warnings on their website describing what these scammers are doing in their name. But as long as you use the rule of thumb of not paying to shop and not doing something like cashing a $1000 check that someone sends you or something like that you should be okay.

Myth #2- If I become a mystery shopper, I can expect to get paid and get free stuff without doing much work.
Truth- Actually, mystery shopping does involve a good amount of work both on the front end as well as after the shop is completed. This work includes tasks such as: watching instructional presentations, taking quizzes to assess your competence about the shop, reading and printing material before the shop, making detailed observations and performing specific tasks during the shop, and submitting quality feedback on the shop.

Myth #3- I signed up with a mystery shopping company and they haven't sent me any information on shops/shops that interest me. I should just give up.
Truth- The key is to sign up with MANY and VARIED shopping companies. Some companies specialize in a particular type of establishment that may or may not interest you. Also, some but not all companies send out email notifications of shops. You may need to check the job postings to find a shop for you.

Myth #4- I have applied to the same shop with the same company five times and have never been accepted. I should give up on mystery shopping.
Truth-  You may not always get your first pick of shop! Sure, we'd all like a free meal at our favorite restaurant but you may need to complete some other shops and build up your shopper rating first. Apply to different shops with different companies and you are sure to be accepted  for some type of job!

...these are just a few of the myths that jump to mind right now. I will add more as I think of them or asked questions.