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.