Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Pleasures of Mystery Shopping

I did a mystery shop the other night. It has been awhile since I have done one of these, and I have to say - I love mystery shopping.

Okay, the money isn't great. In fact, as far as I can tell, it is downright lousy. I don't think I have ever been paid more than $5 - $12 for a shop - and that shop may take an hour or more to complete. Let's face it, $5 an hour is not what I would call stellar - and some shops I have even done for free!

Why? Because mystery shopping really isn't about the money...

It's about the reimbursement.

While I have done a few retail shops, most of the jobs I have done have been at restaurants. For those I always take a friend along. The beauty of mystery shopping is that generally my friend and I get our meals and drinks reimbursed - and on shops where they want to make sure their servers are carding - it may be an alcoholic beverage or two. Once and awhile the cost of the meal runs slightly over the reimbursement amount (they always tell me what it is beforehand) but that tends to be because I am a pretty good tipper. So basically, for the price of tipping I get to enjoy a night out with a friend. How great is that?

Now I could see that for some, having a friend along could be distracting, but for me it works out great. Whoever comes with me always knows the scoop beforehand. Friends have been great at helping me track the time between ordering and when the food is served, doing restroom checks, and getting server's, manager's and host's names. They sometimes spot things I don't or confirm an issue I caught. I've been known to call them up after a shop to verify information and help me remember everything for my report, (you aren't allowed to take notes.) I also think two friends dining alone is much better cover for a mystery shopper than one person alone. I know that in my days of dining alone I frequently got amazing service from chain restaurants because the servers thought I might be shopping them!

I think more companies should do mystery shopping. Okay, the fact that I love doing this kind of work does make me slightly biased, but think about it - having a mystery shopper find out that your staff isn't carding is a lot less expensive than having the police find out about it! Plus, I have to say that almost all of the places that I go have pretty good service - some have what I would go so far as to say is exceptional service. According to the orders I get, the manager's bonuses for these restaurants are effected by the mystery shopping reports. That tends to get results!

For me as a side income stream, it brings in maybe a few dollars, but as a way to pay for time with friends, it is fabulous.

Photo by: Montwerx


Miss M said...

I hadn't thought of it that way. I never signed up to be a mystery shopper because one, I don't like to shop that much. Two, I don't have much time flexibility. But restaurants would be cool and a great way to get a free meal.

Dawn said...

Miss M - it isn't entirely free. You do have to submit a fairly lengthy report and "fluff reports" are highly discouraged. An average report takes me a half hour to 45 min. to do. But I think it is totally worth it, and a lot of fun!

Frugal Dreamer said...

I should look into this in my area, sounds fun!

Dawn said...

Frugal Dreamer - it is fun! It is work, but fun work, that's for sure!

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

I'm all for Mystery Shoppers, but the thing that bugs me is that a report is going to be reflective in the person's mood. For example, at the credit union I work for, we get shopped and it is part of our bonuses. We also have specific service goals that we're trying to meet, so these are a gauge as to how we're doing. But, I just recently got shopped and I got a poor score because of something that someone else did. It was from a different location, they had a problem, came to me and I fixed it. But, I didn't lend a hand in creating that problem. It just so happens that the member was in a bad mood towards the credit union when he/she walked in. That frustrates me. Now my bonus is cut short because of it. So, from the other side who receives those mystery shops, if you're going to do it, don't do it because you think you can make quick money. Do it because you think it's enjoyable and you can be fair to the employees. Don't take your personal judgments out on people in these things because they do have repercussions.

Dawn said...

Kristy - Oh goodness yes! Never go Mystery Shopping with a chip on your shoulder - or do a half@ssed job because you are after a few quick dollars. We are talking about other people's jobs here. Only give low scores if the person has done something to deserve it - the way to to do go in is with a "perfect score unless proven otherwise" mentality.