Put Some Mystery in Your Life

Mystery shoppers. For some it conjures up images of private eyes and undercover detectives. That's fair. In Nevada, a mystery shopper is required to register with a firm that is in association with the Private Investigative Licensing Board. Somewhat funny, but true. If you shop, and I'm sure you do, you have probably bumped into someone on a shopping assignment. Did you notice them? Doubtful. Or you may have found yourself on the receiving end of an evaluation by a mystery shopper. Did you realize it at the time? Probably not. But what is mystery shopping exactly? And can you really make money for shopping?

Mystery shoppers are primarily independent contractors. They receive their assignments from mystery shopping companies. These companies have been contracted by various businesses in need of mystery shoppers. Mystery shoppers handle a wide range of assignments. They may be required to order a personalized bracelet at a fine jewelry store and then return it. (Not an easy assignment. I actually had that one once). They may be asked to gamble at a local casino, or take in a popular movie. They may be asked to take their dog to a groomer, visit an auto dealer, or go to a spa. The possibilities are truly endless. A mystery shopper doesn't know from day to day what new adventure may land in their inbox. And some assignments truly are an adventure. Cruise ships use mystery shoppers.

Any adult can be a mystery shopper. Both men and women are shoppers. Shoppers may be employed, unemployed, self-employed, or retired. There are programs for shoppers that offer certification, but it is in no way required to be a mystery shopper. Mystery shopping companies provide any special training that may be needed. Internet access is becoming more and more necessary to work with most mystery shopping companies, but there are some small companies that don't require it.

The Assignments.

Each shop has detailed instructions, so it's very important to be able to follow instructions. It's equally important to be observant and reliable. While you are mystery shopping, you will be observing customer service, product knowledge of the salesperson, quality, and other standards important to both the business and its customers. After a shop is finished, a report is completed. It may take a few minutes, an hour, or even longer. If the thought of completing a report makes you wince in pain, then mystery shopping is definitely not for you. In some cases, you will perform video shops. In these instances, you will be trained on how to use special video shopping equipment. (Video only...no audio for legal reasons). This sort of shop really does make you feel like a private detective and is quite fun.

How much a mystery shopper earns depends on the type of shop, time required to perform the shop, and the difficulty of the shop. Note: Mystery shoppers use their own money on assignments. They are not always reimbursed for items not returned. Payment for the shop may take as long as two months.

Sample assignments and fees:

* Retail Stores: Payments typically range from $5 - $40.

* Supermarkets: $5 - $10.

* Fast Food: $5 - $10 Cost of the meal.

* Dine in Restaurants: $15 - $50 Cost of the meal.

* Haircuts: $10 - $40 Cost of the haircut and styling.

* Banks: $10 - $50.

* Furniture or Appliance Stores: $10 - $20.

* Apartments or New Homes: $25 - $50.

Many shoppers do this in their spare time. They may earn $100, $200, $500, or more per month. Some shoppers make their living as full time mystery shoppers. It's not easy though. It usually requires working with a large number of mystery shopping companies -- perhaps 60 or more. Full time shoppers have their hands full -- juggling assignments, reports, and due dates. Full time shoppers must be very organized, but it can be financially rewarding. Full time shoppers can earn $40,000 per year and more!

Shoppers receive 1099's from the mystery shopping companies each year. Companies are required to send 1099's to contractors who are paid $600 or more per year, but some companies will send you a 1099 regardless of the amount you were actually paid.

Although you don't have to pay to mystery shop, you may consider joining a mystery shopping site. These sites charge a fee to access their directory of mystery shopping companies. You could probably find some of these companies on your own, but it is doubtful that you could find all of them.

Mystery shopping is not for everyone, but for those who want to put some mystery in their lives...without endangering themselves...it doesn't get any better than mystery shopping.

Doralynn Kennedy

About the Author: Doralynn Kennedy is the Founder and CEO of 'The Work at Home Network' and 'Affordable Advertising Solutions' located in Colorado. http://doralynn.net and http://doralynn.net/ad_solutions.html

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