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Mystery Shopping DOES Exist

The idea of getting paid to shop, what could be better? I know I always heard stories about "mystery shoppers" or "secret shoppers" and always thought to myself, Wow, I wish I could do that! The best part is, it actually exists! It isn't even difficult to get started in.

Just remember - do not pay any company to work for them. They will pay you! Mystery shopping does often require you to make a purchase out of pocket, but you will be reimbursed.

So what exactly is mystery shopping, anyway? Basically, companies hire these mystery shopping companies to come in and act as customers, usually to see how their employees are doing and where they can improve in customer service.

They generally require quite a bit out of you - such as going into a drug store or super market, speaking with a number of employees (up to 10, in some cases), observing how well kept the place is, the restroom, and usually making a purchase, just to fill out a huge questionnaire afterwards. You also usually have to be very precise with the time specific events occur.

It isn't super easy and it isn't for everyone. The image of strolling into a store and just shopping then watching the money roll in just isn't realistic.

You need to be observant, objective, and pay attention to the instructions given for each shop. They'll all require different things. Some need you to make a purchase, to return merchandise, and to ask specific questions. Once I had a shop at a restaurant and forgot to ask for their specials - oops! I didn't get paid for that one.

A great website with a huge list of mystery shopping companies is www.volition.com. I'd suggest signing up for as many companies as possible, but you need to bookmark or keep a list of the sites since only some of them actually e-mail you available shops while the rest require you to check back at their websites repeatedly.

If you really want to get serious about it, you might want to consider getting MSPA certified. MSPA is the Mystery Shopping Providers Association and is recognized by many mystery shopping companies (but not all). It's basically a test you need to take after reading a load of information they give you.

For the Silver Certification, it does cost $15, but often times available shops will be offered to you before somebody who isn't certified. There's also Gold Certification. I haven't done that yet, but in order to reach that status there's an all day workshop throughout the year in some bigger cities and it costs $99.

I personally think you may as well get the Silver Certification, even if you don't plan to take a ton of shops, because at least then you'll get some better offers your way. The MSPA website can be found at [mystershop.org a list or search links]

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