My friend Chelsea introduced me to mystery shopping last October and I’ve been hooked ever since. Craig and I have been able to go to some really great restaurants in town (nice, expensive ones where eating steak is required!) and we’ve also had several in which we can take the whole family. You have to pay up front, but 4-6 weeks later you get your money back. I wasn’t comfortable recommending this until I knew it was legit and I can comfortably say now that I’ve gotten back every dime I’ve put into it. Some shops even pay a little more than what you are buying, but most of the ones I’ve done are just reimbursement shops.
The catch is this: you have to do some work on the back end (and of course while you are there). You have to be discreet and time things and evaluate everything. The first month of doing this or so I was paranoid and so it was a free meal, but not a relaxing date. Now that I’ve got the hang of it, I still have to time everything and be observant, but I’ve relaxed a lot and we enjoy going out for free now. The reason I say it’s cheap but not free is this: I sometimes end up spending one or two hours filling out my report. But when we’ve gone to a $100 restaurant, I’m okay with that.
Here is the website I go to to sign up at the various Mystery Shopping companies – they just keep a running list of the providers. There are a whole ton of them and not all offer shopping in my state. Some of the applications are tedious and here’s a hint – when you do one write up of a sample shopping experience (like one question sometimes asks you to write a paragraph detailing a recent shopping experience), save it in a Word document so that you can use it multiple times. Some of the forms are fast and easy, some are more extensive and I can’t remember which ones were pains in the neck and which weren’t.
Also, this website has more information about the whole thing. You can get “certified” through their website. They have two levels, silver (which costs $15 and is a little tutorial and test you take online) and gold (which is significantly more both in cost and time – think you have to go somewhere to attend a meeting or something).
I didn’t get certified for about a month and honestly don’t know if it has helped me get jobs or not. I’m just at a silver level and have no plans to upgrade because I stay as busy as I want to at the silver level. I’m sure they probably offer better jobs to gold people, but I’m okay with what I have. I have never signed up to work for a mystery shopping company in which I had to pay to sign up. I have no knowledge on those. All the companies I work with are free to join.
So there you go! Hope this is helpful for some of you!