Friday, July 11, 2008

Time to Apply Yourself

Ready to dip your toe into the mystery shopping pool? Let’s fill out an application!

The worst way to find mystery shopping companies is to run an internet search. You’ll come up with more scams than bona fide companies that way. And because entering your Social Security Number is a required part of most forms, filling out applications at just any old shopping company is painting a target on your back and carrying a sign, “Steal my identity, please!”

The best way to find mystery shopping companies is to talk to other shoppers. That can be tricky, as most of us don’t like having our faces identified with our occupation. There are some good websites, though, where shoppers can anonymously post our favorite companies, complaints and scam discoveries on public forums. The two best sources for this information are:



There are many smaller forums. I find it to be very helpful to be part of a community. At first I joined several of these smaller forums and one by one dropped those that didn’t meet my needs.

When you go to browse the MSPA site,you’ll see something called certification. There are classes a shopper can take, then a test for a certificate which might (or not) give them access to better jobs. But that’s a step that can wait a bit until you’re sure this is something you wish to pursue.

Okay, so I found a site for which I haven’t applied before. I click on “Apply to be a Shopper” where I am taken to an application page. In addition to the normal name, address, phone number and SSN stuff, they ask about my available hours, if I have special military or airline privileges, and if I would submit to a background check. There is a short essay question: What qualities do you possess that would make you a good mystery shopper? I have applied at over 100 companies, and most of them ask some kind of essay question, more to get a feel for the applicant’s language skills than the answer itself. I have a document on my computer that has essay answers for several of these questions. It’s easier for me to edit, copy and paste than to write fresh essays for each company.

At the end of the application is a Shopper Agreement. I print and file a hard copy of these alphabetically by company name. I also read it very carefully to make sure I am able to abide by each and every point before I check the box that I agree. You should read these agreements carefully. You will discover that companies outline very clearly the requirements of the shopper and shopping company. You’ll save yourself headaches, time and embarrassment to know precisely what is in your contract with each company.

A few hours later, I get an email that my application has been accepted. I am issued a username and password for the company website which I note on a master list I keep. I also note the date I applied, for future reference. I make a file folder with the company name to hold my shopper agreement hard copy and file it away. If I was not accepted, I’d shred the agreement and make a note on my master list that I was declined for that agency so I don’t inadvertently apply again.

That’s the whole process. Next time, choosing jobs at the company website.

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