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The Truth About Mystery Shopping

Although the BBB has warned of mystery shopping scams, it is a legitimate business and an extremely valuable tool for analyzing a company’s customer service skills and more.

In our recent press release, “Better Business Bureau Names ‘Top Ten Scams” of 2012’ we refer to the mystery shopping scams as the ‘Top Employment Scam’ because of the prevalence of scammers offering bogus mystery shopping jobs. We also mentioned that there are legitimate mystery shopping opportunities through The Mystery Shopping Providers Association www.mysteryshop.org, but we thought it might be helpful to have an executive at Shopper’s View, one of the BBB’s A+ accredited businesses address this topic for us.

Lindsey Dahl, the Director of Operations at Shopper’s View has this to say about mystery shopping:

"Mystery shopping (or secret shopping) is a legitimate business and an extremely valuable tool for analyzing a company’s customer service skills and more. Far better than customer surveys, mystery shopping companies use shoppers to provide the client with a clear picture, a “birds-eye view,” of a typical customer’s shopping experience.

Our company, Shoppers’ View (Grand Rapids, Michigan), operates nationwide and evaluates banks, restaurants, retail stores and much more. We hire independent contractors to report on everything from the moment they pull in to the parking lot: curb appeal (cleanliness outside), signage, proper greeting, upselling, friendliness, closing, etc.

Unfortunately, for the many legitimate mystery shopping companies such as ours, these scammers give the whole industry a black eye as far as the general public is concerned. This is particularly true for those who have fallen prey to a scam.

It is important for consumers to know that mystery shopping can be a legitimate way to make some extra money.

To avoid scams, please also know that:

  • You do not have to pay to find jobs.
  • It can be a FUN job … but it is a job!
  • You will not make hundreds of dollars a day or even in a week. For most, mystery shopping is a part-time career.
  • You must be able to follow very detailed instructions.
  • You must have a good memory, be good with details and have good writing skills.
  • You usually do not get paid in advance. Usually it is 4-6 weeks before you are paid.
  • You will not get the prime jobs (cruises, hotels, casinos) until you have a lot of experience, and then there is a lot of competition."

Furthering these tips, the BBB suggests that consumers look for reputable firms that:

  • Qualify and train mystery shoppers to perform specific evaluations;
  • Enjoy a good reputation with their clients and shoppers, and
  • Do not charge a fee to complete an application.

To steer clear of get-rich-quick offers, the BBB advises mystery shopper applicants to:

  • Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily. Mystery shopping will not make you rich; at best it provides part-time income.
  • Avoid falling for claims that "guarantee" a position, without training.
  • Be cautions of unsolicited e-mails offering "work-from-home."
  • Never pay money up-front. A legitimate mystery shopping service will not charge money for materials, training or recruiting.
  • Obtain the name of the company and check the business out with the BBB, local consumer protection agency, and state attorney general.

To find the legitimate companies, review job listings, and to get certified as a Mystery Shopper (required by many companies), sign up with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) at www.mysteryshop.org. You can also check out Lindsey’s company at www.shoppersview.com.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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