TODAY in our “make more” segment WE’RE TALKING ABOUT BECOMING A MYSTERY SHOPPER. ACTUALLY, MYSTERY SHOPPING IS AN AMAZING WAY TO “MAKE” MONEY AND TO “SAVE” MONEY, SO I’M DOING SOMETHING A LITTLE UNUSUAL AND SPREADING THIS TOPIC OUT OVER BOTH SEGMENTS OF THIS SHOW. HERE TO TELL US HOW IT WORKS IS PAMELA OLMSTEAD, PRESIDENT OF THE INDEPENDENT MYSTERY SHOPPERS COALITION AND A MYSTERY SHOPPER HERSELF. PAM, WELCOME TO EASY MONEY!
FIRST OF ALL, EXPLAIN TO OUR LISTENERS, JUST IN CASE THEY DON’T KNOW, WHAT IS MYSTERY SHOPPING?
Mystery shopping is where companies hire you to test their product or service, usually without their front line employees knowing you are checking up on them.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET STARTED IN MYSTERY SHOPPING?
I was working at a school district in California and another employee came in and talked about a mystery shopping job she had that night. I said, “what is that? What do you do” She explained she would be going out to dinner with her husband and would get reimbursed for the meal and paid for a report. I said, “that sounds like something I would love to do part time.” She gave me the name of one company because she didn’t want to give me all of her contacts.
I applied to that company that night and they weren’t accepting shoppers. So I researched and saw lots of ads. Lots had fees attached. But I researched and found a company and started. That was the year 2000. I didn’t take another day off for 7 years. I worked full time and mystery shopped nights and weekends —even Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It became an absolute addiction for me.
In 2001 I realized I was making almost as much mystery shopping as I was for the school district and I would like to be home with my daughter, who was 8 years old at that time. I wanted to pick her up from school. So I stopped working at the school and went into mystery shopping full time.
YOU MENTIONED LISTINGS WHERE PEOPLE WANTED *YOU* TO PAY TO BECOME A MYSTERY SHOPPER. THAT’S A SCAM I WORRY ABOUT AS A CONSUMER REPORTER. HOW CAN PEOPLE FIND LEGITIMATE MYSTERY SHOPPING WORK?
Never pay anybody anything. Mystery shopping should pay you not the other way around. We have a membership where shoppers pay $25 to become a member and get help from me and other groups. But brand new shoppers that come in I say make money first. I believe in holding up the ladder so others can climb too. I don’t believe in competition. I have neighbors I have brought into mystery shopping. There is so much work out there ,there is no reason to worry about competition and some have rotations once in a lifetime or once every six months. So find the organizations that will help you for free. We are one of them.
GIVE ME SOME EXAMPLES OF TYPICAL MYSTERY SHOPPING ASSIGNMENTS.
WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW LONG DO THEY TAKE?
It is a huge variety. The key is finding out where companies are and who to work with.
There are almost 400 companies out there and you are independent contractor. There is work for everybody. A hotel report could take 6 hours. A cruise job could take 3 days. A grocery report could take 10 to 15 minutes. A drive thru report is an easy 5 to 8 minutes. There are companies that have super easy jobs or fun jobs. I did Disney Land for several years and inside that there were 8 or 9 reports that took an hour a piece. But going in they would send me tickets to California Adventure and Disney Land.
They reimbursed us for eating and parking. There was a secret club that I got to go to. It is a lot of work but for me it is rewarding and it is an addiction. Even when people go to other jobs, the always come back.
YOU’VE HAD SOME HILARIOUS AND DRAMATIC ADVENTURES ALONG THE WAY. PLEASE SHARE!
I’ve had people chase me out of gas stations with brooms because I’m taking photos. I had people threaten to call the police on me because if a gas station isn’t in compliance, the owners don’t want that info out. They will bribe you or threaten you.
Some mystery shopping jobs involve shooting undercover video and that can be nerve wracking!
OK, SO LET ME ASK THE QUESTION EVERYBODY IS WONDERING ABOUT: HOW MUCH MONEY CAN YOU MAKE AS A MYSTERY SHOPPER?
—Individual jobs pay between ___ and ___, depending on how complicated and lengthy a job it is.
— In a good year, I do $65,000 in payments. And nearly double that in reimbursements.
*Elisabeth’s Note: Be sure to read the Episode 8 “Save More” blog for more on mystery shopping, because mystery shoppers can save 6 figures a year through reimbursements!