Although I can go on and on about how wonderful I think mystery shopping is, I didn’t want my readers to just take *my* word for it. Everyone has different experiences, seasons of life, and mystery shopping priorities. Stephanie graciously let me pick her brain about her mystery shopping experience, and she put a lot of thought into answering these questions for you. I thought she had some excellent insight that you all might appreciate, so check out her interview below:
How long have you been mystery shopping?
I’ve been mystery shopping for over 6 years. Wow, that’s a long time.
What are your favorite types of mystery shops to do?
I like to do a variety to keep my interest but I like casual dining shops (like Give Guys or Moe’s) where I can take my family and eat a nice meal for free. I also enjoy going to see a movie or shopping at a clothing store (Charlotte Russe or Cato) I like.
How often do you mystery shop?
Depends on the time of the month and how desperate they are and what my schedule looks like. Usually at least once a week. Near the end of the month I can be doing up to 3-5 a week.
Do you have any children? How many? How have you found this affects mystery shopping?
I have three children under the age of four, so I am rather busy being a mother. I enjoy shops that I can take my children to but sometimes that isn’t possible. So depending on my schedule sometime I just have to let shops go by if my husband can’t be home to watch the kids. However I do know that you cannot take kids if they tell you not too, they do distract and they do check their videos.
Did anything deter you from starting, and how do you feel about that now?
I think I was just afraid of it being a scam at the beginning and then nervous about remembering everything. I still have to really concentrate when I try a new type of shop or a new company before I feel comfortable. I’m also more confident in my skills of observing and knowing what companies are looking for.
How did you get started?
A friend of mine was doing some mystery shopping and gave me a link. I started with just one company— Market Force and did that for several years before expanding to many companies. I was just doing it as I had time and usually when they called me with high shop fees.
What has been your most profitable mystery shop?
Well, this might seem crazy but a couple months ago a company called me to do a fast food shop in another state, it was a long drive about 5 hours altogether but they paid me $100 plus reimbursement. To me it was fun because I took my whole family and we just made a little road trip. I guess it wasn’t that profitable if you count the time but we were enjoying the adventure together so to us it was like getting $60 to go on a trip. Can’t believe they were that desperate…I don’t normally do ones that far away but we weren’t doing anything so it worked.
Is there any particular mystery shop that you’ve preformed that still stands out in your mind?
Well this summer my husband and I went to the movie theater and got two free tickets, popcorn and a drink all reimbursed and paid $5 on top of it. That was a fun date. It wasn’t too much paperwork just a bunch of yes or no questions really—remembering a few names and counting people.
How does mystery shopping specifically contribute to your family?
For us we operate on cash so mystery shopping gives me extra money for eating out; mailing packages and sometimes even clothes. For me it is so nice to have money to eat out when we are busy or I am stressed. We can be generous as well and treat others because of the money we are making and the reimbursements.
Let’s be real- even the best jobs have their downfalls. Are there any negative aspects about mystery shopping?
Sometimes not being able to take my kids is a little bit of a downer. Also just having to remember all the details I am supposed to be observing or remembering to get a receipt can be hard. Paperwork can be long to enter in or easy depending on the company. I have some that have a bunch of questions and narratives on top of it and some that are real quick.
Do you ever find yourself taking mystery shop hiatuses?
I usually don’t do much mystery shopping when I am pregnant or just had a baby as it is just too hard. So I’ll just stop doing shops. It’s not hard at all to get right back into it when I’m ready!
What advice would you give to a beginner mystery shopper?
Sign up for several companies so you can get a variety of shop offers and then master a couple that you like to do. Don’t try to do them all at first. I started with a couple companies and got good and their shops and then signed up for more and started doing other shops. I now do postal shops, oil changes, restaurants, clothing stores and the occasional grocery store or office supply store.
Are there any other general comments you’d like to throw in?
I love that in mystery shopping it’s your choice to do a shop or not. It doesn’t really affect your job though sometimes they may call you first if you are a frequent shopper. You don’t have to feel bad refusing a shop or stopping for a while. There is one shop in the mall I don’t go into for personal beliefs and when they call to ask me to do it I don’t mind just saying no. My husband is also a shopper, we eventually figured that he did some shops with me and loves to eat occasionally at Five Guys so why shouldn’t he become a shopper and we could get double the shops! It’s worked out great, he can do more since he can do some before or after work without kids. He enjoys doing it and has never had a problem, he is quite the observant man!
A little about Stephanie:
My name is Stephanie Shelor and I have been married almost five years to Joshua, the love of my life. We have three children aged 4, 2 and 1. We are followers of Jesus Christ and live in the mountains of Virginia where we strive to live frugally. I love to yard sale and mystery shop and I blog at http://joshuaandstephanie.blogspot.com/
Thanks, Stephanie! If you have insight you’d like to share as a shopper, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.