Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day (yes, I know a day late, but my husband had to work on Sunday), and I didn’t want to make my husband eat the same old pasta with marinara sauce we’ve been consuming as of late. I was wondering how to do this on the limited budget; I definitely didn’t want to make my husband something generic and boring for Father’s Day. Then I realized the answer to my problem…and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before?
I was turned onto the idea of mystery shopping by Michelle from Making Sense of Cents and I’m very happy I did. Some people I have told about this have asked for more info about mystery shopping, so I thought I’d document my experience for everyone. Mystery Shopping 101!
About the Company:
I use Bestmark, as that is what Michelle uses and it has turned out wonderfully for me. If you would like to sign up, I’d be happy if you used my referral code! HI2017
1. Sign up and get approved as a shopper. They ask for your phone number as well, but thus far I have never gotten a call from them.
2. Look at the mystery shops in your area and see what interests you. You can choose from a variety of different shops. Some hide the names of the establishments, others show them. Thus far, I have only done a couple shops in Hawaii (because there are very few shops there), but here in Washington there are many, many more to choose from. Lots of restaurants, car dealerships, etc. I’m not sure which one my sister used to use, but she did casino ones where they would pay x amount for gambling and x amount for dinner. Pretty good!
3. You don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. I hadn’t participated in months before I realized I should change my location from Hawaii to Washington (duh) and was very surprised at the quantity here. I’ll be doing many more shops, I’m sure of it.
4. They send out emails if they have last minute shops they need to fill – otherwise I don’t get many emails from them.
5. They’ve always paid on time, and you can call them during business hours to clarify things (like I called them to clarify if tips were included in reimbursements or not).
Doing the Shop:
This is exactly what happened as I went through the shop process – note that I did a restaurant shop this time and all shops differ:
1. I found a shop that interested me and applied for it.
2. They emailed me back saying I was approved for it and had details of the shop in the email.
3. Prior to the shop they sent out a reminder email, again with details.
4. Before you do the shop, you log into the site and view the details of the shop. There are usually 4 different sections for you to view before the shop – acknowledgement form for the shop, the survey you need to fill out, a sample filled out survey, and a quiz to make sure you actually read the details. I failed this quiz 3 times before I passed – not sure why I decided to be dumb yesterday. It was only 7 questions!
5. We went to the restaurant. We put the survey on our phones so we could clandestinely check to make sure we were timing things as we needed, and used the stop watch and note pad on our phones as well to time everything. We had to make sure we knew exactly how long (in seconds) it took for them to greet us, serve us, bring the food/drinks, bring the check, etc. Besides the inconvenience of trying to be sly and sneaky, and of remembering exactly what questions they wanted us to ask, it was quite easy.
6. We left and when we got home I immediately sat down to fill out the survey. You have a time limit to finish the survey – don’t miss it!
7. Take a picture of the receipt and upload it to the site.
8. Wait to see if your survey and receipt were approved! You’re done!
Cons of Shopping
1. Having to nitpick throughout dinner and time things. It makes the dining process a little less relaxing, but at the same time it’s a small price to pay for free food.
2. The worry of paying for a meal, and waiting to see if you did everything correct to ensure reimbursement. I’m a little concerned that they won’t reimburse the tip (even though the amount plus tip came out to the maximum reimbursement amount) – I did call them to make sure that they reimbursed it but when filling out the survey it was a little confusing. It would totally suck to do a high-value shop (like a $100+ steakhouse shop) and find out afterward you did it wrong and are stuck with the bill! That’s why it pays to make sure you do everything as they list, which included (a my husband read the instructions to me) writing at least 6 sentences for each section.
We’re on a budget, and mystery shopping is a way for us to eat without paying for food. It’s a wonderful program for those with the time and inclination to do so – I wouldn’t be so inclined if I had a FT job and 2 kids to drag places. It feels a little insidious (says my husband) because you’re basically grading people without their knowledge it takes away from the enjoyment of dining out. But at the same time, the amount of money saved, and the (sometimes) great food you get from it, is worth it.
I know that Michelle from Making Sense of Cents makes a nice amount of money every month from mystery shopping, and here is her article describing her mystery shopping experiences. I hope that this helps you to decide if it’s something you want to do or not!
Have you ever mystery shopped before?
again, if you want to sign up I use www.Bestmark.com. Please use my referral code! HI2017