Monday, January 17, 2011

Mystery Shopping Can Be a Pain In the Patootie

Early last year I stumbled across an article in the Wall Street Journal with the enticing title How One Entrepreneur Lives Large -- for Free. It's an article about how one woman replaced her Wall Street salary with mystery shopping assignments. I was enthralled. It sounded so easy, so flexible, so desirable! What if I could ditch my corporate job and mystery shop full time?

I took the time to get my silver MSPA certification and then embarked on signing up with as many mystery shopping companies as I could. I did all kinds of assignments from evaluating retail stores and gas stations to dining in five-star restaurants. I was on my way to a new career! But then I realized that the payoff just wasn't there. There is a lot of time involved with completing an evaluation. Then the really time consuming part starts when you complete the write-up on the assignment. It just wasn't worth the effort to me. Some evaluations took three hours to complete the typed report. And all I got in exchange for that was a reimbursed dinner meal.

But during my little mystery shopping experiment, I stumbled across one company that offers restaurant evaluations in exchange for a reimbursed meal and a ten-minute survey on the service I received. I just returned from lunch there today, and I truly enjoy dining at the restaurant. I have shunned mystery shopping from all other sources, and only work for this company. I am treated to a few free meals a year and I always look forward to the experience. (For confidentiality reasons, I can't share either the mystery shopping company or restaurant with you.)

But all the initial pain and suffering of sifting through the mystery shopping world paid off. I am required to take a dining guest with me to complete the assignment, so I have become very popular with my coworkers for the periodic free lunch they receive!

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