Don’t pay cash for a high-end return shop

  I had an interesting experience the other day when doing a purchase and return mystery shop at a high-end shoe store. My job was to go in and purchase shoes around $200, and then return them the next day.  Because I try to stay away from credit cards as much as possible, I paid cash. This particular store prides itself on customer service, and had me fill out customer paperwork when I made the purchase.  I gave my real first name, but a fake last name, as I’m always paranoid that people will Google me and discover I’m a Read More…

Should I let a bad company go?

Dear WAHFAQ, I have a dilemma.  I really don’t like one mystery shopping company I have been working for.  They’re realllllllly picky about the assignments, they send them back to me all the time for re-writes, they don’t pay that great, and my scheduler constantly calls and emails me to remind me of shops.  I work for a bunch of other companies, and I don’t have that problem with them so I don’t think it’s my work.  I don’t want to burn bridges, but I don’t think I can work for this company anymore.  What do you suggest? The wonderful Read More…

Mystery shopping dilemma: What if an employee hits on you?

I love mystery shopping, but I swear, sometimes the weirdest things happen on assignments which leave me scratching my head and thinking, “Ok, how am I going to write this one up?” In one apartment shop, my cover story was that I was single, and looking for a one-bedroom apartment. The leasing agent was a young man who had just moved to the area and had been working at the building for only a few weeks. I doubt that he had much experience within rentals, as we spent a lot of time talking about me. He did a fair job Read More…

Why can’t I get a gift certificate for mystery shopping?

Dear WAHFAQ, I’m supposed to do a really high-end restaurant shop this week, but the mystery shopping company won’t get me a gift certificate.  I’m supposed to take 10 people!  This is going to cost me around $300, and even though I’m going to get reimbursed, it’s going to take awhile. Why can’t they just give me a gift certificate and make my life easier? First of all, congrats on the restaurant shop!  That’s going to be a lot of fun, and a really hefty reimbursement!  I totally understand where you’re coming from, and that’s why some of these high-end Read More…

Is this Mystery Shopping assignment worth my time?

Dear WAHFAQ, I recently received an email from a company for this assignment: Mystery Shoppers are needed in the NEW YORK cities listed below for BANK SHOPS. Payment is  $20 and requires an inquiry for a new checking or savings account. Shops may NOT be done on Saturday, or after 5pm.  Assignments are due before June 26. An online 2-page report will need to be completed with detailed comments regarding your experience. Manhattan              Binghamton             Westfield            Rochester         Albany Do you think it’s worth the fee they’re giving? Thanks!   There are many factors to consider whether the assignment is Read More…

Can I tell my friends that I’m a Mystery Shopper?

Dear WAHFAQ, I loved your mystery shopper book and class and have been shopping for a little over a month now.  The checks are just now starting to come in and I’m so happy!  I’ve been wanting to tell my sister and my friends about mystery shopping, but I know that companies are really strict about their confidentially rules.  Can I actually tell people that I’m a shopper? Or do I have to keep this a secret forever? Thanks!   You absolutely can tell people you’re a mystery shopper. Heck, if we couldn’t do that, I’d be in BIIIIIGGGGG trouble!  Read More…

Do I have to buy something?

Dear WAHFAQ, I’m really interested in this mystery shopping thing, but I was wondering if I had to buy stuff when I shopped.  Isn’t that I just would get money back for the money I spent? And what if I spend more than what the assignment paid me?  It doesn’t seem like a good way to actually make money. Each assignment really depends on the mystery shopping company’s guidelines as well as the requirements from the client.  For restaurant shops, yes, you do actually have to purchase a meal.  Sometimes the MS company will reimburse you for the meal as Read More…

Should you give out your social security number?

Dear WAHFAQ,

It seems like every Mystery Shopping company that I sign up for wants my social security number. I don’t feel comfortable giving it out. What should I do?

I know that Mystery Shopping does sound a little too good to be true, and it can feel like a scam when you’re first getting started, but, believe it or not, this is a job!

Your employer, the mystery shopping company, needs to know that you’re legally authorized to work in the US, (or Canada, or wherever you’re shopping) and because of that, they need your social security number.

Even though you’re an independent contractor, if you make over $599 with any one company, they are legally required to send a 1099 form to the IRS and one to you as well. If they don’t have your social security number, they will not be in compliance with this law and get in BIG TROUBLE.

If you don’t make more than $599 with a Mystery Shopping company, they don’t have to do the extra 1099 paperwork. However, they still claim you as an expense for doing business. The IRS may turn around and come to you to make sure that you claimed the income and paid taxes on it. So, yes, kids, you always need to declare your Mystery Shopping income.

Now, I wouldn’t just go around willy-nilly giving out your SSN to every company out there first, of course make sure that they’re legitimate, and if you’re submitting this information online, make sure it’s a secure site. You can see the little https:// in the address bar before the site’s name. Any company that uses Sassie or Prophet for their scheduling has a secure database, so I’d trust those as well.

I do recommend that if you’re contracting with several companies to get an EIN (Employer’s Identification Number) for your business. I personally have worked for over 150 Mystery Shopping companies and I much prefer to use an EIN instead of my SSN for tax reporting. Getting an EIN is free from IRS.gov, just be sure to use it within 2 years otherwise they’ll take it back! Talk to a local tax advisor if you have questions…you can find assistance through your local SCORE.org office.

Good luck, and happy shopping!

 

Who Mystery Shops Walt Disney World Cruise Lines?

Dear WAHFAQ, Can you tell me who shops Walt Disney Cruise Lines?  I’m also interested in doing Panera, or Shell Gas Stations…I can’t seem to find out who shops these companies, and I don’t want to waste any more time! I would tell you if I could…but this is the cardinal sin of Mystery Shopping: revealing “who shops who.”  We can’t do it. Please don’t ask me to violate my confidentially agreements…It just won’t happen! We can’t reveal these things because Mystery Shopping companies don’t want to lose their clients.  If they didn’t have the confidentially rule, we’d be able Read More…

Can I bring my kids on a Mystery Shop?

Dear WAHFAQ, I was recently assigned a movie theater shop, and 2 restaurants. I’m so excited to get started!  The only thing is that my baby sitter cancelled on me, and I have to get these shops done TODAY!  What should I do?  Can I bring the kids with me? Ok, first of all, RELAX. Then, call your scheduler!  They are your life-line to help you when situations like these arise.  I cannot specifically speak for your scheduler or company, but most restaurant shops allow you to take a few people with you.  In fact, Mystery Shopping companies LIKE you Read More…

Do I need a separate email address for Mystery Shopping?

Dear WAHFAQ, I just started Mystery Shopping…got your training program…love it! And I was wondering if I really need a separate email address to do mystery shopping with.  I already have so many, it just seems like a hassle! Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you liked the Mystery Shopper Training Program 🙂 Y’know, it’s totally up to you if you want to use another email address specifically for mystery shopping.  I guess it depends on what you use the others for. For me, personally, I like to keep it separate from even my business account simply because I Read More…

What is an Apartment Shop?

Dear WAHFAQ, I heard that apartment buildings get shopped.  Is that true?  Would I actually have to rent an apartment?  That just seems weird, plus I don’t have the best credit, so I would probably be denied anyway.  I don’t really understand how they would work.   Apartment shops are actually my favourite shops to do!  You do NOT need to rent an apartment, fill out an application, or leave a deposit to do an apartment shop.  It’s pretty simple: You call up the apartment building and talk to a leasing agent over the phone, setting an appointment to view Read More…