Written by @Lan & Edited by @joehairie
Mystery Shopping is one great way to get free things and at the same time get paid for the task(s) you did. For travellers, it is a way to really save some money as you will be getting free things from food, groceries and even accommodation, if you know how to play the game. First of all, you need to be a certified Mystery Shopper. Some people do this things seriously and they are being paid handsomely for their work, some do it during leisure and smart travellers will enroll as Mystery Shoppers thus cutting their expenses while being on the road.
I am a Mystery Shopper. I started way back in 2012. During that year, as a beginner, I was offered small tasks like going to McDonald’s, buy some burgers, pretending to be a genuine customer and tried my very best to remember all the small details so that I may send in an accurate report to the company that hired me. My first pay was around USD2.50 but whatever I consumed was paid as well. I was a McDonald’s fan that time, so USD2.50 was something extra as I was able to eat the burgers that I like most.
3 months later, I get bored of burgers and started to look for more bigger portions, Pizza! I applied to be a Mystery Shopper and after a test that I took, they accepted me. So for few months I suddenly became a regular visitor to one famous Pizza brand. The first pay was about USD8 as the location was near to the place I stayed. After some successful projects, the company began to trust me and assigned me for some outstation work. I travelled more than 100KM just to visit few Pizza Outlet and at one time the pay was as high as USD200.
Since this Pizza Chain Restaurant have delivery service, I opted (for many times for the Pizza to be delivered to my house). Since there were few available Mystery Shoppers in my town, I received many offers to run the task and Pizza’s keep coming to my house. All that I need was to remember the details, such as name of the sender, time of arrival, if the Pizza still hot, things like that. A report is to be submitted in 24 hours time, online. Wait for a month, the pay will be in the bank including the amount I spent for the Pizza.
Things got bigger when I accepted an offer by a company to do rounds for KFC and I frequented the brand, got my fried chickens and got paid after a month. I did some outstation work as well as Mystery Shopper for KFC and travelled as far as 250KM just to eat some fried chicken. The company that hired me was desperate as there was not a single Mystery Shopper available in that town and I was paid handsomely for my work.
While doing outstation work, I expanded my tasks to some banking Mystery Shopping in the same town. I looked for the opportunity in some websites and luckily some companies are running Banking Mystery Shopping Programme to which I applied. The KFC visit was in the evening so I made sure that the Bank Mystery Shopping was perfectly done during day time.
Doing some Mystery Shopping in a bank is not that hard. All you need to do is to pretend to be one genuine customer, doing things such as asking questions to the right personnel or make some deposits to your own account, observe things, see if the staffs are doing their job perfectly (as in instruction). Sometimes it’s funny that a Mystery Shopper has to see if a staff is wearing the necktie correctly, if the security guards are doing their job or if staffs are wearing name tags.
All this details must be included in the straight forward online form that will take about 20-30 minutes to fill in, mostly YES or NO and click the submit button. A Mystery Shopper will not be able to lie as the same report will be send to the Manager of the bank and he or she will challenge the validity of that report, IF something is just not right. A check through the CCTV will then tell who is right and who is wrong.
This is similar in any eateries, a Mystery Shopper must be able to remember the exact timing of entrance and exit and if the report does not look good for the Manager, he or she will try to find something that is not right, a little mistake made by the Mystery Shopper. If that Manager ably to find one little mistake through that CCTV recording, the report by the Mystery Shopper will be void thus no pay will be in the bank!To avoid this, a Mystery Shopper must adhere to all the rules, play by the book and don’t take any short cuts.
So back to my KFC and Bank assignments. At one time I was offered an outstation duty to Kunak and Tawau, some 400KM from my hometown. My job was to visit 3 KFC outlets, all during evening time. I had nothing to do during day time so I figured out a way that I can make some money during day time, that was where the Bank Mystery Shopping rolled in. I took the overnight bus going there, arriving early in the morning, did all my work in Kunak, spend a night in a budget hotel and the next day to Tawau for another tasks.
After the KFC assignments at night time, I took the bus going back to my hometown thus saving more money as I did not have to spend the night in the hotel. Below were my actual spending and pay that I received after a month completing the tasks.
Bus to Kunak RM50 (From Kota Kinabalu)
Hotel in Kunak RM70
KFC 1 Spending RM12.50
MISC RM24 (I need to consume something else other than chicken ok!)
Van to Tawau RM20 (From Kunak)
KFC 2 Spending RM12.50
KFC 3 Spending RM12.50
MISC in Tawau RM17
Bus to Kota Kinabalu RM50 (From Tawau)
I did 3 Mystery Shopping in 3 banks that did not require any spending
Total Spent : RM 268.50
Gained (Pay after a month)
KFC 1 Pay RM250
KFC 2 Pay RM250
KFC 3 Pay RM250
Bank 1 Pay RM150
Bank 2 Pay RM250
Bank 3 Pay RM80
Total Gained: RM1230
Total Gained-Total Spending : RM1230-RM268.50 : RM961.50
In 3 days, I earned clean RM961.50 which was about USD220. I got to travel to smaller but interesting towns, sleep in a hotel, eat plenty Fried Chicken, had my own leisure time after the Bank Visits and for all that, I was actually paid. When I reached Kota Kinabalu, more calls coming in from several companies, asking me to do more rounds.
Am I doing this on full time basis? No, I will only do it when I have the urge to do so, no one can force me. In fact the companies will ask if I am free to do this or that, if somehow I am just being lazy, I will politely reject the offer. Now, if everyone in a particular place are rejecting certain offer, the company will raise the payment to a very high amount that will make Mystery Shoppers biting their nails, thinking 2-3 times or will have sleepless night thinking of the offer!
If still no one accepting the offer, the company will have to invite over someone from another place and that person will make more money, a thing that is certain and must as that person will sacrifice his or her time, going all through that hardship, travelling to another town or city.
Up to now, I am still a Mystery Shopper, doing rounds to all kind of brands from Hotels to restaurants, Computer stuff to Beauty Products, Airlines to buses, Fast Food Chain to High-End dining, Banks to Airport Lounges and even duty free shops. Do I love my part time job? Yes, I travel, eat, stay, get things all for free and after a month completing the visits, money will be in the bank.
How does Mystery Shopping works?
One big company, we say it as XYZ company wants to see if they are doing well enough in terms of product & service quality. Normally this company will do their own internal audit and will have their top personnel going around to check on things, here and there.
At times, internal audit brings not so great result thus they need someone or a group of people that are not related to the company, to come and check things for them. They can’t simply hire outsiders as the result will be almost the same as Internal Audit. It is because the personnel in charge will surely to have some relation or will get to know those being hired.
To avoid any flaw in the audit, XYZ will appoint another company that hires Mystery Shoppers from around the world. This Mystery Shopping Company will send in a group of people as required by XYZ company, to check on certain things in the company.
The hired Mystery Shoppers will do their own rounds, their identities are not known to the staffs at XYZ company as the Mystery Shoppers will act just like some genuine customers, paying things accordingly (if they have to buy food, for example). In a hotel, the Mystery Shopper will act just like a normal guest, paying bills as required.
After the visits, the Mystery Shoppers will send in their report to the Company that hired them. The reports will be checked for its authenticity and normally a copy will be send directly to the Manager of the place that were visited. The manager will get to read the report and he or she will know which area need to be improved.
At times, if the Manager is not satisfied with the report, for example, the Mystery Shopper seemed to report something that is not true, a check will be carried out again until all parties are satisfied. Though the Mystery Shopper face can be seen in CCTV (in a rare case that needed verification as requested by the Manager), no one in XYZ company will get to know the real name and personal details of that Mystery Shopper.
Only the Company that hires the Mystery Shoppers knows everything about the shoppers not XYZ. This is why, a Mystery Shopper can only perform a task in the same place after a period of time, say 3 months. In 3 months time, everyone in XYZ will already forget about the same Mystery Shopper.
The reports will be used as an indication to see if the XYZ staffs are delivering their very best in terms of products or customer service quality. When all parties are happy, XYZ will pay the amount agreed to the Mystery Shopping Company and after that Mystery Shoppers will be getting their little shares.
Most of the time, big companies hires Mystery Shopping Companies for a certain period of time, a contract so to say. This Mystery Shopping Companies will keep sending Mystery Shoppers from all over to do the checking or rounds. Let’s say the contract is for one year and the total amount of pay is USD2 Million. The cost to send in Mystery Shoppers is just a fraction of that USD2 Million unless there are cases when higher fees must be paid to shoppers for an unknown reason.
Whatever it is, all parties will be happy, companies gets their external audit, Mystery Shopping Companies get paid and shoppers get their payment.
How to become a Mystery Shopper?
First you need to get the genuine Mystery Shopping Companies. All of them are in GOOGLE. Search for Mystery Shopping, add your country so that you won’t end up reading opportunities for those outside your country. Read the terms, payment schedule and kind of jobs they are offering. If you like food, make sure they have that type of task.
Register, take a test or sometimes 2-3 tests and you will know if you are qualified enough to be a Mystery Shopper. If you are a beginner, start with smaller tasks, build the trust and later you will get bigger tasks. Don’t expect people to give you Hotel Tasks if you have just started.
It takes time to be a good Mystery Shopper. Never ever break the rules, send in all report on time as instructed with attachments if required. You will need to be very careful in evaluating things around you and report things accurately as you have experienced, do not add things that is fictional. They will know if you are telling lies, CCTV recordings are all around the place you are about to visit. Never reveal to any staff that you are Mystery Shopper although some can detect you. let them guessing. Act normally, be as close as a genuine customer.
Due to some oath of secrecy, I can’t really publicly publish the names of most Mystery Shopping Companies that I am working with but if you really need some advice on which companies to join, look for my contact in ABOUT, ask me and I will reply.
Mystery Shopping for travellers?
Why not? Why not get free things and get paid while you travelling? Not all travellers are bloggers or writers who gets free accommodation and meals from kind sponsors. Most travellers are using their own money for food and so many things. Why not find some opportunities doing Mystery Shopping while travelling, end of month you will be paid anyway!
Some companies are hiring people to do checks at Airport Duty Free Shops around the world (Contact me for more information). If you are at the right airport, waiting for your flight, why not drop by at the Duty Free Shops, buy duty free perfumes or chocolates or cigarettes, that items are yours and for your work, you will be paid some additional amount on top of that purchase you made!
Fancy having free meal at Renaissance Hotel? Your meal is paid by the company on top of shopper fees. Eating daily at Fast Food Restaurants? For free and get paid? Be a Mystery Shopper while travelling. All your spending will be paid and that is different from your real reward, your pay as agreed by you and the company.
All you need to do is observe and send in your online report, for that you need your computer and internet, that’s all. Not bringing your notebook while travelling? I am sure you know where to find good cyber cafes. Just make sure that your report is genuine and honest. No hanky-panky. No Lies.
Free Hotel stay? Hold on there. You need few years of experience in Mystery Shopping before you are to receive bigger tasks though some Mystery Shopping Companies do invite fresh shoppers to run some Hotel Visits,you just need to know where to look for the opportunities.
For Asian shoppers, International Companies do pay in EURO or USD so that will be one huge advantage given that the currency exchange rate gives more value to EURO and USD.
It will be all up to you to decide if this Mystery Shopper Programme is suitable enough for your travel itinerary/schedule. Do you want to make more money while travelling and at the same time cutting some costs on your expenses, at times getting items for free? If you do, then Mystery Shopping is for you!
Need more advice personally? You people know how to find my contact, it’s in the ABOUT.