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Have you been hearing about the side hustle mystery shopping? Have you heard people say they are making $400-1000 over the weekend? Have you thought in your mind, “It would be nice to have even an extra $100 or more?”.
I thought the same thing!
I’ve been reading personal finance blogs–from sites like Michelle Gardner, the Penny Hoarder, and others. They’ve given great tips on how to make more money, how to save more money, and other great ideas. A common thing I saw many of them doing in their spare time was mystery shopping as a side hustle.
If you haven’t heard of mystery shopping before, let me explain what it is…
Basically, many companies want to know how their customer service is going, what their user experience is like, how others view their products and services, so they hire mystery shoppers to act as a normal customer, then provide feedback on their experience.
I thought mystery shopping would be a very fun side hustle, and I told you in my post on my January 2018 goals that I would attempt mystery shopping this month as a way to make more money. I did what I said I would do, but I failed miserably in the expectation to make more money from it.
I filled out an application for a mystery shopping site that I researched called, “Bestmark“.
The Application Process
The application took me about 10 minutes. They require very basic information. No work experience is required. They ask about transportation and your education background, but education is not required to perform as a mystery shopper.
Within 24 hours, I had a message that said:
Hello Tiffany, Welcome to BestMark! Login Here!
Thank you for your interest in BestMark’s Mystery Shopping Programs. Your application has been approved, and we are excited to begin working with you! Here is a quick guide of what you need to know to get started with BestMarkand successfully complete your first shops:
To begin, use your Shopper ID and password to log in to your BestMark Mystery Shopper web site.
Your Shopper ID: (Not disclosing on this post)
Your Account Password: (Not disclosing on this post)
When you log in to your BestMark Shopper web site:
- Update the information in your Shopper Profile.
- Review and sign off on BestMark’s policies and procedures.
View Open Shops in Your Area
- Once you log in to your Shopper web site, click on the “In My Area” or “Travel Locations” link under “Find Shops”.
- To assist you in your search, you may adjust the search radius and ZIP code.
- Click on a column label (ex: Cash Payment or City) to sort your search results.
- Click on a listed shop to view the shop overview and other important shop details.
Assigning Your First Shop
- When you select a shop from your Find Shops list, you may have the option to request a shop online for a specific date. If the request is approved by one of our in-house Regional Schedulers, you will receive a confirmation email.
- You may also call our office to speak with a Regional Scheduler and to assign a shop.
Preparing for an Assigned Shop
- Once a shop is assigned for you to perform, it will appear on your “My Shops” page.
- Please note that after your shop is scheduled, your instructions will be made available to you 8 days prior to the shop.
- Click on the “View Assignment” link on the My Shops page to access the Shop Instructions (Dispatch Assignment Sheet) and the Online Survey.
- In the Before Your Shop section, read the shop instructions as well as the sample surveys provided.
- You may also need to pass the brief Certification Test before being able to access the Online Survey.
- At the bottom of the dispatch assignment sheet, you will need to check the box next to “I have read and understand the instructions” and click “Sign Off”. This is confirmation you understand your instructions and will complete the shop.
Completing Your Shop
- Each assigned shop must be completed on the assigned date and within the specified time window. You must contact BestMark before the shop date if you will be unable to complete the shop as planned or if you need to reschedule the shop for another day.
- If you anticipate anything that might prevent you from completing your shop within the prescribed parameters, call us to speak with a scheduler. Cancellations and reschedules will negatively impact your performance rating and can limit or preclude you from viewing and signing up for shops in the future, but late cancels will have a greater impact. Shoppers who prove reliability will, in turn, be awarded with things such as early access to shops for self-assign.
Confirming Your Shop
- Immediately after completing your shop, log into your BestMark website click on “My Shops,” then “View Assignment”. In the After Your Shop section, click on Confirm Shop Completion. This informs BestMark that you have performed the shop as planned and will be completing the online survey.
Filling Out Your Survey
- On the “My Shops” page, click on the “View Assignment” link.
- In the After Your Shop section, click on Fill Out Survey.
- As you complete each page, click “Next” to get to the next page of the survey.
- Once the survey is completely filled out, click “Submit.”
- A Review Report page will appear, select “Submit” again to send the report to BestMark.
Uploading Your Receipt or other Required Documentation
- When you click on “View Assignment” from the “My Shops” page, there is a link in the After Your Shop section to upload your required documents for that specific assignment (itemized receipt, business card, invoice, etc.).
- You may also click on “Upload Receipt” from your Shopper home page.
Getting Paid for Your Shops
- BestMark sends your payment by check via mail every other Friday once your shop has been reviewed and approved by a Quality Editor. You will receive your check 2-4 weeks from your shop date. You can click “Work/Payment History” on your Shopper Main Menu to view your completed shops and payments for the previous 90 days.
Contacting BestMark with Questions
- If you have any questions about your shop, we are always happy to speak with you! You may reach us by phone 8am to 8pm Monday-Thursday, 8am to 5pm Friday, and from 9am-1pm Saturday and Sunday, Central Time.
Please do not delete this email so that you may refer back to it if you have any questions about completing your shops or how to retrieve your Shopper account information.
Have fun and welcome to BestMark!
Applying For Shop Opportunities
The same day, I decided to scroll thru the shop opportunities. There were three or four opportunities within 100 miles from me (in San Antonio, Texas). I thought it would’ve been many more opportunities based on the posts I had been reading, but I went with it..
A video I watched on Youtube showed one lady who said she made $400-$1000 over the weekend. Based on her experience and her comfort in discussing mystery shopping, it sounded like making $400+ over the weekend was something within reasonable reach that could be done on a consistent basis. I mean, look at all of the people writing about mystery shopping and how you can make an additional $14000/year on the side! So, when I was scrolling on Bestmark’s site, I didn’t see opportunities consistent to what I expected. I decided to apply for one anyway, so I can see how it goes.
My Epic Fail
I applied to a salon mystery shopping opportunities inside of a Walmart about 20 miles away from me. I read the directions. It told me I had to go to the Seva Salon, get two services: one eyebrow service and another service of my choice. I had to take two pictures: one itemized receipt and one of the front of the store. I followed the directions.
I had to ask for services that weren’t on the service list, observe the branding of the store, and observe whether the appearance was professional. Then, after receiving services, taking pictures, I also had to complete a survey to receive payment.
The mistakes I made were:
I underestimated how long the shopping would take
The salon was described as the “quick” salon. I thought I would be able to go and get my eyebrows done and a facial in 25-30 minutes. When I got there, there was only one employee. She had a person who wanted full face waxing and eyelash extensions. The lady in front of me took 45-50 minutes! I had to wait the WHOLE time because the instructions said, “you cannot call ahead for an appointment”.
I picked a location that was far
I drove 20 miles to perform the mystery shop and the travel was not an expense they would reimburse. With traffic, it took me 40 minutes – 1 hour to get to the salon and return from the salon.
I took for granted that each Mystery Shopping experience reimbursed your expenses PLUS pay
After receiving services, traveling 40 miles, and waiting 1 hour to get services, I only get the opportunity to be reimbursed $19.00–the exact amount of services I paid for. My husband jokingly said, “I guess you did all that work to give them a loan”. Mystery shopping opportunities range in pay: not all will reimburse purchases. Some will only reimburse purchases, but will not pay (like the one I did). Read the directions carefully so you know whether the opportunity is a “reimbursement only” deal, a “pay but no reimbursement” deal, or a “pay plus reimbursement” deal (my preferred option now).
Reimbursement only deals are not bad because you can be reimbursed of a service you enjoy anyway. I’ve seen restaurants who will reimburse you for meals in exchange for feedback and the salon I went to was the same. Make sure you know what you are getting into.
My Advice and My Future Plan
1.) Verify Payment
I should have known to verify payment! I can’t believe I backed myself into this one. If you are considering mystery shopping, read the directions well and don’t add assumptions in between the lines (as I did). If it says “reimburse”, but does not disclose payment amounts, assume, it is not a payment deal UNLESS you verify there is payment alotted by calling and conversing with an employee at the referral company.
2.) Calculate the mileage
When you are scanning opportunities, calculate the cost of mileage for you to take a round trip to the location. If the pay is not sufficient to cover you travel AND give you a little profit, then it is not a profit opportunity. It’s okay to make the decision to perform the shop while knowing the opportunity is not profitable. I thought “at least I got a free facial”, so I enjoyed the opportunity enough to bare the travel, but I did not expect to bear the travel and the LONG wait time.
3.) Calculate the time requirement with a buffer
Sometimes, the mystery shop opportunities are there because the corporate offices or owners are noticing a problem in sales and they want anonymous insight to pinpoint the reason. You may not be going into an “ideal” customer service experience. Accordingly, you have to calculate the time requirement of mystery shopping very conservatively.
4.) Batch several shops in the same area
After this FAILED experiment with making more money, I decided to read more about what I could’ve done better. Others batch several shops in the same area. They may apply to several referral networks and take on shops all in the same area. Then, go from location to location mystery shopping, so at the end of a weekend, they have profit from several locations. I may have to try this approach in the future once I’ve applied to more mystery shop referral networks.
I may try mystery shopping again, but I don’t expect to get a full-time income from it. I will watch the opportunities closer, choose locations that are in directions I plan to go anyway, perform shops when I have available time, batch shopping opportunities, and apply to more referral networks rather than simply relying on Bestmark. Stay tuned because I will surely write my future experiences of mystery shopping here on the blog.
In the meantime, I will continue to focus on my primary revenue drivers in online business. I can get paid quicker and more. If you’re interested in how to make money online sharing your expertise or interest, I’d love to help. Also, if you have a business that you want to take online, I’d love to help you navigate the internet marketing world!
My #1 recommended internet marketing course is Wealthy Affiliate and as a bonus, I help all of my referrals there. If you’re interested, we can get started free HERE!
All the best,