Shop, Dine AND Get Paid?


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The e-mail is enticing: "You get PAID and receive FREE meals, products, and services from big name, recognized companies for your opinion because we need Professional Business Evaluators!"

Those who are looking for extra income can be tempted by ads to recruit "mystery shoppers." It is true that businesses nationwide use mystery shopping -- also known as secret shopping, performance evaluations, service monitoring and quality auditing -as a means to monitor service quality. But how does one earn work as a mystery shopper?

Market research firms, training companies, merchandisers, temporary agencies and other businesses specialize in recruiting mystery shoppers. Unfortunately, so do scam artists. People with the right talents (attention to detail, skilled in communications and completing paperwork) can become paid mystery shoppers, if they avoid the "too good to be true" offers.

The Better Business Bureau advises applicants to carefully research any "mystery shopper" business. Understand whether the company is offering to employ you directly. If you are asked instead to purchase training materials or a directory of companies that supposedly offer mystery-shopping opportunities, exercise caution. BBB experience shows these can be unproductive avenues.

Look for reputable firms that:

  • Qualify and train mystery shoppers to perform specific evaluations;
  • Enjoy a good reputation with their clients and shoppers, and
  • Do not charge a fee to complete an application.

To steer clear of get-rich-quick offers, the BBB advises mystery shopper applicants to:

  • Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily. Mystery shopping will not make you rich; at best it provides part-time income.
  • Avoid falling for claims that "guarantee" a position, without training.
  • Be cautions of unsolicited e-mails offering "work-from-home."
  • Never pay money up-front. A legitimate mystery shopping service will not charge money for materials, training or recruiting.
  • Obtain the name of the company and check the business out with the BBB, local consumer protection agency, and state attorney general.
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