The Ultimate Guide for Mystery Shoppers

Our Ultimate Guide for Mystery Shoppers is here!

As our Mystery Shopping division continues to see significant growth, it’s never been more important to equip our mystery shoppers with the knowledge and tools  they need to be successful. Over the years, our office has compiled several lists of tips, important terms, and hacks that they’ve discovered on the job. This week, we’ll be revisiting the advice of our mystery shop schedulers.

First Time Shoppers

Mystery shopping (especially for first timers), can sometimes feel overwhelming. Here are a few useful tips to help you with your first shop.

  • Read your shop guidelines. This may seem pretty obvious, but reading your shop guidelines well in advance will prevent a lot of mistakes.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Reading the guidelines will prepare you to ask questions before your shop. No question, no matter how small, is unimportant. Be sure to ask us questions when you call in to review your shop guidelines. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have!
  • Budget your time. Know the specifics of your assignment, and when it’s due. Being late doesn’t make a good impression in any situation.
  • Keep an open mind. When mystery shopping, it’s good to keep an open mind in order to adapt to the situation.  Yes, we do prepare you through guidelines, but each individual experience will always be different.
  • Accept criticism and learn to apply it. Your first few assignments probably won’t be your best work. You’re still learning the process, and you’re still getting familiar with the details.  However, take whatever feedback you’re provided, and apply it to future work.  This goes for survey writing as well. Take the comments left by your editor at the end of your first shop and apply them. Making these adjustments will improve your writing and your score!

Helpful Tips & Tricks

Even more tips and tricks to perform your best!

  • Check your shop log. If you have applied for a shop but have not heard whether or not you were accepted, please check your Shop Log. If you’ve been assigned a shop, the shop information will be in your Shop Log. Also, you should receive an email from our Gateway site either way – accepted or not.  Please be sure that you have added the “” domain name to your email friends list so that you don’t miss out on any emails from us.
  • READ YOUR SHOP GUIDELINES. Yes, it’s mentioned above, but this one is worth reiterating. Once assigned a shop, immediately log into your Shop Log and confirm the shop, then read the guidelines and form. Most questions shoppers have about assignments can be answered by simply reading the shop guidelines and form.
  • Contact your scheduler. If you have questions regarding the shop dates, times, or instructions, immediately contact the scheduler who assigned the shop to you. Never wait until the day before a shop is due to contact us with problems or questions. If you can’t remember your scheduler’s name or email address, simply click on the “Help/Contact” link in your shop log under the Actions column (just to the left of your shop due dates). This will allow you to send a message directly to the scheduler.
  • Reference a calendar. Have a calendar in front of you when you are applying for shops. Canceling a shop because a shopper got their dates or times mixed up, or because they didn’t have a calendar at the time, is not an acceptable excuse.
  • Numbers matter. Carefully note how many individuals (or adults) are allowed to participate in the shop. The number of participants/adults allowed on a shop is usually written into the contract with the clients. Taking too many or too few guests with you on a shop can result in an invalid report, and the shopper cannot be paid or reimbursed. In most cases, children are not allowed on shops unless otherwise noted. The shop comments and or guidelines will provide this information.
  • Know your submission deadline. Every client has a deadline, and thus all reports have deadlines as well. Reports must be submitted through our website within 12 to 24 hours after the shop itself has been completed. The shop due date is NOT the same thing as the report due date. Regardless of the date you completed the shop, all reports must be submitted within 12 to 24 hours.  DO NOT submit a late report without letting the scheduler know.
  • Reference the samples. Use the sample comments in your guidelines as a guide when writing your narratives. Those comments will show you exactly what we are expecting regarding the length and detail of your comments.
  • Payment information. We reimburse/pay via PayPal and Direct Deposit. We must have your SSN on file by law. There are no other payment methods.  Please make sure that the email address you use at our web site matches the email address you use for PayPal.  As long as those emails match up, and we have your correct SSN on file, you will be paid properly.  For Direct Deposit, you must enter in your banking information.  Make sure you double-check your bank name and account number.  Just one error in that information will cause your payment to be delayed.  All shops completed during the current month are paid the following month between the 15th and 25th.
  • MOST IMPORTANT. Remember to HAVE FUN! If you’re having fun, whatever your job may be, it won’t ever feel like work.

Terms & Definitions

Here are some common terms to help you while shopping.

  • MSPs – MSP stands for Mystery Shopping Providers. MSPs are companies who provide mystery shops to shoppers on behalf of their clients. These clients then use the information to improve their services.
  • Route – It’s a common strategy for shoppers to sign up for multiple shops in the same area. This allows them to do multiple shops in a row. Also, these shoppers are able to make the most of their time spent in areas that may not be convenient to them. A well-planned shopping route can really pay off, and you’re more likely to get scheduled for specific projects when willing to take on multiple shops.
  • Suggestive Selling – Rather than simply asking if the customer would like anything, a cashier or order taker will instead offer a specific add-on item. Restaurants often encourage their employees to use suggestive selling because it is more likely to result in an additional item being added to an order.
  • Upsell – A common practice at fast food restaurants, not to be confused with suggestive selling. When an item is ordered, the cashier will commonly offer the customer a larger size, also called an upsell.
  • Auctioning – When a server or food runner does not know who ordered which dish, they often name each dish and wait for each diner to claim it. This practice is known as auctioning.
  • Server – Also known as a waiter or waitress, the server is the person who serves tables. The server is usually the person who is taking customer orders, delivering food, and processing customers’ payments.
  • Food Runner – The food runner is the person who delivers the food to the table. The food runner may or may not be the same person as the server.
  • Back Waiter – An employee that assists the server at high-end restaurants. The back waiter usually clears plates, refills drinks and bread baskets, and may assist with food delivery.
  • Busser – The busser is the person who clears used and dirty dishes from the table. At some restaurants, they may clear dishes as soon as customers are finished with them. In others, they may ask for permission before clearing used dishes as the patrons are dining.
  • Entree – This is the main part of the meal. Entrees is another name for the main course.
  • Jigger – This is a small instrument used to measure liquor. Jiggers are most often used by bartenders to make cocktails.

Final Thoughts

Mystery Shopping is a pretty sweet gig. Getting free, high quality meals and experiences while being paid to eat and enjoy them almost sounds too good to be true. The added responsibility of paying close attention to facility presentation and staff interactions doesn’t have to dampen the joy of this job. Our hope is that we can assist our shoppers in making the work as effortless as the play.

McKenzie Allen
Business Development Manager
800-677-2260 Ext.168


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