What is a Mystery Shopper?
Mystery shoppers accept individual contracts to become special assignment customers and/or prospects by following a prescribed pattern of actions at specific locations, over the telephone or on-line, then report on what they saw, heard and experienced. Usually they go to the place of business, such as a restaurant or department store; sometimes they make phone calls or go to specific websites and sometimes they “shop” multiple access points.
Shoppers are usually Independent Contractors who accept potential engagements one at a time and are paid a specified amount for each one, including a fee for completing the visit and filling out the questionnaire correctly and reimbursement for required purchases. As Independent Contractors, they may accept or reject any contract and are free to work with other companies who offer paid engagements.
Mystery shopping can be fun and rewarding, but is usually not a full time job. Those shoppers who work at it full-time normally accept assignments from a variety of mystery shopping companies, then schedule visits for maximum efficiency. Some shoppers line up contracts when they travel. Successful mystery shoppers follow directions carefully without being "discovered", are observant, have good memories, and are reliable in completing assignments, prompt in reporting them and easily available if there are questions about their reports.
Who Pays for Mystery Shopping and why?
Businesses, manufacturers or service providers of almost every type need to gather specific types of information about what really happens at the point of contact between customers and/or prospects and their firms and/or competitors. All of the data is used to help make the businesses or service providers more successful. Mystery shopping services are purchased for a variety of reasons: such as to help improve customer service, to identify cost saving opportunities, to see if training is working, to ensure compliance with brand requirements and/or legal regulations, and/or to learn what their competitors are doing.
Because data from mystery shopping is a form of research and may be used to help make important decisions, the shopper visits must be carried out as designed by the client and completed on time. To accomplish that, companies such as DSG are hired to link entities who want to use mystery shoppers with Independent contractors who want to be mystery shoppers, communicating information about client requirements to potential shoppers and acting as a conduit for paying the shoppers when the data has been received from the shoppers and transmitted back to the clients.
Can you tell me more about DSG Associates, Inc. and how it works?
Headquartered in Southern California, DSG has been in business for 30 years, is a charter member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association and a leader in quality, reliability and responsiveness. DSG manages up to 12,000 assignments every month across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico for a wide variety of clients, including fast food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, retail stores, credit unions, manufacturers, and service providers.
The visits vary in the amount of time shoppers are required to spend at the location, on the phone or on the internet, but most take about 20 minutes. For most DSG visits, shoppers are paid between $10 and $15, including the fee and purchase reimbursement, but some are considerably higher. Shoppers never pay DSG anything. Shoppers will receive a Form 1099 only if they earn more than $600 in fees from DSG within a calendar year. This amount does not include reimbursements for required purchases. Because of these legal requirements, all shoppers must sign an Independent Contractor Agreement and submit their social security numbers when their first assignment is made.
Although DSG communicates with its shoppers in a variety of ways, from email to phone and fax, DSG believes in the importance of talking directly with its shoppers to help ensure that client specifications and quality standards are met. So shoppers will be interviewed before initial assignments for a new client are made and may be contacted by DSG several additional times throughout the shopping process.
Shoppers complete the visits as scheduled, then fill-out questionnaires as quickly after each visit as possible. Results are then either entered on-line within 24 hours or reported to a trained telephone interviewer at the DSG toll-free number no later than the next business day. Occasionally, DSG will call back to confirm or clarify some information. In many cases, shoppers will need to transmit a receipt back to DSG. Checks for valid visits are sent to shoppers approximately 6 weeks after visits take place.
DSG does not sell names or information about Independent Contractors registered in its data base. Occasionally, however, a trusted, but separate mystery shopping provider may have a shopping opportunity for which we may share nearby shopper names and email addresses. In that case, shoppers will be given the opportunity to opt out before any names are shared.
How can I get started?
The best way to let DSG know you’re interested in receiving shopping assignments is to register online (CLICK HERE). Or you may call 800-462-8765 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Time.
If you’re replying to a specific newspaper or internet ad or if you have been referred by a friend or agency, please let us know which one.
If you are interested in receiving training and certification as a mystery shopper, the MSPA offers several options. More information is available at www.mysteryshop.org.
How will I receive assignments?
When an assignment in your area is available, you may check out the Available Shops link or you may receive a phone call or email notice that shops are available in your area. Before the assignment is made, DSG schedulers will contact you to make sure you meet the client qualifications for that engagement. If so, you will be told what the payment is as well as general visit parameters, such as the client name, location, acceptable dates, times, scenario information and purchase requirements if any.
If you accept the assignment, you will be emailed a kit, which includes the questionnaire and more information about how to perform the shop. After you’ve read the materials but before conducting the visit, you’ll call on a toll free number to review the client specifications. Usually, these will include timing instructions and frequently will include ordering procedures if the visit is for a restaurant. In all cases, these directions are very important to ensure that the visit is valid and meets the specifications of our clients, so that payment can be made.
Thank you for your interest in mystery shopping!