What if your honest-to-God everyday job that pays your salary was to go shopping? I don’t remember the possibility on any list of potential occupations, or at job fairs, no school counselors brought it up, no mention that I ever saw in the want ads. I’ve been cheated!
Apparently there are hundreds of thousands of salaried shoppers. Mystery shoppers. They are hired by companies to check and rate their employees on all different aspects of customer service. Companies in almost any industry, among them retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, fast food chains, banks, gas stations, car dealerships, apartments, health clubs and health care facilities.
Mystery shoppers pose as normal customers and perform specific tasks requested by the company — such as purchasing or returning a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way — and then they provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences.
Who are these people? According to some reports, 68% are women over 30, 72% have attended college. Many work as full-time researchers. In some states in the US, mystery shoppers must be licensed as private investigators in order to perform some of the tasks. And the mystery shopping trade is booming.
How did I find out about this job? I’m reading Dying in Style, the first book in Elaine Viets’ mystery series starring Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper. (You can read the synopsis, reviews, and the first chapter at the above link, as well as great questions for a group discussion.) I’m not very far yet into the book, but I am thoroughly enjoying the humour, the witty writing and believable characters. And, as opposed to many cozy mystery series with amateur sleuths, Josie’s profession makes it a lot more likely that she runs into crime/murder than someone whose circle is much smaller. (I would never want to meet Jessica Fletcher – for a woman in a very small town she seems to find way too many corpses…)
There are six books so far in this series, the latest being An Uplifting Murder, just released last week. Viets also writes the Dead End Job mystery series, about Helen Hawthorne, on the run from the court, working dead-end jobs for cash under the table. She works a different low-pay job each novel. The ninth book in that series was released this year.
Would you enjoy being a mystery shopper? The pay isn’t that great, you’re on your feet for hours every day, you put hundreds of miles on the car as you drive from mall to mall to mall, you usually don’t get to keep what you buy in shops (you may have to return it at another branch to check how they handle returns), you have to taste food you may not ordinarily eat, you can never tell people you’re a company “spy”. But… you’re helping consumers get better service, you change your “workplace” daily, as well as your wardrobe and your “disguises”, and you’re being paid to do what most people do for fun.
Why didn’t I know about this before? 😀