Frequently Asked Questions
Being a Mystery Shopper
Q: What is a mystery shopper?
A: A mystery shopper is a person who poses as a real customer whilst assessing customer service levels provided by a company or organisation. A mystery shopping assignment can be a telephone call, email, letter, website survey, face to face visit, a home visit – the list goes on! If you want to find out more about what’s available, sign up with us and look on our Available Assignments page.
Q: Can I become a full time mystery shopper?
A: Mystery Shopping is a great way to earn a few extra pounds in your spare time, but is unlikely to provide you with full time work. However, video mystery shopping assignments, which involve mystery shoppers using covert recording equipment whilst visiting stores/restaurants/car dealerships etc, often pay a higher fee. For more information about this, email email@example.com.
Q: What are you looking for in a mystery shopper?
A: Anyone (aged 18+ years) can be a mystery shopper. Generally speaking, most of our assignments are UK-based, but we do have some in other countries occasionally. We are often asked by clients to test the accessibility of their sites, so those with accessibility needs are absolutely welcome to sign up as a shopper with us.
Q: Are there any age restrictions?
A: You must be 18+ years old to sign up as a mystery shopper with us.
Q: Do I need any qualifications?
A: No qualifications are required, but you will need access to the internet and email.
Q: I live in a remote area, is there any point in registering?
A: Yes definitely! Mystery shoppers can be required in any location and home based assignments are available. We carry out visits on some of the smallest islands of the UK, and remote locations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so you should definitely register and see what comes up. We never guarantee work to any of our mystery shoppers, but it’s quick and free to register so it’s certainly worth doing.
Q: I live outside of the UK, will there be any work for me?
A: Most of our work is carried out in the UK, but we do carry out some assignments overseas (especially the Republic of Ireland). Keep your email notifications turned on so that we can let you know if there’s anything available in your area.
Q: Can I work from one of your offices?
A: Mystery shoppers work from their own home. We have two administration offices; one in the UK (Holsworthy, Devon), and one in Varna, Bulgaria. If you’d like to know about our office vacancies, take a look at our Careers page.
Q: I'm disabled, can I still be a Mystery Shopper?
A: Yes, definitely! We also have some assignments specifically for shoppers with access issues or disabilities – when you complete your application form make sure you tick the relevant box, then when we have an assignment relevant to your disability, we can contact you.
Q: How many assignments do you have available every month?
A: We usually complete around 8,000-10,000 assignments per month. Many of our clients want mystery shops every month, so if you see an assignment you like the look of, but your application isn’t successful, it’s likely that it will be available the following month. The team members working on the project will be listed on the Assignment Info, so contact them to let them know that you’re interested.
Q: How do I become a mystery shopper?
Q: Who pays my National Insurance & Income Tax?
A: As a mystery shopper you are classed as self-employed and are responsible for declaring your earnings.
Q: How long do assignments take?
A: Assignments vary depending on the type, it could be a 2 minute telephone call, or an overnight stay at a hotel. The assignment details will show the start date and the deadline. You will also sometimes be asked for a date that you plan to do the assignment when you apply.
Q: How many assignments will I get?
A: We never guarantee regular assignments to our mystery shoppers because the available work depends completely on our clients’ needs and requirements. Have a look at the Hints and Tips section of these FAQs for advice on how to get more mystery shopping assignments.
Q: How quickly will I have to complete the assessment form?
A: We normally require the assessment form to be completed and submitted as soon as possible after your assignment, as the contracts with our clients mean we need to send them ASAP. Submissions after 9 pm the day of your visit may not be accepted. Always check your Shopper Brief for details.
Q: WHAT DO I DO WITH MY RECEIPT(S)?
A: You should always keep your receipts safely for sixty days. For some projects we reimburse expenses so we may ask you to upload a copy of your receipt to the assessment form. If your expenses are over £20, you’ll need to make sure you provide us with a VAT receipt otherwise we may not be able to process your payment, so make sure you ask for this.
Q: How do I complete the assessment form?
A: You can complete your assessment form using your shopper portal, or our app Mystery Shoppers Mobile for iOS or Android. When submitting your form, please add as much comment as possible where relevant as this provides valuable feedback and gives us a better understanding of your answers. If a question is not applicable, select ‘N/A’ and comment in the box alongside. Please complete the assessment form with an open mind and think carefully before completing each question. Please take care to use the correct punctuation, spelling and grammar. Substandard assessment forms will not be accepted and will be returned to you for adjustments. Learn how to add a spell checker to your browser or phone here.
Q: Should I keep any documents I'm sent during a mystery shop, or send to you?
A: Keep everything you are sent or given (paperwork, email attachments etc.) for sixty days in case of any queries, and then destroy it after ninety days has elapsed from the date of the assignment. We may ask you to upload scans/photos of any paperwork that you receive during the course of the mystery shop, to your assessment form using the ‘Upload’ buttons. What you need to send in to us will normally be detailed in your Shopper Brief.
Q: How will I know what I have to do during a mystery shop that I'm assigned?
The assignment info that you see in your shopper portal (when you click on the ‘View Assignment’/’Resume’) will give you some information, but once you’re assigned, you will see that you also have a Shopper Brief. This is a PDF which should tell you everything you need to know.
Hours & Pay
Q: Will I be able to claim back travel expenses?
A: Normally no, we don’t pay travel expenses, but for some assignments we may do so and this will be mentioned in the assignment information but if you aren’t sure, check with the team member named in the Shopper Brief and they will advise.
Q: If I have to make a purchase, can I keep it?
A: This depends on the assignment, sometimes you can keep your purchase, sometimes you will have to return it either to us or the client. Check your Shopper Brief for clarification if you are unsure.
Q: How will I be paid?
A: You can choose to be paid via PayPal or straight into your bank account – this is up to you. Make sure the Extended Profile banking section is complete and correct. The Extended Profile is part of the sign up process that you’ll be asked to complete once you’ve clicked the verification link in the email.
Q: When will I be paid?
A: We normally make payment within 28 days of completion of the assignment and receipt of all required media uploads. Please ensure that your bank details are correct on your Extended profile. To see whether you’ve been paid for a completed assignment:
Log in here, click on My Settings then Pay History (it might take a few minutes to load).
If you see any blanks in the last 9 columns, don’t worry as these are assignments that we’ve archived on our system. Please check your bank statements if you believe that you have not been paid for any of these.
Q: Who pays my National Insurance & Income Tax?
A: As a mystery shopper you are classed as self-employed and are responsible for declaring your earnings.
Q: How many hours will I work a week?
A: This depends entirely on our clients and their current requirements, and what assignments you chose to undertake.
Becoming a Shopper
Q: How do I become a shopper?
A: Click here and complete the fields as requested. You will receive a verification email (check your junk/spam), click the link and finish the final part of the signup process. You can then check the Available Assignments page for mystery shops near you.
Q: Why do you ask for so much personal information?
A: Clients can be very specific in their requirements. They might need someone of a certain height or who drive a specific type of car. Of course, you don’t have to fill out all the questions if you don’t want to, but by doing so you maximise your chances of being contacted about assignments that are relevant.
Q: Is my personal information shared with a third party?
A: No, absolutely not. The information you give is for us to select the right mystery shopper for the right assignment.
Q: I forgot my password, what should I do?
Q: Why do you want my bank details?
A: We ask for your payment information (Sort Code, Bank Account Number OR PayPal email address for example) only so that we can process your payments for any successfully completed assignments quickly and without having to request this information from you after you have completed an assignment. The information that we request can only be used to put money into your account – no money can be taken from you, nor do we ever share this information with any third party companies.
Please ensure that your payment information is correct and kept up to date as these are details that we will use to pay you. We cannot retrieve payments if incorrect details are entered here. Any incorrect or incomplete payment information will cause a delay in processing your payment.
Using the website
Q: Why do I get so many emails from MSL?
A: When registering with us, by default you are subscribing to our automated, manually generated and newsletter emails. Each week you will get a summary email of all of the assignments that are available near you, each day you’ll get a ‘top up’ email detailing any new assignments since your last weekly email and members of the team might also email you if we think you might be interested in an assignment. Our newsletter has prize draws, articles and hints and tips that you might like to know about. Please add us to your address book so that our emails don’t accidentally go into your junk/spam folders. You can choose to unsubscribe from emails by logging in and changing your notification settings or following the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the emails.
Q: Unsure how to check for assignments?
A: Log in, and click on Available Assignments on the left-hand side of the page. This will automatically show you all assignments in your area. If you want to see all of the assignments available, click on the orange bar at the top of the page.
Q: I received an email about an assignment, but I don't live anywhere near the location?
A: Sometimes we email shoppers asking if they will be travelling nearby a location that we need to be assessed. We also ask if shoppers know anyone who would be suitable for an assignment.
Q: Can I complete a mystery shop with a friend or family member?
A: Sometimes yes. If both you and the person you are with are completing a mystery shop for us, please make sure you are assessing unique interactions. For example, if you go into a store and speak to a staff member, the person you are with cannot base their assessment on that same interaction, as you will not be paid for this, and may be flagged as fraudulent. Our clients are paying for unique assessments.
Q: Why am I not getting allocated any assignment when I apply?
A: Usually we review applications on a first-come first-served basis, but we also take other things into consideration. We review the brief note that you’ve provided, when you applied, we look at the date you plan to do the assignment (if applicable), we look at your grade and the feedback we’ve given you in the past (don’t worry if you’re brand new – we always try to give new shoppers a chance!).
Q: I've received an email from you, but when I login I can't find the assignment?
A: This is probably because it’s already been allocated to another shopper. Sometimes you’ve got to be quick! However, keep checking back, because we often have the same assignments available month on month.
Q: Want to see assignments that are further away?
A: You can reset your work area by clicking on the map under My Coverage on the left-hand side of your portal. Alternatively, you can change the distance you are willing to travel for assignments in the Available Assignments filter.
Q: Want to see absolutely everything that's available?
A: When you see the list of Available Assignments in your area, change the amount of miles to 150+ to see all assignments.
Please note that you will not be able to see assignments for which you don’t fit the profile restrictions.
Q: Why aren't there any assignments near me?
A: Sometimes we have to look for very specific shoppers e.g. certain ages, or who drive certain cars, so it may be that assignments are nearby, but you don’t currently fit the profile for these. We’ll only ever show you assignments that you fit the profile for.
Q: Are there restrictions on how many assignments I can apply for/complete?
A: Sometimes, yes. Sometimes we set automated restrictions, which mean that shoppers can only apply/complete a set number of assignments for the same project. However, you can usually apply for/complete as many different assignments, e.g. for different mystery shops, as you like. For example, you could apply for a train station assessment, a café assessment, a phone store enquiry and a retail store assignment which you plan to complete on the same day. However, you might not be able to apply for, or complete 4 phone store enquiries on the same day.
Q: Not sure how to see the assignment information?
A: Click on the ‘ i ‘ button of the assignment.
This will open up the Assignment Info, and the Assignment Info will normally contain more information and, if you are allocated the assignment (it is in your inbox) a link to more detailed instructions in the Shopper Brief.
Q: Not sure how to apply for an assignment?
A: In Available Assignments, click on the Apply button.
You will sometimes have to add a note in support of your application. Make sure you state your availability and any relevant information that would help us decide if you are a suitable candidate to complete the assignment. We often receive a large number of applications for assignments, so make sure your Application Note is up to standard to put you ahead of the crowd! Assignments you have applied for will appear on your profile under My Applications.
Q: How will I know when I've got an assignment?
A: You will receive an email to confirm (as long as you have not unsubscribed from emails), and when you login you will see the assignment listed in your Inbox. If an assignment is not in your Inbox, it has not been allocated to you.
Q: What do I do when I've been allocated an assignment?
A: Log in to your profile, make sure you read the Shopper Brief (a PDF which is available as part of the Assignment Info that appears when you click on the Information button) before you start the assignment.
Q: Why do assignments I've applied for sometimes disappear from My Applications?
A: We often receive a large number of applications from shoppers. If you have applied, but the application has disappeared, it will probably be because we have allocated it to another shopper. Often allocation is done on a ‘first-come-first-served’ basis, but we keep a log of shoppers who have applied for each assignment, so if the allocated shopper is no longer able to complete the assignment, we will usually choose another shopper who has applied and contact them to make sure they are still able to complete the assignment, and if so, to confirm they’ve been allocated.
Q: Why do you not email shoppers to let them know that they have not been allocated an assignment after applying?
A: Because we get so many applications, shoppers applying for many assignments would receive a huge volume of emails from us saying that they’d not been successful which could be disheartening, and could mean that they miss emails from us letting them know when they have been successful, so we choose not to contact shoppers if this is the case.
Q: What is a Scenario and where can I find my Scenario?
A: A scenario is usually a PDF/file that you can find attached to your assessment form. It provides some additional details to help you when doing your mystery shop. We use scenarios to make the mystery shops seem realistic and different from one another. Not all projects have a scenario, but if yours does you will find it by opening the assessment form (click on the name of the assignment to open this up) – the link to the Scenario will appear in the notes section at the top of the assessment form.
Q: When doing a mystery shop, should I use fake contact details if the staff member of the place I'm assessing asks me?
A: Your Shopper Brief should tell you what to do.
Q: Can I see the assessment form before I do my mystery shop?
Q: I've seen a 'Fraud Prevention section' at the top of an assessment form that I'm completing. What's this about?
A: We run fraud checks to make sure that all of the information that we’re providing to our clients is legitimate. We also use this section to double-check that our shoppers have completed the assessment correctly, e.g. visited the correct store. So this section might include questions which ask you to covertly take and upload photos of the outside of the store you’re assessing.
Q: I've been asked to make an audio recording as part of my assignment, how do I do this?:
Q: I've been asked to take a photo with a date and time stamp, how do I do this?
Q: I have to make a call recording for an assignment, how do I do this?
- A: There are two ways to record a call:
OPTION 1: Make the call with your phone (landline/mobile) set on loudspeaker, then use another device to record the conversation.
OPTION 2: Download and install an app on your mobile phone which can record calls made through your mobile.
Whichever method you choose, you will need to:
- Firstly, log in to your portal here. It might be beneficial to access this through your mobile/tablet if you are using this to record the call.
- Find the assignment and open it. Make sure you have read through the Shopper Brief and any Scenario information so that you are fully prepared for what to do and say throughout the call.
- Make sure that you are familiar with making recordings using your phone/new app. Practice doing this by calling a friend or family member first. Make sure you know where to locate audio recordings so that you can easily attach this to your assessment form once the call has been made.
- Once you have opened the assignment, you should see the telephone number that you’ll be required to call.
OPTION 1 INSTRUCTIONS:
- Set your mobile or recording device to record.
- Set the phone that you’re using to make the call to loudspeaker.
- Dial the number (please note that on some landlines you might have to dial the number before the loudspeaker options appears)
- Follow the instructions on your Shopper Brief and/or Scenario to complete the assignment.
- Hang up the call as normal.
- Stop your mobile or recording device from recording.
OPTION 2 INSTRUCTIONS:
- First make sure you have downloaded an app which allows you to record calls. We’ve found a few free ones (just watch out for the adverts!) on the app store, but please do your research and find one that you are comfortable with – we are not affiliated with any of them which means we’re not liable, so please read up on them.
- Once you’ve installed an app, practice using it.
- With most of these apps, you will need to open the app, dial the number you have been asked to call, return to the app and then initiate the recording function. However they are all different, so please follow the in-app tutorials.
Once you’ve made the call, locate the recording and attach this to the assessment form, using the ‘Upload File(s)’ button at the bottom.
Please note: Depending on your device and which app you use, you may not be able to upload the file if it is not in a recognised format (mp3 is fine). If you need us to convert it, just email one of the members of the team listed in the shopper brief and we can do this for you.
We always ask shoppers to keep hold of any evidence (such as call recordings) from mystery shopping assignments for 90 days and after that point the evidence should be destroyed.
Q: I have to take a screenshot on my phone, how do I do this?
A: For Android:
On most Android phones, you can take a screenshot by holding down the Volume down button and the Sleep/wake button simultaneously. Hold these buttons down until your screen flashes. If this doesn’t work, follow this link to find out how to do it on your phone.
To view your screenshot, go to the photos section on your phone and look for the screenshots album, tap to open it, then select the screenshot to view. You can use this feature to attach the photograph to your assessment.
A: For iOS:
On most iOS device, you can either take a screenshot by holding down the Power/Sleep button and click the main home button in the bottom-centre simultaneously. Or press the side button and the volume up button at the same time.
To view your screenshot, go to the photos app on your phone (this is not in the Photo Stream, but in the main Photos section), you can use this feature to attach the photograph to your assessment.
Q: How do I submit my form?
A: First, press Check Complete (at the bottom of the form) – this will check if you have missed anything. Once you have completed all the questions, press Save. Your form will be saved and you will be sent back to your Inbox. You will then see that the Submit button on your assignment is green – this means it’s ready to submit. Press Submit and the assignment will be sent straight through to us!
Q: I was working on my assessment form, but have tried to reopen the form, and it's lost all of my answers!
A: This may be because you were automatically logged out of your portal without you knowing. This is a security feature. To overcome this, make sure you regularly save the assessment form you’re working on.
Features on your shopper portal
Clicking on the Home tab takes you back to your Inbox.
Here is where you can edit your profile and your password. You can also look at your Pay History to see the assignments you have completed. If you have a payment query you should contact the relevant team about the assignment.
Under the My Stuff heading on the left-hand side of your Inbox, you can see your current assignments (Inbox), your Certifications, your current Applications, and Available Assignments.
On the left-hand side of your Inbox is a map showing your work area. If you want to change this, click on the map to edit. Make sure you hit Submit when you’ve finished your changes!
Visible on the right-hand side of your Inbox, this takes the place of the Bulletin Board – we use this to put messages online for shoppers, do have a look on the Message Board as we sometimes use it to advertise assignments that are not available on Available Assignments.
When you submit your assessment form, we check through it before publishing it to our client. We grade each one so that shoppers can see how they did and do an even better job next time (if possible!). The grading summary is where you can see a summary of your current shopper grade. This is the guide we use when grading our shoppers:
We’ll also write a quick comment to help shoppers next time, and give it a rating e.g. ‘Excellent’, ‘Ok’, Improvement Needed’ or ‘Poor’.
For information on grading, please check out this article we wrote to help shoppers.
Hints & Tips
Mystery Shoppers Mobile App
Why not try downloading our app Mystery Shoppers Mobile for iOS or Android? The app will allow you to search for, apply and complete mystery shopping assignments and it makes completing assessment forms really easy!
If you are a Windows phone or tablet user, please download the MobiAudit app and enter the URL: https://online.mystery-shoppers.co.uk when prompted.
Complete as many certifications as possible – these are usually very short. They are used to check your eligibility for an assignment, or test that you have understood what you’d have to do if you were assigned a specific assignment.
Ensure that your profile has as much detailed information on it as possible (this will help us to match your profile with current specific projects). Ensure your details are up-to-date (if there are any changes then ensure you login to your profile and update).
Increase your work distance – Click on My Coverage on the bottom left of your Inbox to change this.
OTHER MYSTERY SHOPPING COMPANIES
Sign up with several Mystery Shopping companies, this will increase your chances of getting work. (Tip: Do not sign up with any company that asks you to pay a fee to be on their database as these companies are often not legitimate).
HOW TO GET MORE ASSIGNMENTS
Make sure you log in to your profile and search Available Assignments regularly, and check your emails regularly. Check out our tips for getting more assignments here.
HOW TO COMPLETE A WEBSITE OR APP ASSESSMENT
Click here to read about how you can complete a website or app assessment.
VIDEO MYSTERY SHOPPING CHECKLIST
Video Mystery shopping is very similar to normal mystery shops, however shoppers were specialist covert recording equipment which captures video and audio footage of the interactions they have with a staff member. Anyone can be a video mystery shopper and the fees are often higher than normal mystery shops. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Below are some pointers for video mystery shoppers.
Before your visit
1. Please thoroughly check your equipment (batteries fully charged, camera angle adjusted accordingly, sound working etc.) as we will not be able to issue payment for footage that does not clearly show any relevant member of staff.
2. No date/time recording to be indicated on recording. Please turn this feature off.
During the visit
3. At the beginning of the recording before getting out of your car/arriving on-site, please make sure that you verbally give date, time and location.
4. During the visit we need you to make sure that the ‘target’ (the person you are going to be mystery shopping) is in view between 80-90% of the time. This is really important.
5. The audio quality needs to be really high throughout, so that all interactions can be heard clearly. Please make sure there are no background noises which interfere with the recording (keys jangling etc.)
Submitting your video
6. We require you to upload the video footage directly to us via our FTP system (the URL and your log in details for this will be emailed to you when you join the Video Team).
7. Please double check that the MS Reference number (we’ll explain where to find this!) is correct before submitting your footage. If the footage comes incorrectly labelled it will be rejected and we may not be able to use your footage which will result in non-payment
8. Please keep a back-up copy of any footage for at least 60 days from date of visit.
Q: I have a question that I can't find the answer to in these FAQs, how can I get help?
Q: I'm worried about Mystery Shopping scams, what should I do?
A: Read our information page on scams– we have lots of advice on how to spot scams, and what to do if you think you might have been contacted by a scam company.
Q: I don't want to be a Mystery Shopper any more, how can I remove myself from your website?
A: You can deactivate your account by logging in, going to My Settings, Edit Profile then under Notifications click ‘Deactivate Profile’. You can also unsubscribe or deactivate your account using the links at the bottom of the emails we send to you. Alternatively, contact Shopper.Support@mystery-shoppers.co.uk with your request, and we can deactivate your account.