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Mystery shopping with Retaileyes
Member Name: annaroos1
Advantages: Freebies and a little bit of extra cash
Disadvantages: It is often quite a bit of work for little money
Mystery shopping is basically market research - it is mainly a way for companies to anonymously collect information about their restaurants, retail outlets or fitness centres etc. in order to evaluate the service provided for the third party - the customer. This is done through the mystery shopper - a person posing as an ordinary member of the public in order to find what service such a person might expect from that particular outlet. The information collected can be very valuable to the company as they can ensure the service provided is what they expect in order to keep their customers happy. If it is not mystery shopping will help pinpoint areas where service may be lacking and thus give the company a chance to train staff in this area. Sometimes companies may also want to use mystery shopping in order to see how the competition is performing so as to know what they need to do to keep up or to move further ahead.
Although mystery shopping has been used by the hospitality industry for years it is now widely spread and also used by for example financial organisations and hospitals. Anywhere where there are customers that can be expected to be treated in a certain way there now seems to be an opportunity for mystery shoppers.
Mystery shopping can by some be perceived as 'spying' but if the mystery shopper is fair in his/her reporting and the company does it for the right reason this does not seem a fair term to use. In the end, what the company wants is to ensure its service is up to scratch and its customers are treated the way they should be. Other criticism against mystery shopping is that even though what the mystery shopper reports is true for that particular moment, it may not always be true - it is merely a 'snapshot; of that one moment and thus it may be unfair to base judgment on it.
Retaileyes.co.uk is the UK subsidiary of the one of the biggest mystery shopping companies in North America. Retaileyes.com was set up by 'a team of industry specialists' including one of the original founders of the first web based mystery shopping systems. They offer mystery shopping all over the UK and also have some European shops on their website.
Retaileyes description of the mystery shopping process is fairly simple: "acting as regular customers, shoppers observe the level of service and write objective reports about their shopping experiences. Retail Eyes will then transmit the data into the hands of their clients". To be able to become one of these shoppers you must be over the age of 16. You must also be computer literate with access to the internet and email (due to the fact that all instructions and reporting are handled online). Another requirement is that you have access to a fax machine or scanner as you are meant to send the receipts via these no later than 48 hours after the assignment has been completed. I have found that it is not necessary to have either of these at home as you have plenty of time to do this at work or from a shop if necessary and they generally also tend to accept a posted copy.
The qualities that they ask for are rather predictably accuracy, honesty, reliability and objectivity - no surprises there!
If you feel that you fulfill all of these requirements and you would like to become a mystery shopper you should go to www.retaileyes.co.uk where you will see a link on the left hand side - how to become a mystery shopper - click on this and then on shopper registration form. This is a fairly standard form with the usual name and address details. As you will be reporting back in writing you also need to answer a question about what qualities you think a mystery shopper should possess, mainly in order to judge your grammar, spelling and punctuation, I believe. I wrote a very short piece here, about 150 words, I think, and just stated the main qualities necessary together with a short explanation of why they are important. They will consider your registration and then get back to you via email to let you know whether you have been accepted to become one of their mystery shoppers.
To get an assignment you must log on using your username and password. This will take you to the home page where all new assignments are listed. They add assignments as and when they come in so it is worthwhile checking in every so often as the good ones do tend to be snapped up pretty quickly. You can have up to 8 assignments pending at any one time. From what I have seen most of the assignments are with pubs or restaurants but they have also had fitness clubs and fast food places. The assignments are listed in order of distance according to your post code - really useful! They will let you know what the maximum spend is and what the shop pays. Generally I have found that most of them pay between £5 and £15, depending on the length of the assignment and what you are required to do. It will also give you a time period during which you will have to fulfil the assignment. If you click on the one that interests you, you will get some more details about the place that you are meant to visit and it will also give you access to the job notes. The job notes detail the assignment, it is important to read them carefully as failure to do any one of the things required will render your report invalid, and that means no money! As long as you read the notes properly this should not have to happen, however, as they are normally very detailed and clear.
The job notes will also give you the list of questions that you will have to answer. This I have found has been a bit of a problem as there are normally about a million or so (well between 50 - 90) questions you need to answer. My first assignment involved a visit to a pub where I had to order 2 drinks and 2 main courses and answer 63 questions about the service. Now - you are obviously meant to remain anonymous the entire time so you cannot very well start writing down details about promotions or members of staff in full view of them but equally it is terribly easy to forget details if you do not write them down immediately - well it is for me anyway! My solution has been to sneak off to the toilet every now and again to write down things I don't think I will remember otherwise or to have another look at the questions. This has worked pretty well as most of the time you will be asked to check out the toilets anyway.
Anyway, back to the job notes. After you have read the notes and decided that you want to take on the assignment you can simply click the 'I accept responsibility for this job' button at the top of the page. The job will now disappear from the new jobs list and appear in your outstanding assignments box. Retaileyes will normally ring you the day before your assignment to ensure that you are able to do it. If something happens that makes it impossible for you to complete the assignment it is important that you let them know immediately by releasing the job through your outstanding assignments box.
As I found after my first job it is important to check all the details about the job carefully - including when you have to report back. I had less than 24 hours to do this after my first job and as there are so many questions this was slightly stressful. You report back online, answering the closed questions, and most of the time they also want an open answer about what you think would make the service better for example. Before you post the report it will go through a spell check so you can ensure that everything is correct. The reports are fairly easy to fill in as long as you have an answer to all the questions and know what you actually thought about the place and the service. If you have any problems with any of the questions at this stage each job note will normally contain a contact email address where you can send your questions.
After you have sent your report it will end up in you account as pending proof read. I have never had any problems at this stage so could not tell you what would happen if there was something wrong. Once the report has been proof read and accepted your payment will appear in your account as awaiting.
So, the most important thing then - show me the money! I have found that you will not have any money left over from your maximum spend which indeed seems a bit tight most of the time. I have often spent more then the maximum spend just ordering what I am required to order. Together with the low shop fees, Retaileyes will not make you rich. However, you will end up with free drinks, meals, gym sessions etc and with a few pounds left over by the end of it if you are lucky. The mystery shopper fees are paid out once a month on the 15th and even though the default payment is by cheque you can change this online and have the fee paid straight to your bank account.
I would recommend Retaileyes to anyone interested in mystery shopping because the process is very easy. You can easily find all the details about the assignments online and make a decision if you want to take it on from there. The reporting system is fairly simple and although it takes a bit of time to answer all the questions they can be quite interesting. Even though Retaileyes certainly won't make you rich, you can go out with a friend for free, and you will generally tend to have a few pounds left over.
The few times I have had to contact Retaileyes they have always sent me a quick and personal reply and I have never had a problem that was not dealt with efficiently and kindly. I guess they out of all people should know all about how to treat customers and employees though...
There are assignments suitable for pretty much any age, and they will always let you know what type of place it is that you will be visiting and who would be suitable as a customer. The gourmet places generally tend to be suited to the slightly older mystery customer - typical!
Summary: A fun way to get free food and earn a little bit of extra cash