MSI Mystery Shopping
This is not a job. It’s an experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions 

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery Shopping is the measurement of the customer experience. It is most commonly performed by “anonymous customers” who visit businesses and evaluate them on different criteria pre-determined by each client. The Mystery Shopper goes through the full customer experience at the designated establishment, and completes a survey at the end of their visit detailing their experience. The Mystery Shopper is aware ahead of time of what they are evaluating for each assignment, as well as what questions are asked in the survey they will complete afterward.

What kinds of companies use this type of service?

Every company in the world can benefit from Mystery Shopping. The industries that our organization is mainly involved in are: Hospitality field (restaurants, hotels, resorts, golf courses, bars, and grills), Hospitals, Storage Facilities, and other Service arenas (Insurance, Banking, Medical, etc.).

What are the benefits of Mystery Shopping?

There are many benefits to Mystery Shopping which include: expensed meals and bar tabs in exchange for completing surveys; assignments in the cities of your choice; a flexible schedule and the option to pick up assignments on a frequent or sporadic basis; and payment for most assignments in addition to reimbursement for any expenses accrued during shops. An example of a typical shop is a $75.00 dinner for two in exchange for a two hour assignment (one hour at the location and one hour completing the online survey). Mystery Shoppers have the flexibility to take an assignment once a month or once a year as they are independent contractors, not employees of MSI.

What is the Mystery Shopping Providers Association?

The MSPA was formed for the purpose of strengthening the Mystery Shopping industry throughout the world. Its goal is to improve and stimulate the acceptance, performance, reputation and use of mystery shopping services world-wide. Their website offers information on the Mystery Shopping Industry, the companies within it, and the many advantages of Mystery Shopping. Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) web site: http://www.mysteryshop.org

What is the Mystery Shopping Providers Association Certification Program?

This is a certification shoppers can purchase through the MSPA. You can have either a Gold or Silver rating. The majority of MSPA mystery shopping companies will recognize this certification and give these shoppers priority when assigning shops.

Getting Started  

What skills or experience is needed to get started in Mystery Shopping?

We are looking for professional, detailed, observant people that can communicate in the English language clearly. You should be 18 years of age or older, have good writing skills, an email address with full internet access and a valid phone number. You must be able to follow precise directions.

Do I need any special software on my computer?

No, you just need to have internet access. We do recommend the use of the Google Chrome for your internet browser as it has a built in spell check. 

How can I become a Mystery Shopper for MSI?

For a step-by-step process on how to sign up to shop with us visit our “Become a Shopper” page.

Am I applying to be an employee for MSI?

You are applying to be an independent contractor with our organization and if you make over $600.00 in pay/fees in one year you will receive a 1099 form and will need to claim it on your taxes. Less than 5% of our shoppers make $600.00 a year. If you are only receiving reimbursement it does not affect the $600.00 total.

Does it cost me any money to become a Mystery Shopper?

MSI does not charge anyone to become a Mystery Shopper with our company. There are some companies that charge you to have access to their database of jobs, however, we are not one of those companies. As a member of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association) we do not charge any fees to conduct Mystery Shopping with our company

Why do I have to answer so many personal questions on the New Employee Sign Up form?

Our clients request specific age groups, genders and styles of consumers. By asking the questions we are able to choose the right shopper for the appropriate shop.

Will my personal information be shared?

We will not share ANY information with ANY other organizations.

When given an assignment do the expenses included mileage, tolls, and parking?

This depends on each individual assignment; however, the majority of assignments do not include mileage, tolls or parking.

How long does it take to complete an assignment?

All assignments vary in the amount of time they take to complete, as we offer many different types of shops and surveys. On average, it usually takes one hour to evaluate the location assigned, and up to two hours to fill out the online survey.

How do I find out what shops are available in my area?

When you sign up to shop with us, you will then have access to our Job Board, which contains all the jobs we are looking to fill. You can search the jobs in a variety of ways. For instance, you can search within a certain mile radius by zip code. The Job Board is located at the top of your Shop Log. 

How do I keep track my past/present/future shops?

You will have a personal “Shop Log” when you sign up to shop with us. It will contain all the shops you complete along with the payment history and your shopper rating. You can also keep track of shops through the use of the Jobslinger app available on many smart phones.

How do I get frequent and higher caliber shops assigned to me?

This depends highly on your shopper rating. The higher your rating is, the more shops you will be assigned. Please see our “Shopper Rating” section below for detailed information regarding this topic.

Why aren’t there more shops available in my area?

Shops/assignments are changing constantly. Please check the Job Board often to see if new ones are available near you. When we get new shops we try to post them on our Facebook page and also send out emails to shoppers in that area.

Why aren’t there any shops available in Nevada?

The state of Nevada requires a specific license to conduct mystery shopping so we contract out to a company to hire shoppers in the state of Nevada. If you are from Nevada you are still eligible to do point of sale branding surveys with us. 

After applying for a shop, how quickly should I expect to be assigned to it?

The time varies depending on the type of job. You could receive an assignment/shop in a few minutes and in rare cases, a few months. If you do not receive a job within a month of signing up you can send an email request to shop@mercsystems.com for more information.

How will I know if I have been assigned a shop?

You will receive a confirmation email immediately after you are assigned. Please click on the confirmation link in the email and confirm the shop ASAP so we know you intend on completing it. 

Can I bring a friend with me when I am on a Mystery Shopping assignment?

The number of people you can bring on a shop varies; however, the majority of shops do allow you to bring a guest. You can find this information in the shopper confirmation/shop comments area or in your survey guidelines.

Can I refer friends and/or family for Mystery Shopping assignments?

Referrals are always welcome and appreciated. In many instances we will offer you a $10.00 referral bonus if your friend/family member completes a shop correctly. They can sign up on our "Become a Shopper" page. 

Who do I contact if I have a question regarding my assignment/shop?

You can contact the scheduler that assigned you to the shop. You will find this information in your shopper confirmation email. You can also email shop@mercsystems.com or call our office from 8:30-4:30 PST, M-F at 1-888-222-8301 ext. 14.

Who do I contact if I accept an assignment and cannot complete it?

You will want to contact the scheduler that assigned you to the shop. You will find this information in your shopper confirmation email. You can also email shop@mercsystems.com or call our office from 8:30-4:30 PST, M-F at 1-888-222-8301 ext. 14.

What if there is an emergency when I am on my shop?

For emergencies please call (925) 325-9248 and we will help you right away.

How will I get paid?

Payment is automatically generated from our computer system as long as all of the shop guidelines have been followed. You will be paid within 45 days of the day you went on your shop. We pay by check and it is mailed to the address you provide in your shopper profile.

Who do I contact if my payment is not correct?

Please contact accounting@mercsystems.com Tuesday - Friday 8:00am -1:30pm PST. 

Can I unsubscribe from receiving Mystery Shopping assignments?

Yes, you can unsubscribe from emails by going to “My Profile” and then selecting “Off” next to “Get Shop Offer Emails”. This will remain unchanged until you go back in and turn it back to “On”.

What if I still have questions?

If you still have questions please email shop@mercsysetms.com or call 888.222.8301 ext.10. We are available Monday – Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm PST.

Shopper Rating 

What exactly is a Shopper Rating and why is it Important?

It is a number that is attached to your Shopper Profile that determines the quality of your mystery shopping history with our company. Every person starts out with an automatic rating of 5 when they first sign up. Your rating then increases or decreases as you complete shops with us. For each shop/evaluation you complete you will receive a grade from our editors & schedulers. This is sent to you via email after the evaluation edit has been completed along with tips for future shops. All of these grades are then averaged and provide your overall rating.

What affects my Shopper Grade and how can I increase it?

COMPLETING SHOPS - The most important factor is completing shops on your initial schedule date (not rescheduling). When you sign up to do a shop with us you are making a promise that you are going to follow through on the job. We are given strict deadlines from our clients as to when we need to have shops completed, so if you cancel frequently it creates more work for our team and sometimes makes it impossible for us to satisfy our client’s needs. Cancelling shops will affect your shopper grade and you will be given a citation. Our schedulers will then give you shops much less frequently. It is of the utmost importance that as a shopper you be reliable and aware of your shop due date if you want to continue to earn new shops.

ACCURACY – As a mystery shopper it is of the highest importance that you be accurate in your reporting of shop details. Knowing that you are absolutely 100% sure of what you write in your report will make you a very sought after mystery shopper. Our clients use your reporting for a variety of things such as training, yearly bonuses, and in some cases the reprimanding of employees, therefore we want to make sure the information we are providing is precise. Cameras are also utilized by many of our clients and will often be used to verify information in the surveys they receive. So if you are ever unsure of a specific detail from a shop or fear you did not follow the directions correctly, please detail it in your survey and let us know. MSI will always do their best to save your survey! Remember, “Honesty is the best policy!”

WRITING - Your spelling, grammar and sentence structure highly affect your shopper rating as well. When you are done writing up your survey you should always spell check your work and make sure proper grammar is used. This can easily be achieved if you type your work in Microsoft Word first and then paste it into your survey as you go or use Google Chrome as your browser, which has a spell check built in to it. Correct capitalization is very important! Try to vary how you start each sentence and keep things clear. For example, try not to start every sentence with “I, She, or the Employees name”. Avoid using the word “and” several times in one sentence and make sure you have the correct number of comments in each commentary box. When writing a summary of what took place during your shop, try to write it in the order things happened so that events are in sequential order with a minimum of four sentences. Your comments should provide a “story” and let us “see the visit through the shopper’s eyes”. If you follow these directions and the ones provided in your Guidelines you are sure to be a spectacular mystery shopper!

CITATIONS - These are given to shoppers when they do something outstanding, like completing a shop for us last minute, or for when they do something negative, like failing to contact our scheduler when they cannot complete a shop. Below are the different citations you can receive and a description of them:

Hero: Given when a shopper does something beyond what is expected of them. For example, they have a very detailed report or they do a host of jobs for us last minute. With each “Hero” you earn, your shopper rating increases and you have priority over those who do not have “Hero Status” when being assigned to jobs.

Needed Extension: When a shopper requests an extension on a shop. This is okay in a couple if instances, but if a shopper continually receives extensions or needs to reschedule, it will eventually reflect poorly on their shopper rating.

Cancel: When a shopper cancels a shop that they were assigned to. This will naturally bring down your shopper rating. Shoppers who cancel will be avoided by our schedulers.

Flake: The worst citation you can receive. This is when a shopper does not do the shop they were assigned to and does not contact us to let us know why. This will definitely affect your shopper rating negatively and you will have a very hard time being assigned to future shops.

What are the different ratings I can receive?

Our reporting system allows us to issue a numerical rating to a shopper following each report they submit to us. This system is based on a “1-10 scale”, where 10 is the best score possible, and 1 is the lowest. Our system may be a little tougher than some other companies you might shop for; we have very high standards. We also take a shopper’s attitude into account when awarding scores; if you are nice, professional, and cooperative in your dealings with us, we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt when judgment calls are made; if you’re difficult, abusive, or unprofessional, we won’t, and we may not allow you to shop for us again.

The following information will detail for you how our rating system works: 

10:  Perfect. No rescheduling. Followed all instructions and guidelines exactly as written. Submitted your survey on time. All comments matched the scores awarded. There were a lot of comments, they described exactly what was observed in factual terms only, from start to finish, and there weren’t any extraneous or inappropriate comments. Employee names and descriptions were complete. You spelled everything correctly, used complete sentences and your grammar was perfect. Our editors did not have to contact you, via either e-mail or telephone, to clarify anything.

9: Pretty Good. No rescheduling. Most things from the “10” category were present, but there were some areas that could have been better. Your report was still submitted on time. You demonstrated a thorough understanding of the shop requirements, guidelines and followed them exactly as requested. All comments matched the scores awarded. You may have had a couple of typos, punctuation issues, or grammatical errors. Your comments may not have been as complete or “full”. You may not have given comments in all areas required, such as every question with a “No” answer or where less-than-maximum points were awarded. Our editors did not have to contact you, via either e-mail or telephone, to clarify anything.

8 – 7: Good. You may have had to reschedule this shop. You may have had one question with a discrepancy between the score awarded and the comment for it. We may have had to re-word some of your comments to make them clearer and more relevant. The report may have been submitted late. There may have been more than a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. This report was still acceptable, but we probably had to contact you to clarify some things either via email or phone.

6 - 5:  Average. You rescheduled this shop one or more times. You generally followed instructions, but may have missed one or two points that required clarification. Your report may have been submitted late. The comments you gave were probably very “thin”, meaning not enough of them, and/or that you simply restated the question as a comment or gave a one-sentence answer. You may have had a fair number of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Our editors were able to process your report, but needed your help to do so either via email or phone.

4: Below Average. Reports that fall into this range are really poor, and will not be used at all. It was submitted more than 3 days after the shop date. It had a lot of “gaps” in it, and you probably didn’t follow the shop instructions and guidelines. You may have submitted it in all capital letters, or there was a high number of spelling, punctuation and/or grammatical errors, which made the report tough to read, and/or difficult to understand. You may have been contacted more than once for clarification and additional information, or you did not respond to our emails for more details. You weren’t prepared properly when you did the shop, and probably didn’t read the shop instructions completely. There were a lot of errors between the scores awarded and the comments to support them, or there just may not have been enough comments at all. Your comments had nothing to do with the questions our client was asking. You may have demonstrated an obvious bias either for or against this client, thus biasing the entire report. You brought unnecessary attention to yourselves, which will identify you to the restaurant staff. You probably will not be paid for this shop or your reimbursement was reduced.

How We Apply the Ratings

MSI's schedulers review each shopper’s rating prior to assigning them any shops. Shoppers with averages between and 7 and a 10 will receive the majority of our shop offers; obviously, the higher the average score, the more (and better!) shop assignments you will receive from us.

We give preference to:
- Shoppers we’ve worked with previously
- Shoppers certified by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association
- Shoppers with ratings of 8 and above. Those with higher ratings get preference over those with lower ratings.

If you average below a 7, you may still receive shop offers from us, but your next report will need to rate a 9 or 10 to continue receiving shops from us. If your average falls below a 7 at any time, it may be difficult for you to get any more assignments from us.

Again, your attitude will also play a large part in whether you receive shop assignments from us, and how we make judgment calls when it comes to the shopper rating on a report. You are in competition with the other 55,000+ shoppers in our database. With so many shoppers to work with, anything you can do to distinguish yourself from everyone else as being someone that is nice to work with, professional in their dealings, and businesslike in their approach to this profession will weigh heavily in your favor. Anything you can to make it easy for us to do business with you is greatly appreciated and always remembered. A relationship that is mutually positive, respectful, and profitable is the best of all worlds!

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