Part-Time Purchaser

I am very interested in using my skills as a part-time mystery shopper. My biggest problem, however, is trying to find a reputable company. I have been unsuccessful in identifying mystery-shopping jobs in my area. What other [recourse] should I take?
–L. Venard Lee, Portsmouth, Virginia

Mystery shopping started some 50 years ago as a system of checks and balances by employers. “Our job is to act like a regular customer while gathering information about the location’s cleanliness, the service, and other issues for the business owner,” says Cathy Stucker, the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual (Special Interests Publishing; $24.95).

To begin your search, go to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (http://mysteryshop .org), a professional trade organization. Also try www.volition.com, which has a company listing, links to job boards and forums, and job postings. And check out The National Center for Professional Mystery Shoppers & Merchandisers (www.ncpmscenter.org), an African American organization.

Be aware that for each company you consider, due diligence is required. “A consumer [should] go to the Website [and] make sure it has a physical address, a contact person, and a good reputation with its clients,” says Sheila Adkins, associate director of public affairs for the Council of Better Business Bureaus (www.bbb.org) in Arlington, Virginia. To find out if a company is reputable, ask about references, training, and the pay schedule. Also, go to the BBB or your state’s attorney general’s office to inquire about complaints. You may also want to register with more than one agency to create the most opportunities. Happy shopping!

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