mystery shopping glossary of terms

Mystery Shopping Glossary of Terms

Here is a Glossary of Terms related to Mystery Shopping

Bonus:  A bonus is an additional amount of pay, typically for a mystery shop that has to be done in the near future.  Shops that have not been assigned for a long time, or shops that require long travel or to be done very quickly, might offer a bonus.  Not all MSPs offer bonuses.

Business casual:  Some mystery shops will require “business casual” attire, which typically excludes jeans, t-shirts, and the like.  Each company will have slightly different standards.

DVR:  DVR is an acronym for “digital voice recorder” and “digital video recorder”.  Digital voice recorders are occasionally purchased by mystery shoppers as a tool to help in recollection of the shop’s specifics or in order to record verbatim what employees said.  Digital video recorders can be used by shoppers as well, and are also used for covert video shops, and are typically provided as equipment by the mystery shopping agency.

Gold certification: Gold certification is available from the MSPA for $99.  It is a workshop that must be done in-person.  Typically, representatives from various MSPs may be present.  Gold certification is done in select major cities each year.  Some MSPs have certain shops that are only for Gold certified shoppers, or give preference to Gold certified shoppers.  Silver certification is required to qualify for Gold certification.

Mystery Shopper and Survey Quick Start Guide

ICA: ICA is an acronym for “Independent Contractor Agreement”.  As a mystery shopper, you will have to agree to the ICA of a particular MSP before you can accept, or alternately, complete assignments.  ICAs typically prohibit shoppers from revealing information gathered during their mystery shop or which clients are served by a particular MSP.  An ICA is essentially a contract and you should be sure to read and follow the guidelines.

Integrity shop:  An integrity shop is a mystery shop primarily done in order to evaluate the employee regarding detection of dishonesty or breach of local law rather than for service purposes.  For example, bars or tobacco sales-type businesses often use integrity shops to make sure that their employees are asking for identification, in order to prevent legal trouble or fines; other integrity shops involve monitoring for appropriate cash handling and making sure purchases are paid for accurately.

Invoice:  Some mystery shopping companies will require an invoice for payment, due to the fact that mystery shoppers are essentially service providers rather than employees.  Today, most companies use online systems and do not require an invoice be faxed or mailed; some companies will require the mystery shopper to initiate an online invoice each month, for example.

license:  No license is required to mystery shop in 49 states.  In Nevada, you must have a private investigator’s license to be a mystery shopper.

Keeping Track Of Your Mystery Shopping Business

merchandising: Merchandising is a type of revealed job in which you are not posing as a shopper but instead going to a store to do a certain service.  Merchandising might include straightening the client’s merchandise, removing old products, displaying new products, or setting up new signage, displays,  or demos.  Merchandising is often associated with mystery shopping as many independent contractors do both types of jobs and many companies offer both services.

mileage: Most mystery shopping companies do not pay mileage, but mileage should be tracked as it is tax-deductible (amount varies per year).

merchandising audit:  A merchandising audit is where a mystery shopper will check a merchandise display for certain criteria; for example, the audit might include if certain items are in stock and on display and if signs are visible.

MS: General acronym for “mystery shopping”.

MSP:  MSP is an acronym for “Mystery Shopping Provider”; in other words, an MSP is a company that provides mystery shopping services and with whom mystery shoppers can contract mystery shopping jobs.  MSPs are also referred to as, simply, “mystery shopping companies”.

Can I Really Make Money With Mystery Shopping?

MSPA:  The MSPA is the Mystery Shopping Provider Association, a trade association for MSPs (mystery shopping providers).  The MSPA provides Silver and Gold certification to shoppers as an optional fee-based training program.  The MSPA website includes areas for potential customers, MSPs, and mystery shoppers.

payment:  Payment for mystery shopping is referred to in a variety of ways, including “pay”, “fee”, “commission”, or “contract value”.

PayPal: PayPal is an online payment processor that many MSPs use to pay their shoppers.  Money received via PayPal can be directly deposited to your account, used to purchase goods via PayPal, or other uses.

Prophet: One of the most popular programs used by mystery shopping companies to schedule mystery shops.  One handy trick: if you don’t remember your Prophet password, the default is the first two letters of your last name and the last four digits of your phone number (for example, Jane Smith at 555-555-1234 would have a default password of sm1234).

reimbursement:  Reimbursement is when shop expenses (such as required purchases) are repaid.  Reimbursement is separate from pay, which is simply cashing in payment for the assignment.  Some mystery shops are reimbursement only.  If “maximum reimbursement” is listed, this means that the company will only pay up to a certain amount in reimbursement.

What Is Mystery Shopping and Why it is important?

revealed:  Revealed audits or mystery shops are shops where you will “reveal” the fact that you are a mystery shopper.  For example, you may need access to employee-only areas, or you might provide award certificates to employees that pass an unrevealed portion.

rotation:  The “rotation” is a length of wait time required between mystery shops for a particular location (or, in some cases, a particular client or MSP).  For example, a 90-day rotation means that you will not be able to do the same mystery shop again for 90 days.

SASSIE: One of the most popular programs used by mystery shopping companies to schedule mystery shops.  SASSIE features available to the shopper include an online editable profile, searchable job board, and details on your existing job applications and accepted jobs.

scheduler:  A scheduler is a person who assigns a mystery shopping job to an individual shopper.  Schedulers sometimes work for the MSP; other times, they work independently for one more MSPs or work for a scheduling agency contracted by the MSP.  Unless directed otherwise by the MSP, your scheduler is typically your contact for questions or concerns regarding your mystery shop.

secret shopping:  Synonymous with “mystery shopping”.  Most people in the industry refer to mystery shopping rather than secret shopping.

Silver certification: Silver certification is available from the MSPA for $15.  It allows mystery shoppers to be “certified” and complete a training program and test online.  Some mystery shops are limited to shoppers with Silver certification, and some MSPs give preference to Silver certified shoppers, but it is not required to mystery shop.  Silver certification is required to qualify for Gold certification.

trailer checks:  Trailer checks are a specific type of mystery shop where the trailers displayed before a movie are audited.

V:, home of very large mystery shopping (and other) forums.  Typically used in other forums to refer to Volition. (Please note that the admin of prefers that this term not be used on their forums.)

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