I'd long thought "mystery shopping" was a fictitious scam made up by people who write spam content until I read a magazine article comparing various jobs with flexible schedules. It turns out that mystery shopping is an actual profession! After doing some initial research, I signed up with a company listed by the mystery shopping standards organization. In addition to the standard job application information, I had to list two character references (yes, there are two people willing to say I'm a good shopper...) and write no more than 50 words about why I wanted to be a mystery shopper. Surprisingly, I managed to come up with several more words than the obvious two, "Who wouldn't?"
Logging in to the assignments website for the first time was exciting - they don't tell you which companies you will observe before you are accepted, so I was very curious to see what options I'd have and was pleased to see several places I regularly patronize listed. I ran through a brief general orientation program and then an additional training session specific to one of the companies I wanted to shop for. After passing the tests, I got to select my first assignments! I picked a store that I needed to get something from and then, feeling ambitious, I signed up for a second assignment on the same day - what the he**? I get paid per assignment and get a small reimbursement toward anything I purchase while mystery shopping, so hitting two stores on one trip seemed like a good idea.
I had a few days to wonder what, exactly, I've gotten myself into and then today was the big day! I waited until I'd gotten my actual work done, reviewed my assignment paperwork, and then set off on my adventure. I was mildly apprehensive but it turned out to be fun! I had to remind myself of one or two things - for example in the first store, I forgot to try to identify the manager and see what s/he was doing - but on the whole, I did quite well. It wasn't hard, I got something I needed, filling out the evaluation form afterward took maybe five minutes and in a few weeks I'll get a little bump in my savings account. It's too bad I'm only discovering this hobby now, as I have an ironclad policy not to go into a mall between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. Maybe I'll try restaurant evaluations between now and then?