How to Become a Mystery Shopper & Earn Extra Cash

H

Becoming a mystery shopper is one of the few part-time jobs you can get where you’ll get paid to go shopping. It’s not going to make you rich, and you shouldn’t consider it a career, but it can be a lot of fun. It’s also more interesting than getting paid to stand behind the till.

This guide to becoming a mystery shopper will cover everything you should know. We’ll cover how much you can earn, the best programs you can join, and look at a few other things you should know. So if you want to make money as a mystery shopper, read on.

What Does a Mystery Shopper Do?

A mystery shopper goes into stores undercover to buy products and rate the overall customer experience. Typically, a mystery shopper is given an assignment from the company that hires them.

The mystery shopper is usually given a list of items they have to purchase from certain departments within the store, such as clothing, electronics, groceries, etc. Once they’ve completed the purchase, they report back to the client about whether those products were actually sold correctly.

I say the client. Most of the time, you’ll work for a third-party company that deals with the store. It’s rare to get a direct job as a mystery shopper directly from a store.

How Much Can You Earn as a Mystery Shopper?

How much you can earn as a mystery shopper depends on various factors, such as where you live, what type of store you go into, and what you’re being asked to do. Typically, you’ll get paid one of three ways:

  • Cash and reimbursement: you get paid to go shopping and receive the goods you purchase for free.
  • Cash payment: that tends to happen when you are testing customer service or sales teams. For example,  you might phone up a company sales line to inquire about a product you want to buy. Or, you might go to a car dealership pretending you want to buy a car.
  • Reimbursement: you get the product for free, but you don’t get paid anything. For example, that could happen if you’re testing a restaurant.

So that covers how you might be paid.

The big question. So, how much can you make?

The amount you are paid depends on the types of mystery shops you go to. Most companies pay between $10-$20 per hour. You also get reimbursed for your purchases, so make sure you keep your receipt.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more common types of mystery shopping offers around:

  • Restaurants: You can get reimbursement for the food you ate. The payment ranges from $10-$20 per meal, depending on the restaurant. The bill for the restaurant meal can be as much as $100.
  • Retail stores:  Get as much as $200 worth of products for free as a mystery shopper at a retail store. Most of the time, though, the amount is somewhere between $20-$40.
  • Car Dealerships: Pretend to buy a car. You can also get paid for answering surveys. You can get paid up to $5 for each survey and $20 for each dealership visit.
  • Hotel: Stay at a hotel for free and test the customer service and facilities. You might get a free one-night stay.

That should give you a sense of the different types of secret shopping opportunities around. As I mentioned earlier, the opportunities available will depend on where you live.

If you live in a big city, there should be more opportunities.

You won’t earn a full-time income doing this job. It’s a way to earn a bit of extra money.

Keep in mind, mystery shoppers are independent contractors. This means there are no benefits such as health insurance or sick pay. You’ll also need to report your taxes independently. However, if you want to earn extra cash while working part-time, mystery shopping might just be right for you.

Do you Get Paid Upfront?

No. You won’t get any money until after you complete the task. 

Payment terms vary. Most reputable companies will pay you money for completing the task and reimburse you for the products you purchased within 30 days. You get the direct deposit in your bank account, or the transfer will be made via an online payment platform like Paypal.

Pretty standard payment terms for a job, all things considered.

When Long Does Mystery shopping Take?

It varies depending on the assignment. Most of the time, you can do the shopping within an hour. Sometimes a job will take only an afternoon, while others may require several hours over multiple visits.

Some jobs will require you to visit a store at a certain time. For example, you might need to visit a store between 3-5 pm. You’ll also need to prove that you visited. You might have to take a photo outside the store when you enter, and if you’re buying stuff, you’ll need to keep a receipt.

What Are the Best Legitimate Mystery Shopping Companies

Interested in taking the next step?

Here is a shortlist of some of the best companies offering mystery shopper jobs. The companies are handpicked based on their reputation, reviews, ratings, and other important criteria. You can sign up to multiple platforms if you want.

Market Force

Market Force has been helping businesses improve their performance since 1999. Over one million customers worldwide use Market Force. They offer two main services – Customer Satisfaction Surveys (CSS) and Mystery Shoppers.

CSSs allow clients to measure satisfaction across multiple dimensions: price, quality, delivery speed, etc. Mystery shoppers provide an objective third-party perspective into client operations. You can sign up as a mystery shopper or do a CSS.

Bestmark

BestMark was founded in 2008 and now operates in over 100 countries. They help retailers grow by providing them with insights about how they compare against competitors. Their platform allows brands to collect data through mystery shopping, online feedback forms, social media, and mobile apps.

It’s easy to sign up as a mystery shopper. You should be able to find lots of different mystery shopping opportunities close to you.

IntelliShop

Intellishop helps small business owners track sales, manage inventory, and increase revenue. It offers mystery shopping solutions, including mystery shops, product testing, and market research. With over two million active users, it’s also one of the larger mystery shopping companies.

You’ll need to work on your rating to improve the number of job offers. You get scored based on punctuality, your ability to follow instructions, and the quality of your report. 

Signature Worldwide

Signature Worldwide provides telephone mystery shopping opportunities for companies operating across a range of niches. You will need to submit a resume to apply as a mystery shopper.

As well as mystery shopping, they offer product testing, customer service surveys, and market research. Some tasks need to be completed on-premises. They’ve got hundreds of retail locations throughout North America. 

You can apply by, submitting your resume and job application to humanresources@signatureworldwide.com. Alternatively, apply online through the ADP recruitment page. The link is below.

Secret Shopper

Secret Shopper is another good company that specializes in mystery shopping. They’re headquartered in New York City but operate all over the world. In addition to mystery shopping, Secret Shopper offers brand monitoring, product testing, and web usability assessments.

Anyone can sign up. The company pays an average of $15-$25 per job, which is not bad if you’re looking for some extra money.

Sinclair Customer Metrics

Sinclair Customer Metrics serves businesses around the globe. They are focused primarily on B2C markets. Sinclair uses mystery shopping to gather information about products, packaging, pricing, promotions, and other aspects of the customer experience.

The best way to start using this tool is to create a free account and search for jobs within your area. Keep tabs on the board to find local opportunities. It’s a legitimate company and well worth joining.

Service Evaluation Concepts

 SEC helps organizations better understand their customers. They use mystery shopping to evaluate customer satisfaction levels at restaurants, hotels, airlines, car rental agencies, and many others. The company operates in the US and Canada.

To join SEC, you must first fill out a short application form. Once approved, you’ll receive training before being assigned any tasks. Your reports will go into a database where managers can access them. This means you won’t see anything until after submitting your report.

Red Wigwam

The Red Wigwam offers mystery shopping assignments from home. It’s a great way to earn extra cash without having to leave your house. All you need is a computer and internet connection.

You can choose from hundreds of tasks ranging from simple surveys to complex product testing. Some of these include:

  • Customer Service Assignments
  • Product Testing
  • Online Feedback Forms
  • Social Media Monitoring
  • Mobile App Reviews
  • Mystery Shopping Jobs Online

The amount you get paid depends on the assignment. As mentioned earlier, you should get paid $10-$20 an hour for mystery shopping. If you’re doing a survey, you could make anywhere from $1 to $10 per survey.

Mystery Dining Company

If you love food, this company is perfect for you. The service connects people who like to eat out with restaurants looking for new reviewers, perfect for a mystery shopper.

All you need to do is complete a profile describing yourself and what kind of restaurant experience you’d enjoy reviewing. Once inside, you can browse menus, read customer reviews, and even book tables directly from the app.

Pro Insight

Pro Insight helps small business owners understand their customers better. They work a lot with gyms, as well as retail stores. If you’re looking for a gym membership or at least a free trial, it’s worth checking them out.

The Pro Insight platform is easy to use, and finding mystery shopping opportunities is straightforward. You receive points for your mystery shopping that you can then redeem in the form of gift cards. The gift cards range in value from $25-$100.

Clickworker

Clickworker connects employers with people looking for work. You can find writing, editing, proofreading, web research, graphic design, virtual assistant, sales support jobs, and a whole lot more through the site. That is in addition to the mystery shopping opportunities.

The nice thing about Clickworker is you won’t need to purchase any products. You need to take some photos. Payment is via Paypal or bank transfer.

Best Mystery Shopping Companies in the UK

Most of the companies listed above have global operations. If you’re looking for any UK opportunities, check out the mystery shopping sites below.

Tern

Tern provides mystery shopping services to 2,000+ small business owners. They work closely with local businesses, so it’s easier than ever before to start earning money as a mystery shopper! It’s also pretty cool because you’re supporting local businesses.

Just sign up, and keep tabs on the job board to find suitable opportunities close to where you live. 

ServeLegal

ServLegal has been around since 2011, but they’ve recently started offering mystery shopping opportunities too. As a mystery shopper, you’ll be checking that places only sell to people who are over the legal minimum age to purchase restricted products, for example, alcohol or cigarettes.

You need to be between the ages of 16-19. You can expect to make between £7-£12 an hour depending on the type of task you perform.

Summing Up

Working as a mystery shopper is a great way to earn some extra money. There are many different types of mystery shopping jobs. Some involve simply browsing websites, others require you to buy items off shelves, and still, others ask you to visit specific locations.

If you’re interested in getting started, check out the list of companies listed above. Signing up is generally straightforward. Once you’re a member, keep an eye on the job boards for fresh opportunities.

For more article ideas, check out our guide about how to make money blogging, alongside our guide to the best SEO certification courses that will teach you how to rank your content.

About the author

Nico

I'm a SaaS consultant with a passion for travel. I help companies scale their link building so they can dominate the SERPs for their chosen keywords. I work primarily with scale-ups and enterprise businesses.

By Nico