With thousands of ways to earn extra money in this day and age, you might as well find something that you enjoy doing.
Being paid to shop can be a dream come true for some individuals; however, it is vital that you do your research before embarking on the journey to becoming a mystery shopper. This guide is designed to help you understand the ins and outs of mystery shopping so that you can easily be on your way to earning cash while shopping.
What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery shopping is a job where an individual poses as a customer and performs audits at retail stores, restaurants, and basically, anywhere that money is being exchanged for a good or service.
Mystery shoppers are employed by a mystery shopping company that works with specific brands, stores, medical offices, and so forth. The mystery shopping company pays shoppers a fee for providing feedback on the locations they visit along with reimbursement for items or services the shopper purchased.
How does Mystery Shopping Work?
Mystery shoppers must first apply to companies that providing mystery shopping as a service. Once accepted, shoppers can begin working by selecting an order they would like to complete.
Each assignment typically has detail instructions by the mystery shopping company so that you are aware of what to look for while on your task.
Shoppers are instructed to visit the business or establishment as they normally would in any given setting. Some assignments require the purchase of an item or service; however, the company reimbursed the shopping for the amount of the purchase.
After leaving the establishment, you must provide feedback about your experience to the company.
Once you complete your assignment, the company will issue your payment which typically comes in the form of a check or via PayPal.
What are the Requirements of Mystery Shoppers?
There are not many things universally-required of a mystery shopper beside actually visiting the establishment, not disclosing that you are a mystery shopper, and being honest in your feedback.
Each company has their own rules and regulations which is why it is essential to understand the policies set in place before starting your first mystery shopping gig.
Most companies require that you are over 18 to become a mystery shopping; however, it varies depending on the gig.
For assignments that involve alcohol, you must be over 21 or the legal drinking age in your area.
How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Get Paid?
The amount mystery shoppers get paid may vary depending on the company they work for, the assignment, and even their location.
Many factors go into the amount that a mystery shopper may earn; however, most companies pay a fee of anywhere between $5 to $10 per assignment.
Keep in mind that any purchases you might need to make for the assignment are typically reimbursed. Depending on the task, you can wind up getting free products and services along with earning cash!
Mystery shopping is unique as you earn money via the assignments you complete. To make more money, all you have to do is complete more assignments.
Many companies do not have a limit on how many assignments you can complete a week.
Some companies require you to commit to completing a certain number of assignments in a week, month, or year. Companies often have time requirements to ensure that only shoppers committed to completing assignments are on the platform.
What Type of Services Do Mystery Shoppers Do?
1. In-Person Mystery Shopping
In-person mystery shopping is the most common type of service as it is when a shopper visits a location and audits the appearance and customer service of a business. The types of questions and guidelines of the assignment will vary depending on the industry and the purpose of the company.
Mystery shopping in person is ideal for businesses where a mystery shopper can appear as though they are a potential customer or client without any suspicion otherwise. As an in-person mystery shopper, you are likely to visit a plethora of places such as retail stores, restaurants, banks, gyms, hotels, car dealerships, and gas stations.
Depending on the business, the shopper may be required to take video or audio recordings along with pictures; however, that is not needed by most companies.
2. Telephone Mystery Shopping
Telephone mystery shopping is when a shopper calls a company to evaluate the level of customer service of the business based on the information they receive on the phone. This type of mystery shopping is common amongst industries where phone calls are a large part of the customer service such as call centers, hotels, health care providers, and help desks.
3. Internet Mystery Shopping
During an internet mystery shop, a shopper evaluates a business based on Internet-related factors such as the companies website, online chat customer service, and the companies social media presence. Many shoppers enjoy these types of shops as they can evaluate a company without having to leave their home.
This type of mystery shopping is growing in popularity as many companies are going fully-digital rather than having brick and mortar shops. It is also very informative for companies that provide online services such as travel agents and virtual assistants.
4. Hybrid Mystery Shopping
Hybrid mystery shops often take the most time as the shopper must perform multiple types of services; however, the shopper typically earns a larger amount than performing one type of service.
During a hybrid mystery shop, a shopper will conduct a combination of the three types of services: Internet mystery shopping, telephone mystery shopping, and in-person mystery shopping. Many large companies require this type of shop as they want a report on customer service from more than one front.
It is common to perform hybrid mystery shops for banks, health care providers, hotels, car companies, and the travel industry.
Type of Work and Perks Available for Mystery Shoppers
As a mystery shopper, there are many industries that you can have a chance to evaluate and possibly end up with perks in addition to getting paid!
1. Receive Free Beauty Treatments
There are companies, such as Coyle Hospitality, that hire mystery shoppers to evaluate travel-related industries. Coyle Hospitality even often spa mystery shopping!
Most companies, including Coyle Hospitality, allow you to choose the types of mystery shopping assignments you want to complete so if you just want to visit spas then go ahead.
Since many companies reimburse you for any expenses involved in the assignment, you could potentially get a free haircut or facial along with getting paid.
2. Watch New Movies For Free
During premieres of movies, companies often hire mystery shoppers to perform evaluations of theaters and even the movie itself. While you will not answer questions directly related to the movie, your assignment might involve counting the number of ads shown before the movie or the number of posters on the wall for a specific movie.
Since you are meant to act like a regular customer, the company will reimburse you the cost of the movie. So, essentially, you may get to see a film that you are interested in for free!
If you enjoy going to the movies, this could be an excellent perk as it lowers your movie-going costs while you are also earning money!
3. Free Meals and Drinks
One of the most popular perks of mystery shopping is getting free meals and beverages; however, many people do not know that you can also visit bars for free as well.
Some companies offer a service that evaluates the speed, cleanliness, and function of a bar. As a mystery shopper, you will likely have to order drinks and food to rate speed and accuracy. Companies reimbursed any expenses involved with evaluating the business so that you could walk away with not only free meals but drinks as well.
Keep in mind that you can only visit bars if you are over the legal drinking age.
4. Visit Amusement Parks for Free
Some companies offer mystery shop services to amusement parks as a way to ensure that the customer service is up to par along with evaluating any other factors such as cleanliness and safety.
Companies reimbursed you for reasonable expenses associated with the completion of an assignment. You could end up spending an entire day at an amusement park for free as some companies may even require you to make additional purchases at retail stores inside the park or restaurants.
5. Earn Money Test Driving Vehicles
Many companies offer automotive mystery shopping which involves a shopper visiting car dealerships and posing as a potential customer. You must engage with a salesperson by listening to a pitch and test driving a vehicle.
Some companies offer shoppers anywhere between $20 and $60 to perform mystery test drives. It is a neat way to earn money while also potentially looking for a new vehicle.
6. Earn Money Hunting for Apartments
Some companies have assignments that involve posing as a potential tenant and going through the apartment hunting process. Within this type of service, you may look at apartments online and in-person as well as engage with the management team at each apartment complex.
While earning money, you might even find a new place to stay!
7. Go to Concerts for Free
Some companies offer mystery shoppers the chance to go to concerts, sporting events, conventions, musicals, and other events for free! While on this type of assignment, you will take notes on how the facilities operate from the perspective of a customer at the event.
If you need to purchase a ticket to get inside the facility, the company will reimburse you along with paying you a fee for the assignment!
Scams to Watch Out For With Mystery Shopping
Fees to Become a Mystery Shopper
Do not fall for any scams or tricks that involve the exchange of money before becoming a mystery shopper.
These sites will often ask for you to pay a fee in order to see high-paying jobs. Some of these scams will also offer additional information such as a certification program, guarantee of a job, or a directory of companies with mystery shopping gigs.
By paying this fee, it is likely that you will not see your money back and will be given a certification that is worthless.
Reputable mystery shopping companies will NEVER ask you to pay a fee in order to become a mystery shopper.
There is a lot of information about mystery shopping that is available online for free, so it is unnecessary to pay a fee for information about mystery shop companies.
Wiring Fraud Checks
Many mystery shopping scams involve wiring money as scammers will tell "hire" people and tell them that their first job is to evaluate a money transfer service.
The shopper may receive a check with instructions that indicate that they must deposit the money into their personal account before withdrawing it in cash and wiring it to a third party.
This type of scam accounts because banks must make funds available within days from deposited checks, but it can take a few weeks to uncover a fake check.
Since it is a fraud check, the money that was withdrawn from the bank is taken out of the mystery shopper's personal account as the mystery shopper has already sent the cash to the scammer.
Do not take on any assignments that involve depositing a check from someone you do not know to then wire them the money.