When I tell people that I am a mystery shopper, most of them can’t believe that I get paid to shop and review high-end restaurants. This is not a scam, but there is more involved than just shopping and eating. There are hundreds of great companies that hire mystery shoppers. Currently, I work for over fifty companies. I only do this part time and make about $500- $1000 a month, plus I get a ton of free food and merchandise! However, I know many people who do this as a full time job and make over $30,000 a year.
I went to Wikipedia to find the correct definition of my favorite way to make cash: “Mystery shopping is a tool used by companies to measure quality of service, or to gather specific information about products and services. The mystery shopper’s specific identity and purpose is generally not known by the establishment being evaluated. Mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way, and then provide detailed reports about their experiences.” So basically you shop or eat out and get paid for the report you submit.
The following are things you need to know to be a mystery shopper:
1. Apply for companies that are reputable
Start by applying for only one or two companies (see list below). First, you go to the company’s website and apply. Most companies will make you submit a writing sample as part of the application process. As soon as you are hired, you log in to their website and select the jobs you want to do. The mystery shopping company will provide you with all of the instructions for the shop. After you have completed the shop, you will enter your feedback into their website. At the beginning you will have to take very low paying jobs. You need to get some experience before you will be able to work for the higher-paying companies with bigger commissions. The higher paying shops are more difficult and reserved for those with experience. Many people suggest visiting the MSPA’s website and getting at least a silver status certifation. This does cost money, but some people claim you will get better jobs faster.
I have shopped for all of these companies and I love them! All of these are free to join:
2. You are reimbursed for your mystery shop
It is very important to know from the start that the mystery shopping companies make you pay up front for many of the shops you do and later reimburse you for your purchases. For example, if you shop a fast food restaurant, you pay for your food at the time you do the shop. Then, after submitting your report and receipt, you are reimbursed. All of the companies vary, but it usually takes between 30 and 90 days to get your money back. Some companies send you checks or do direct deposits, but getting paid by PayPal seems to be the most common. It is also important to note that you must be able to pay for the gas/transportation needed in order to get to the shop. Just keep in mind that if you can’t spare this money, you may not want to mystery shop.
3. The details matter
The companies’ instructions are very detailed and you have to do exactly what they require or you will not be paid. For example, the fast food restaurant instructions tell you specifically what you must order and give you a strict time window in which you must complete your shop. You must get names and descriptions of associates and timings must be accurate. Many companies compare your report and timings with store video recordings. I use my smart phone to record information as I do my shops. I also often sneak pictures of employees so I can remember exactly what they look like. One well-timed picture can capture everyone you are reviewing, but if you get caught taking the picture, you won’t get paid.
4. Some shops do not pay enough
Carefully read the instructions. .There are some mystery shops that do not pay enough. One shop I did required me to buy an item at the store and said how much I would be reimbursed. When I got to the shop I realized all merchandise was more expensive than what I would be reimbursed. I also received a payment for doing the shop, but was disappointed that some of that money had to go to the item I was required to purchase. Also sometimes the paperwork takes hours to complete and is just not worth your time.
5. Your shops can be rejected and you will not be paid
Just because you perform a shop does not mean you are guaranteed payment. You must follow all the details (sometimes they are complicated) or you will not get paid. I have never had a mystery shopping company not pay me, but I am very careful to follow all of the directions. On one occasion, I almost did not get paid at a high end restaurant because I did not park in the right place. I had to send an email to the mystery shopping company’s scheduler explaining that the parking area was closed at the time I was there. Also, I do know people who have made mistakes and were out the money for their food and time.
6. Mystery shoppers are independent contractors
All of the mystery shopping companies make you submit a form which explains that you are an independent contractor. The most important thing to remember about being an independent contractor is that you are responsible for your own income taxes. If you earn over $600 for one company they will be send a 1099; however, you need to keep track of all your earnings from each company to report on your taxes. The good news is that you are self-employed so you can deduct some expenses. Remember all of the mystery shopping companies have tax information on their website.
7. Never pay money to a mystery shopping company
There are many scammers who are trying to take advantage of mystery shoppers. I will say this again: NEVER pay money to join a mystery shopping company. NEVER pay money to a company to see their list of jobs. NEVER cash checks for a mystery shopping company. A reputable mystery shopping company will NOT ask you for any kind of fee. Almost all of the companies have information about scammers on their sites.
Mystery shopping is fun and the perks are great. In one month, I usually eat out 20 or more times and am reimbursed for all my food plus make a little extra money. As a mystery shopper, I have stayed at beautiful hotels, gambled at casinos, saw movies, bought clothing, household items and Christmas gifts. I make some extra money and enjoy all the free stuff!
It is easy to make money mystery shopping – go sign up today!