Learn how to earn money with professional mystery shopping and find jobs for mystery shoppers. Discover how to avoid scam mystery shopper jobs and more.
Can you really get paid to shop? If you work in professional mystery shopping, the answer is yes!
Mystery shoppers are “undercover” customers who visit stores, restaurants, and other product and service providers to evaluate the in-store experience. After their visit or assignment, the mystery shopper reports back to the company that’s hired them and fills out a survey or provides feedback on the experience.
In most cases, mystery shoppers can keep what they purchased for free. They may also get paid in cash for their time spent mystery shopping.
There are lots of jobs for mystery shoppers for a variety of retailers and service providers. Here’s how to find mystery shopper jobs for extra cash.
Stores, service providers, restaurants, and other brands want to ensure their employees are providing the standard level of service they’re expected to offer. To do this, brands will frequently hire “mystery shoppers” to pose as real customers to get a true-to-life experience in their place of business.
The mystery shopper is, indeed, just like a typical consumer. But they’re expected to provide feedback on their experience and may receive free products and/or additional compensation to do so.
When you sign up with a mystery shopping company, you may be asked to provide demographic information and answer questions about your interests and shopping habits. That way, you can be paired with relevant opportunities for places you’d normally visit in your everyday life.
Some sites may send you opportunities based on your profile. Or, you may be able to log in and look at relevant opportunities and request to be chosen for the ones you're interested in.
Every mystery shopping company has its own rules and processes for compensation/payment. Generally, you’ll receive an assignment from the mystery shopping provider, ranging from buying a certain dollar amount of goods at a particular store, to dining out at a restaurant. You may get compensation in addition to receiving whatever product, meal, etc. you purchased for free. You’ll typically always get to keep what you purchased, so you don’t have to worry about the hassle of returning goods after the shop or business visit.
After you’ve completed an assignment and provided your feedback, if the assignment pays extra compensation, you might get paid in a variety of ways. These range from a physical check, to a direct deposit payment, to payment through PayPal or a gift card.
One verified, legitimate mystery shopping job site to start with is BestMark. BestMark has provided mystery shopping jobs since 1986 and is verified by the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association, a trade association representing mystery shoppers and mystery shopping companies.
BestMark offers mystery shopping opportunities for consumers in retail. It also has opportunities to get paid to interview other customers and audit compliance adherence.
You can also use the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association directory to search for mystery shopping companies by category. For example, you can find companies that specialize in categories such as casino/gaming, automotive, and medispas. The directory also features opportunities to participate in focus groups and web-based surveys.
Unfortunately, there are some brands out there claiming to be real “mystery shopping” companies, but they really intend to scam consumers. For example, if a website requires you to pay money to sign up as a mystery shopper, you’ll want to avoid this.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), having to pay an upfront fee to become a mystery shopper is always a scam. A legitimate mystery shopping website won’t charge you anything to join. The whole point of being a mystery shopper is that you’re the one getting paid.
Some scam mystery shopping websites may ask to charge you to become “certified” or to go through training. As the FTC states, no legitimate employer requires you to pay to work a job.
Also, avoid mystery shopping websites that are hosted on non-secure networks. Always make sure the website is encrypted and begins with https://, which ensures the site is secure.
If you receive a message from your browser that the site isn’t secure, don’t proceed with visiting it or signing up as a mystery shopper there. These sites may be designed to get your bank account information to “pay” you, when really, the website owner steals your data in the process.
Some other tips to avoid mystery shop scams include:
Your time is valuable, so it’s always a good idea before beginning a mystery assignment job to check the site for scams. Search the company with the words “scam” or “review” to verify its validity. You can also research companies on the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association directory to confirm their legitimacy.
If you’re looking to make some extra cash or get products you’d buy anyway for free, it may be worth it to look into mystery shopping gigs. Once you get used to the mystery shopper system you’re using, you may find it’s quick and easy to find relevant opportunities and get some free products or extra money in the process.
Want to earn more and get free products delivered to your door? Learn how to get paid to test products at home and give your opinions. Check out your Save mailer for extra coupon savings, too.