Make Money as a Mystery Shopper

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Mystery shopping can be a great way to make extra money or get some of the little extras that may not be in your budget, such as a nice dinner out. Here is what you need to know about becoming a mystery shopper.

Mystery shoppers are usually hired by mystery shopping providers, not directly by the businesses that get mystery shopped. There are hundreds of companies that hire shoppers. You don’t have to apply to all of them but definitely apply to several. One company will not have all of the assignments you want, and you never know which company will have the best assignments in your area.

Never pay to apply. Legitimate mystery shopping companies will not charge you a fee. I have a free list of nearly 200 legitimate mystery shopping companies, so you could start by completing the online applications for some of them.

Take care when completing your application. Writing skills and the ability to follow directions are important, so companies will pay attention to how you filled out their application. Did you answer every question? Did you use proper grammar and spell words correctly? If not, it is unlikely that you will be offered secret shopper assignments. Take a few minutes to make sure your application is the best it can be.

When you get a secret shopper assignment, carefully read the shop guidelines and report form. These are your instructions for doing the secret shop. There are specific observations you need to make, and there may be other guidelines you must follow such as questions you are to ask or what you should purchase (or not purchase).

It is critical that you do your assignment as described in the guidelines. The mystery shopping company and their client are depending on you.

After your shop visit, you will complete a report form over the Internet. Reports are usually a series of yes or no questions, and most will ask for some written comments. For example, if one of the questions is, “Were you greeted within one minute?” the client might want you to comment on exactly how long it was before you were greeted, who greeted you or what they said.

A warning: No mystery shopping company will ask you to cash a check and wire money to someone. Any time you are asked to wire money to someone you do not know, for any reason, it is a scam. Do not do it.

So how much money will you make as a mystery shopper? That depends on a lot of things, including where you live (and how many shops are available there), the types of shops you do, how much time you have available for mystery shopping, etc. Your pay may be a reimbursement for a required purchase (such as your meals at a restaurant or an oil change for your car), a fee (when there is no purchase, such as mystery shops at banks and apartment complexes) or both a fee and reimbursement.

Initially, the shops you are offered will probably not be glamorous or high-paying. The best assignments go to shoppers who are experienced and have proven to be reliable. You will be among them soon enough, so don’t get discouraged. Over the years, I have done simple mystery shops that paid a total of $15 or so ($10 reimbursement and $5 fee) to shops that allowed me to get a free eye exam and eyeglasses at a significant discount, and fine dining shops that reimbursed nearly $200 for dinner for two. You get to choose the shops you do, so you can select the ones that appeal to you. As a part-time or spare-time secret shopper, you can earn from a few hundred dollars a month to a thousand or more.

Mystery shopping is a great way to get some of life’s little luxuries while staying frugal.

Guest Post by Cathy Stucker: Make Money as a Mystery ShopperCathy Stucker is the author of Restuarant Mystery Shopping, the only book for mystery shoppers endorsed by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. You will find hundreds of free tips and resources for mystery shoppers at her blog,