You might have been standing next to one and not even know it.
A secret shopper or “mystery shopper” as they’re called.
They’re actually independent contractors who work for themselves, and you can join their secret program—it’s true!
I’ve worked as a mystery shopper before, and now that my littlest one is headed off to preschool soon, I’m going to get back into it. It’s a great way to earn extra money, get free stuff, and enjoy entertainment for free. Shops include phone shops and visits to locations such as retail stores, restaurants, bowling alleys, movie theatres, and the list goes on…
One of my favorite mystery shops was when I got to take my whole family bowling for free! We even got free food and drinks. All I had to do was complete my checklist and submit the report when I got home. Another assignment I signed up for paid me $150, and I completed the shop over the phone!
Does that sound easy enough?
Mystery Shopping is not difficult to do as long as you have an eye for detail, reliable transportation, and you have access to a computer with Internet connection. There isn’t a lot of training involved either. Many companies are out there looking for independent contractors to work with, and you can find them easily with a quick Google search. The Penny Hoarder wrote the article, The Best Mystery Shopping Companies To Work For, and it gives you 5 legitimate companies to help you get started.
Something important to know is that a bona fide mystery shopping company will never charge you a fee. You may have to pay for a background check, but that’s expected sometimes during the application process. A legitimate company will also be registered with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). Yes, there is an association.
A few tips before diving in:
• For shops that require purchases, you use your own money up front and are reimbursed for it. Reimbursement may take a few weeks.
• You have to be able to keep your job a secret! The company will expect you to follow instructions to a T in order to get paid. You are expected to take notes discreetly (I use my smartphone). If you blow your cover, you may not get paid.
• A mystery shopper is an Independent contractor, not an employee of the company. There’s no insurance or benefits. You’ll get a 1099 form to report on your taxes if you make more than $600. BUT, as an independent contractor, you can deduct certain things on your taxes like mileage if the company doesn’t pay you for it.
• And the kicker: most shops pay only $2-$25. You know this up front because you chose the assignment, but I just wanted to let you know before you get too excited. Unless the job gives me another incentive like food or a movie, I don’t take those assignments. You also have to consider how much time it takes to complete the job.
When I was working as a business consultant, the corporation I worked for had a mystery shopping company send in agents to make sure stores were following various laws. Other than drive time, these agents literally spent 2 minutes at the store, so I don’t think they were paid a lot for it.
Bethany Mooradian has been mystery shopping for 15+ years and wrote the book, The Mystery Shopper Training Program, available on Amazon* (if you have Kindle-unlimited it’s FREE!). She gives more insight into what it means to be a mystery shopper, and her humor makes it an easy read.
One more tidbit of advice, you have to expect to start small. You have to build a good reputation with the mystery shopping company. After all, other than an application and maybe a photo or questionnaire, you never see anyone. Your work is done in the field and on the computer. Once I did a couple of assignments and got the hang of it, I started getting more assignments to choose from. Higher paying ones, too.
So, it’s easy to make some money and make your own schedule as a mystery shopper. I’m going to check for assignments in the morning, and I just signed up for another company to keep the jobs coming!
Let me know if you want to know more about
the life of a mystery shopper!
*Note: This post contains affiliate links to help fund this blog. Thanks for your support!