How To Make Money From Mystery Shopping – A Complete Guide

WOW! Mystery Shopping makes you a Secret Shopping Agent. It allows you to earn money while you shop on the sly.

Does that sound intriguing? If yes, let us move further to understand the concept.

As a Mystery Shopper, you get hired and paid by a company to shop. In return, you share your customer experience with your employer.

A few days back, when I helped a company do a survey related to consumers shopping habits, one question covered was;

Do you enjoy shopping or dining? 99.47% of participants answered the question as Yes.

It strongly suggests that most of us love shopping and dining. The feeling of buying and owning new things gives us a lot of joy.

Unfortunately, shopping does not come free. It can take most of the share from your monthly budget, and many a time forces you to avoid it even if you don’t wish to.

Here is the pick now

What if I say, you can shop and dine and also get compensated? Are you not thrilled? If you love shopping, I bet you are more than excited to grab such an opportunity.

Mystery Shopping or Secret Shopping is just that.

It is a fun way to make extra money by putting a little effort into your free time. Working as a mystery shopper is a super flexible part-time opportunity for all those who want to earn extra cash or freebies while they shop.

Don’t get surprised to know that Secret Shopper jobs can earn you as much as $400+ per day. Sounds too good to be real? Yes, it is true.

However, the amount you make from Mystery shopping differs at every location and depends upon the number of hours you devote to these gigs.

These days most of the big companies go for some form of mystery shopping schemes. So, there is plenty of work available in the market. However, with millions of people registered as Mystery Shoppers, the competition to grab the right jobs gets tougher.

Despite that, a better understanding of the subject would make it a lot easier for you to succeed.

So, I have created a comprehensive guide that can help you a great deal in excelling as a professional Mystery Shopper.

What Is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery Shopping is a process in which a person visits a retail store, restaurant, hotel, hospital, bank branch, or any such location to measure the quality of customer experience.

Many companies have defined processes and parameters to ensure that customers receive the best experience at their sales locations.

To ensure that these procedures get followed, these companies hire Mystery Shopping Companies to conduct regular audits at their locations.

These mystery shopping companies further find people (Mystery Shoppers) who match the target customer profile and provide them a questionnaire to pen down their experience.

Often these companies also give training and instructions on how to measure various parameters.

Got confused? Let me explain this in simple terms.

Let’s assume you run a big company. It’s large enough that it is difficult for you to check on how your employees are performing. Are they following all the guidelines to make your customers feel happy and satisfied? Are they doing all the necessary things to maintain your reputation in the market?

So what do you do in this scenario?

One option is you take a floor walk and check on every aspect that concerns you. But in this case, all the employees will change their behavior and pretend to give the best customer service possible.

How do you know the actual employee’s behavior towards your customers?

The workaround to this is to have people who do the job on your behalf. These people visit your place as genuine customers. They behave like real customers, and your employees don’t comprehend what’s happening behind the scene.

Your employees treat these Shoppers as genuine customers. There is little chance for them to sham or change their behavior. After the Shoppers complete their visit, they share their experience with you and know all the factual.

So, these Shoppers are your fake customers, employed and paid by you.

That is the job of Mystery Shoppers. They experience your store as actual customers, tell you about how your company works, how it looks, how good is the customer service, and other such details.

mystery shopping

History Of Secret Shopping

Mystery Shopping was first started in the early 1940s to analyze the morality of employees.

Mystery Shoppers would act as actual employees and do suspicious activities that would harm the organization. These activities would vary from thefts, immoral operations, malicious goods transfer, etc.

Through Mystery Shoppers, the companies tested how well they could equip themselves to prevent these vicious actions.

The early signs of Mystery Shopping were so positive that soon it got accepted by many big companies. Each one modified the process in their way to suit their specific needs, and Secret Shopping kept evolving over the years.

With the current change of business demands, the objective of mystery shopping has changed. Today, companies are customer-oriented because customers hold the keys to their success.

Customers have access to the latest technology and can share their negative experiences online with just a few clicks. Other potential customers could choose not to buy the product or service based on negative customer reviews. This harms the organization massively.

So, for any business to survive today’s competition, it is crucial to provide the best customer satisfaction.

Mystery Shopping has proved to be an effective research technique to help deliver this. It provides studies, facts, and insights that can help improve customer satisfaction and the organization’s operational efficiency.

How Does Mystery Shopping Work?

Organizations use external market research companies that specialize in conducting Mystery Shopping studies.

Let’s say if KFC wants to conduct a study done at their restaurants. They could look for feedback on:

  1. How clean the restaurants are?
  2. Are there on-duty staff members friendly and cooperative?
  3. How do the restaurants look during the day and at night?
  4. How fast/easy can the customer locate the restaurant?
  5. What is the quality of the food?
  6. How fast/easy can a customer get what he/she orders?
  7. How well is the food served?
  8. What is the quality of the food?
  9. What needs to improve?

To get these answers, KFC hires “Best Mark” (one of the best-known mystery shopping companies) to conduct the study.

Best Mark will assign this project to its panel of members (Mystery Shoppers). Based on the requirements, the job gets assigned to one, a couple, tens, or even hundreds of Mystery Shoppers.

Best Mark gives them specific instructions and details of what should they do to conduct the research.

Then comes the part of Mystery Shoppers. They will visit the restaurant at the time and date specified and act as real customers. They will minutely observe everything and perform all other the activities mentioned in their assignment.

Once they complete the visit, they provide feedback on their experience. The format of feedback can be in the form of a telephonic conversation, an online questionnaire, or even a meeting in person.

After KFC approves their feedback, the Mystery Shoppers get their compensation from Best Mark. KFC then pays Best Mark for its services.

Characteristics Of A Mystery Shopper

One good thing about Mystery Shopping is that pretty much anyone can do it. The companies want ordinary people to look as though they are doing their regular shopping activities.

But there some characteristics of a good Mystery Shopper. To be successful, one needs to possess a combination of skills and attributes.

  • A Mystery Shopper needs to be flexible with working hours. Each company can have a unique method of research technique. They may require conducting the study on specific days during particular hours.
  • A Mystery Shopper should be open-minded and unbiased. Biased feedback can cause penalties from your employer.
  • He should be good at communication skills as he needs to communicate with the clients about his experience. Many times, the feedback is as a written report. So as a Mystery Shopper, you require both oral and written communication skills.
  • He must have an eye for details because when he does Mystery Shopping gigs, it’s almost impossible to write notes.

When any Mystery Shopper possesses the right mix of these qualities, he is likely to excel in this field and make a good amount of money.

More About Mystery Shopping Jobs

There are thousands of Mystery Shopping jobs available around the globe. All big countries like the USA, UK, Australia, Spain, France, etc have Mystery Shopping agencies.

To get these jobs, you must visit their websites and apply for relevant positions.

Take some time to check them since each one needs Mystery Shoppers for different reasons.

Some need them to experience the online shopping, while others ask you to visit the store. A few focus on banking and finance, while others deal with entertainment and dining. Hence, you must handpick the field you like.

As a part of a typical Mystery Shopping assignment, you may perform:

  • Follow the guidelines on what to buy.
  • Ask the list of questions mentioned in the questionnaire.
  • If required, take relevant photographs.
  • Watch everything with details and take mental notes. (e.g. about cleanliness, lighting, staff’s behavior, etc).
  • Once your assignment gets complete, get home, write up a report on your findings and send it to the agency.

Types Of Mystery Shopping Jobs

There are several types of Mystery Shopping gigs available in the market. You can choose the ones that suit you the best.

Mystery Shopping By Phone:- It involves calling up stores with general questions and assessing or recording how well these get answered.

Mystery Shopping Through Apps:- Most of the time you must physically visit the stores. You may buy nothing, but still, need to sneak around a bit.

Postal Monitoring:- Here, you get brochures and catalogs posted to your home address. You record how long they take to arrive, their condition upon arrival, etc.

Email Mystery Shopping:- This method is more for stores or websites that have a strong online presence. You send emails and provide feedback on the reply you get.

Online Surveys:- This can entail completing product reviews or surveys related to specific brands.

mystery shopping

How To Register Yourself As Mystery Shopper

To register as a Mystery Shopper, it’s mandatory to provide all the correct information. You must provide details including your full name, address, contact number and email ID, age, etc.

Most of the websites ask whether you’ve any prior experience as a Mystery Shopper. Do not make false claims. Even if you don’t have any experience as Secret Shopper, it doesn’t matter, you can still land in jobs.

Once a Mystery Shopping company accepts your application, here’re a few things you must consider.

  • Check your email regularly as the companies send you assignments over email.
  • Visit the assigned place by time. These assignments are time-bound and cannot miss deadlines.
  • You’ll look for all the details the company requires.
  • Never disclose you’re looking for information. You can’t even take notes. You’ll pose as any other ordinary shopper and take mental notes only.
  • Pay for your purchase and keep the invoice or bills.
  • Go home and write an honest review of the place. Always provide exact details because the stores can dispute your claims if you write false information.
  • Wait for your reimbursement and payment.

How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Make?

I mentioned it earlier, Secret Shopper jobs can get you as much as $400+ per day. This pay would differ at every location and also depend upon the number of hours you put in doing the job.

There are several ways how the companies pay you. Some of them are:

Cash:- You get a fixed amount per assignment. This amount gets disclosed when you take up a job.

Freebies:- In this case, you may get to keep the products that you purchase as a part of the assignment. For example, an assignment may require you to visit a store and buy a shirt. After the assignment, you keep the shirt, and the money you spent buying it, gets paid by the company.

Combo:- Most assignments will have a combination of both. For example, you may get 100 dollars for an assignment of a hotel where you stay for 2 days and 1 night. You stay for free because the company pays for it (you pay for it at the front and get reimbursed later). So, not only do you get to stay at a pleasant hotel for free, but you also get paid 100 dollars.

As every assignment is different, the companies base the payment on its importance, how much time it requires, whether it needs a lot of travel, etc.

Before signing up, you must check what the requirement and the payment terms are? Sometimes you only get a partial reimbursement, so if you aim to make more money, avoid those.

Maximize Your Earnings

As a mystery shopper, there are some efficient ways to maximize your earnings.
  • Get certified for the Mystery Shopping Professional Association (MSPA) Programme. You pay the membership fee and pass a test conducted by MSPA. The certified members have better chances to land jobs and draw higher payments.
  • Only pick assignments that pay more. It can be a difficult task since most companies pay a somewhat similar amount of money. But if you are selective in choosing the assignments, it yields better results.
  • Most mystery shopping companies have referral programs. Join them and become eligible to get Referral Bonuses. These referrals can make you a good passive income for years to come.
mystery shopping

Beware Of Mystery Shopping Scams

Mystery Shopping is a legitimate billion-dollar industry, and the idea of getting paid to shop is so attractive that it attracts a lot of scammers. They have developed ways to scam us through fake assignments.

Before you sign up as Mystery Shopper, be 100% sure that the company is legit.

Some scammers ask you for money to register. Some do this to hack your personal information.

If you face any such issues, always contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint. That way, you’re protected against any scam or fraud.

Best Mystery Shopping Companies

Finding legitimate Mystery Shopping companies can be an enormous task. But to make your work easier, I have curated a list of the most trustworthy and best Mystery Shopping Companies to safeguard you against any scams.

Most companies would want you to apply or create an account. Some projects may need specific requirements. For example, an assignment may only be open for females of 20-35 years of age at a specific location.

I would suggest you apply for multiple companies at a time, so when the job offers start gushing, you’ll have the options to choose from. You can go for the ones which are the most convenient and remunerative.

1 – Market Force

The market force got established in 2005 and currently operates in five countries including the United States Canada United Kingdom, France, and Spain.

They are one of the most trustworthy Mystery Shopping companies and handle over 100,000 secret shopping assignments each month. As a secret shopper, you can expect a lot of opportunities to make money with them.

They mostly provide projects for restaurants and hotels, retail, convenience, grocery and drug stores, banks, movie theaters, hospitals, etc.

Sign up for Market Force

2 – Secret Shopper

Secret Shopper has been in the business since 1990 and is one of the most popular companies available worldwide.

As a mystery shopper, you would get projects in banking, finance, healthcare, fitness, automotive, hotels, casinos, retails, education, restaurants, etc.

Their pay ranges from $12 to $25 per assignment. The thing I like about the company is, they offer a mobile app, making it easier to access your account even on the go.

Sign up for Secret Shopper

3 – Best Mark

Best Mark got founded in 1986 and has grown immensely since then.

Today they are one of the largest secret shopping companies having a vast network of clients, many of them are Fortune 500 companies.

Currently, they have their presence in the US and Canada.

Sign up for Best Mark

4 – About Face

About Face is one of the few companies that offer mystery shopping opportunities with flexible timings.

The company encourages everyone to follow their Facebook group and Twitter account as they post new mystery shopping assignments each month.

The company works for industries such as retail, restaurants, banking, theaters.

To work with About Face, you must be at least 18 years old. The area where you live is also critical in getting the assignments, as many of their projects are location-specific.

Your pay depends upon the complexity of the job, and how well you perform. They send payments through PayPal only.

Sign up for About Face

5 – A Closer Look

Here’s another Mystery Shopping company that you must consider for sure. The company has received several awards for its excellent services in the industry.

They offer work in industries such as restaurants, hotels, retail, banking, child care, entertainment, health and wellness, and many more.

You need to be over 18 years old to sign up. Once there are jobs available in your area, you will get a notification by email. Check your emails regularly so you don’t miss out on any opportunity.

They pay once every month via PayPal or bank transfer.

Sign up for Closer Look

6 – GBW

GBW has been around since 1994. Over the years they have developed several core products and services that offer a variety of mystery shopping programs.

They are one of the most reliable secret shopping companies having a global presence.

To sign up, visit their site and complete all the details, including the tax info if you live in the US.

The company pays you monthly via PayPal.

Sign up for GBW

7 – Sinclair Customer Metrics

The company is around since 1987 and has an A+ score from the Better Business Bureau. They serve a variety of clients including fast food, financial institutions, retail, and automobile.

Their website is easy to navigate, and the registration process is fairly straightforward. The company offers mystery shopping gigs regularly and has projects that are good for beginners.

Sign up for Sinclair

8 – Intelli Shop

Intellishop started in 1999 and currently one of the biggest names in the industry serving 55 different industries, including major league baseball teams.

They refer to mystery shopping gigs as “shops”. As a mystery shopper, you can expect to visit actual stores, visit websites, or even research over the phone.

They already have a panel of 1 million mystery shoppers but still, look to hire more.

Sign up for Intelli Shop

9 – Confero

Confero has been in business since 1990 and has an excellent reputation in the industry.

At Confero you will mostly work in retail, restaurants, and theaters. The company encourages shoppers to check their listings as they post new opportunities almost daily.

To work with them, you must be at least 21 years and a resident of the United States. They make monthly payments through PayPal or bank transfer.

Sign up for Confero

10 – Second To None

Second To None works with top brands across the U.S. and Canada.

They have over 30 years of experience and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. One benefit of working with them is flexibility, as their assignments can fit your schedule.

Sign up for Second To None

11 – Quest For Best

Quest For Best started in 1990. Currently, it has a presence in 50 States of the USA and Canada.

To become a mystery shopper, you need to have an automobile, stopwatch, and some other such equipment.

Your pay depends upon the complexity of the assignment, and how well you execute it.

Sign up for Quest For Best

12 – Perception Strategies

Perception Strategies focuses only on healthcare services.

With over 300,000 healthcare mystery shops since 1998, Perception Strategies is a proven leader in the study of the Patient Experience.

They offer their shoppers some of the best training programs before assigning actual projects.

Sign up for Perception Strategies

The list does not end here. In case you are not lucky to get offers from the above companies, here are more resources that are legit and trustworthy.

Extended List

With such a wide range, it’s easy to start working part-time as a Mystery Shopper.

However, that’s not all.
There’re more ways to make money as a Mystery Shopper.

Mystery Shopping Apps

Several apps offer Mystery Shopping. You can download these apps and start earning money or gift cards right away.

Most of them will reward you for shopping at your favorite store.

I have listed a few of them.
  • Mobee Rewards

  • Easy Shift

  • Gigwalk

  • Field Agent

  • Secret Shopper

Companies That Focus On Mystery Shopping By Phone

Mystery Shopping Tips To Consider

  • When you are on an assignment, you won’t be able to take notes. Always do practice to perfect your memory so you can remember details when you create your reports later.
  • Though you can choose your working hours, the secret to getting the best jobs lies in working regularly. The more you work, the more your reputation will grow, and the more work you get.
  • There are loads of mystery shopper sites out there, but work can be scanty. Signing up for many companies at once will increase your chances of landing jobs.
  • Never forget to collect and keep receipts. You will need them at the time of payment settlement.
  • Mystery shopping counts as self-employment, so if you earn over the personal allowance threshold, make sure you declare it and pay taxes.
  • Reputable mystery shopper companies never ask you to pay anything for sign-up. They may ask for your bank details, but only to make payments for the assignments you complete. If any company asks for any money, avoid it completely as they are more likely to be a fraud.
  • The submission of the feedback reports is time-bound. So never miss your deadlines. If you submit the reports late, the companies may not pay you.
  • The companies may pay you in various ways. Some pay you cash while other only reward points. Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for before taking and finishing any job.
  • While this is a fun way to make money, it’s not a reliable form of income. Some companies will take up to two weeks to pay. So while doing mystery shopping gigs always look for other sources of income.

Final Words

Mystery Shopping is an amazing way to make extra money while you shop. While registering, ensure the Mystery Shopping company is legit and has a proven track record.

Since Mystery Shopping companies cover many industries, you can find jobs that suit your interests and needs. Most companies provide multiple assignments every month, so if you are lucky you might make considerable money.

That’s it from me. Now, it’s your turn to try these Mystery Shopping companies and share your feedback comments. 

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out, I am glad to answer your queries! 

Best of luck!