A Complete Guide To Make Money As A Mystery Shopper

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

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

A few days back I had time to help a company do a survey related to customer’s shopping habits. One of the questions covered in that survey was,

“Do you enjoy shopping or dining”?

99.47% of participants answered the question as “Yes”.

This suggests that most of us love shopping and dining. The feeling of buying and owning new things gives us a lot of happiness.

Unfortunately, this shopping is not free and takes most of the share from your monthly budget. That could be the reason you avoid it even if you don’t wish to.

If there is such a thing as doing shopping and dining and also get compensated, who doesn’t want to grab it. Mystery Shopping or Secret Shopping is just that.

If you are that someone who loves shopping and also gets remunerated, then Mystery Shopping is the best bet for you. It is a great option for you to make money while you shop.

Mystery Shopping 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 who want to earn some extra cash or freebies.

It will surprise you that Secret Shopper jobs can get you as much as $400+ per day. Sounds too good to be true? Yes, it’s true.

This pay would differ at every location and also depend upon the number of hours you put into it.

These days most of the big chains go for some kind of mystery shopping schemes, so there’s plenty of work out there. It’s worth to spend your time in it.

Today there are thousands of Mystery Shopping jobs. But with millions of people registered as Mystery Shoppers, the competition to land a job gets tougher. A good understanding of the subject would make it a lot easier for you to succeed.

I have created here a comprehensive guide that can help you a great deal to excel.

What Is Mystery Shopping?

A Mystery Shopper is someone who spies in like a normal customer and tries the products and services of a company. Companies hire Mystery Shoppers who do this kind of work. They help these organizations know more about how their employees work, their shop/store looks, their services, etc.

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 doing. Are they following all the guidelines to make your customers feel happy and satisfied? Are they doing all the correct things they need to do to maintain your reputation in the market and be ahead of your competitors?

What do you do in this scenario? 

One option is that you take a floor walk for your company and check on every aspect of your concern. 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 real employee’s behavior towards your customers?

How do you solve this problem?

The other option to do this is to have people who look on your behalf. These people shop at your place as genuine customers without your employees realizing it. They behave like real customers and your employees don’t comprehend what’s happening behind the scene.

Employees treat these Shoppers as true customers and there is no chance for them to feign or change their behavior. After the Shoppers complete their assignment, they share their experience and you get to know all the facts that you care for. In other words, These Mystery Shoppers are your fake customers, employed and paid by you.

This is the job of Mystery Shoppers. They experience your store as actual customers and you get to know how your company works daily, how it looks, how is the customer service and other important details to improve your customer relations. It helps your company grow for the better.

So as a Secret Shopper, this is what you do. There will be jobs offered to you with the details of what exactly is required from you, and then you go to those places and put that plan in action.

mystery shopping

History Of Secret Shopping

Mystery Shopping first started in the early 1940s analyzing the morality of employees.

Mystery Shoppers would act as actual employees and do 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 actions.

The early signs Mystery Shopping was 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 thus 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 are the key to their success.

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

Thus 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 this study done in their restaurants. They could look for feedback on how:

  • Clean the restaurant is?
  • Does the restaurant look like it during the day and at night?
  • Fast/easy can the customer locate the restaurant?
  • Fast/easy can a customer get what he/she orders?
  • Friendly and helpful the on-duty staff members are?
  • Well is the food served?
  • Is the served food of good quality?
  • What needs to improve?

 KFC will hire “Best Mark” (one of the best-known mystery shopping companies in the world) to conduct the study.

Best Mark will have a panel of members (known as “Mystery Shoppers”). They will assign this project to these members. 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 perform all the activities asked and observe everything.

Once their visit gets done, they must provide feedback on their experience. The format of feedback can vary from the telephonic, online questionnaire, or sometimes in person.

After the feedback, the 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 in working hours. Each company can have a different method and 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 result in 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 in the form of a written report. So both oral and written communication skills are required.
  • He must have an eye for detail because when Mystery Shopping occurs it is not possible to write notes.

When any Mystery Shopper possesses the right mix of qualities, it is likely that he excels in this field and makes a good amount of money.

Mystery Shopper Jobs

There are thousands of 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 them for the relevant jobs.

Take some time to check each of these websites since they need Mystery Shoppers for different reasons. Some need them for online stores only, 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 select the field you like.

A Typical Mystery Shopping Job Includes

  • Guidelines on what to buy as part of the assignment.
  • A list of questions to ask in-store.
  • What photographs to take.
  • Details of things to watch out for and to take mental notes of (e.g. cleanliness, lighting, staff’s behavior, etc).
Once your assignment gets complete and you get home, you must write up a report on your findings and send it to the agency.
This can take up two to three hours to complete, so make sure you leave yourself enough time afterward to get the documentation done. 

Other Forms Of Mystery Shopping Jobs

Mystery Shopping Apps: Most of the time these apps don’t need buying anything, but you 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.

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

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 Survey: This can entail completing product reviews or surveys related to certain brands.

You can choose any of these that suit you.

mystery shopping

Register Yourself As Mystery Shopper

To register, 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 as it doesn’t matter even if you don’t have any experience as Secret Shopper.

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

  • Check your email regularly. The companies will send you assignments over email.
  • Visit the assigned place by the deadline. These assignments are time-bound and cannot miss deadlines.
  • You’ll look for all the details the company requires.
  • You cannot disclose you’re looking for information or noting details. That’s why you’re a Secret Shopper. 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 store can dispute your claims if you write false information.
  • Wait for your reimbursement and payment.

How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Make?

I mentioned earlier that 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 into it.

You get paid as:

Cash: You get a fixed amount that gets disclosed to you when you take up a job.

Freebies: In this case, you may get to keep the product(s) that you purchase as a part of the assignment. For example, the assignment could have you visit a store and buy a shirt. After the assignment, you get to keep that even though the money you spent 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 nice hotel for free, but you also get paid 100 dollars.

It sounds a great deal!

Every assignment is different, and the payment is based on its importance, how much time it requires, whether it needs a lot of travel, etc.

Before signing up for the assignments, 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, you would avoid those.

Maximize Your Earnings

There are different ways you can earn more.
  • 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 it yields better results.
  • Join the Referral Program of your Mystery Shopping company which pays a Referral Bonus. These referrals can make you a good amount of money.
mystery shopping

Beware Of Mystery Shopping Scams

Mystery Shopping is a legitimate billion-dollar industry. But the idea of getting paid to shop is so attractive to us that scammers have found 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 have any issues, you can 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 companies to work with can be a big task. But don’t worry we have curated a list of the most Trustworthy and Best Mystery Shopping Companies to safeguard you against any scam.
Most companies would want you to apply or create an account. Some projects may need specific requirements. For example females, 20-35 years of age, specific location, etc.

I would suggest you apply to all so when job offers start gushing, you’ll have the power to choose. You can go for the one which is the most convenient and remunerative for you to take.

1 – Market Force

The market force got founded and established in 2005 and has been growing since then.

It operates in five countries including United States Canada United Kingdom France and Spain.

They are one of the most trustworthy companies. They handle over 100,000 mystery shopping assignments each month so you have a lot of opportunities to make money with them. 
You get projects in retail, restaurants, convenience store, grocery and drugs, banking, movie theaters, and hospitality industries.

Sign up for Market Force

2 – Secret Shopper

This company is one of the most popular companies on the list. And they are also available worldwide. They have been around in the business since 1990.

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

Their pay ranges from $12 to $25. Another thing I like about the company is they provide their app. Making it easier for you to access your account anywhere you are.

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 customer experience measurement and mystery shopping companies.

Best Mark has a huge network of mystery shopping stores as they have been working with the Fortune 500 companies. They have their presence in the US and Canada.

Sign up for Best Mark

4 – About Face

About Face is a reputed company and has won several awards. They are one of the best that you can look forward to and also offer opportunities with flexible time.

The company encourages everyone to follow their Facebook group and Twitter account to be the first to learn about their upcoming projects. They ask mystery shoppers to check their listings regularly, as new shops get added monthly.

To work with About Face, you will have to be at least 18 years old or above. About Face works in Industries such as retail, restaurants, banking, theaters.

The pay depends upon the complexity of the job and how you perform it. They send payments through PayPal only.

Your location plays a very important role as they provide you jobs near to your location.

Sign up for About Face

5 – A Closer Look

Here’s another company that you need a look at. This company has received awards for its excellent services in the industry.

What I like the most is they offer other work from opportunities home that you can also try.

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 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

They have 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 companies that pay monthly. Their presence is global.
If you visit their site, you need to click “Become an Evaluator” And it will take you to the sign-up page. Complete all the details including tax info if you live in the US. You can work anytime and as much as you want.

Sign up for GBW

7 – Sinclair Customer Metrics

The company is around since 1987 and has an A+ score from the Better Business Bureau. With Sinclair, you know you are in good hands

They offer all sorts of researches like On-Site, Video, Telephone, and Competitor’s mystery shopping. 
This company deserves to be on your list.

Sign up for Sinclair

8 – Intelli Shop

Intelli shop is one of the biggest companies on this list and offers all kinds of mystery shopping like On-Site, Online, Telephone, and Video.
They cover a massive list of industries. You name it and it’s right there. 
They have a panel of 1 million mystery shoppers and cover brands you’ve been using for years. It’s worth checking them out.

Sign up for Intelli Shop

9 – Confero

Here’s another company that you shouldn’t miss. They have been in business since 1990 and have a very good reputation with a large variety of shops in a good range of industries.

They are awarded by different award-giving bodies in the industry and communities.

Their latest award is the 2019 BBB Torch for Marketplace Ethics. 

You should add this to your list. They send monthly payments through PayPal or bank transfer.

They encourage shoppers to check their listings as they post new offers daily.

At Confero you will work in shops such as retail, restaurants, and theaters.
To work with them, you should be at least 21 years and a resident of the United States as they work only in the USA.

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. This makes them one of the leading customer experience firms in North America. 
So this is another well-established company that should be on your list. They want their mystery shoppers to have qualities like observant, enjoy interacting with people, good time-management skills, etc.
They also demand you to have a computer, smartphone, stable internet, and reliable transportation.
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 has been in the industry since 1990. Since then they have grown into the world’s most respected customer service research firms with clients in 50 States of the USA and Canada.

Serving the industry for two decades makes them a well-established one. Lately, they have added new services such as

Toll-Free Guest Response Phone Lines 

Web-Based Guest Response Sites 

Audio Recorded Phone Shops 

Hidden Video Shops

To become a mystery shopper at Quest For Best, you might 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.

This is a good company to try because you get paid to do things to improve health care services in the community.

With over 300,000 healthcare mystery shops since 1998, Perception Strategies is a proven leader in the study of the Patient Experience. 
They conduct ongoing programs to show continuous progress or benchmark studies to isolate specific concerns of patients.
They give shoppers the best training before starting on the assignments.

Sign up for Perception Strategies

The list does not end here. In case you do not get the offers from the above-mentioned companies then here are some more you can try. All of these 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 Do’s and Don’ts


Memory Practice

When you are on an assignment you won’t be able to take notes. This needs you to have perfect memory so you can remember details for your report later.

Work Regular

You can choose your work hours but the secret to getting the best jobs lies in being flexible and offering to work regularly. The more you work, the more your reputation will grow, and the more work you get.

Apply To Multiple Companies

There are loads of mystery shopper sites out there, but work can be scanty. Signing up to many companies at once will increase your chances of landing in jobs.

Keep Receipts

Never forget to collect and keep receipts. You will need them at the time of payment settlement.

Pay Taxes

Mystery shopping counts as self-employment so if you earn over the personal allowance threshold, make sure you declare it and pay taxes.


Pay To Sign Up

Reputable mystery shopper companies never ask you to pay anything upon signup. They may ask for your bank details, but only to make payments after assignments. If they ask you for any money to join, avoid it completely as they are more likely to be a fraud.

Be Late

The submission of the report is time-bound. Never miss your deadlines. If you submit the reports late, you might not get paid. 

Forget To Work on Details

There is a lot of variations in the kind of reimbursements and payments with this kind of work. Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for before taking and finishing any job. 

Rely On Mystery Shopping As A Single Source Of Income

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 look for other sources of income.

Must Read: 25 Best Ways To Make Money Online From Home

Final Words

As you can see, Mystery Shopping is an amazing way to make money. 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 two to five assignments every month so you might make considerable money. 

That’s it from me. Now, it’s your turn to try these tips 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 in your job hunt!

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