Okay, so I don’t actually get stuff for free all the time, but I do occasionally. How is this possible, you may ask? Through mystery shopping. If you’re not familiar with it, mystery shopping is when companies pay market research companies to hire contractors who pose as regular customers and later give feedback about the business.
For example, I have done a lot of mystery shopping at grocery stores. I posed as a normal customer and later gave my feedback about my shopping experience in the stores. Did the employees treat me nicely? Was the store clean? Were a lot of essential items out of stock? Those are examples of things you’ll be looking for as a mystery shopper.
Pros of Mystery Shopping
I love being a secret shopper is that I can do it as little or as often as I like. Because I’m an independent contractor, I can go months without doing a shop, and then pick up on it whenever I want. As a mystery shopper, most of my compensation comes from the product or service that I’m getting as part of the shop. Personally, I have done shops where I got free groceries, movie tickets, free meals, and free alcohol. There are also shops that will allow you to get free auto services, free theme park tickets, though I haven’t completed any of those yet.
Cons of Mystery Shopping
Most mystery shopping companies pay once a month, or once every few months (though once a month seems to be the industry standard). In my opinion, some mystery shopping jobs just aren’t worth the time or the energy for a small fee of only $10 or something like that. For instance, I’ve found that I don’t enjoy doing mystery shops for cell phone companies, because the compensation isn’t great and I have to work hard to pretend I’m interested in buying a new phone most of the time. In my opinion, the best shops are ones where you’ll get free stuff and free food.
There have been very rare instances when a mystery shopper was sued by an employee because of what the shopper said about them in their report. That’s why it’s always important to tell nothing but the truth in your shopper reports, because it could cost someone their job. You need to understand that before doing any mystery shopping jobs.
What Does it Take to be A Mystery Shopper?
To be a good mystery shopper, you have to pay attention to detail. Decent writing skills are needed, as you will normally need to write at least a little bit about the companies in the reports you’ll submit.
You have to know how to be discreet. A good mystery shopper doesn’t make it obvious that they are a mystery shopper. When I do mystery shopping jobs, I do my best to act normally without drawing attention to myself. This means no excessive complaints, and no asking questions in a way that seems obvious. It doesn’t hurt to have some good lying skills for these jobs 😉
You have to pay attention to detail and make sure you do everything the company asks you. The best way to do this is to make sure you’ve completely read and understand the shop guidelines. If you don’t, you might miss an important instruction that could disqualify you from getting paid for the shop. For example, I was doing a shop at a grocery store and didn’t realize I had to be in the store for a minimum of 20 minutes for my shop to count. Because of that, I wasn’t paid for that shop and wasted my time.
It’s important you understand confidentiality is mandatory. When you sign up to do mystery shopping jobs for a company, you sign an agreement that means you aren’t allowed to disclose companies you did shops for, or you could face legal penalties.
What Do I Need to Mystery Shop?
All you really need is a reliable source of transportation, a smart phone, and a computer. As a mystery shopper, you are often required to take notes of your surroundings. A smart phone makes doing that discreetly very easy. As proof that you visited the business, most companies require that you take a photo of receipts or business cards with a smart phone or digital camera. You will submit that along with your shopper report.
How Do I Get Paid?
Nearly all of my mystery shopping reimbursements and payments have come through PayPal. MarketForce is the only company I’ve worked for where I’ve gotten paid through direct deposit. Again, you can expect to be paid once every month. When you are paid, you are reimbursed for the shops and given any additional payments from the company.
Companies I Recommend
The most important warning I can give you about mystery shopping? Never, ever pay to mystery shop. Nearly all companies asking for upfront payment before you do jobs for them are untrustworthy. I have never had a bad experience working for any of the following companies:
There are dozens of other great companies to work for, too. These are just ones that I have worked with and can personally attest to their integrity. Before working with any mystery shopping companies, I recommend always researching their reputation first.
One of my favorite money-making apps is I-Secret-Shop. I-Secret-Shop is a legitimate mystery shopping apps that displays jobs from all different market research companies. It’s a great way to find other companies to work for!
Mystery shopping isn’t a full-time job, but it is a nice way to earn extra cash and save on things like groceries and meals. You can do it as often or as little as you like, too! It’s a pretty fun way to earn extra cash and get cool free stuff every now and then. I hope this post inspired you to try it out for yourself. 🙂