Hi Everyone! Are you in the mystery shopping game? In this post I want to share why mystery shopping has been on my top ten list of ways to make extra money forever. First a quick definition. Mystery shopping is basically getting paid to shop in exchange for evaluating a company’s customer service and quality standards. “Getting paid,” can mean a variety of things like buying something and getting reimbursed (and keeping if for free), buying something, getting reimbursed, AND getting money on top of that, not buying anything and receiving a fee for your evaluation, or some variation thereof. For more information here’s a link to a good overview – an article I wrote for the Penny Hoarder.
How Much Can You Make?
I can only answer for myself because there are so many variables in play which are outlined below. If there is a lot of opportunity in your area and you are flexible, you could potentially earn thousands of dollars a year. I’m very picky now and probably earn about $600 in cash and another $1500 in entertainment reimbursements per year.
As far as how much one can make per shop, it really, truly varies. You could earn $5, which doesn’t seem worth anyone’s while, but I’ve read how people make it work. Probably more typical for quick, simple shops that pay cash are $15, $20, and $25. More detailed shops can pay $50 – $100. If you choose fancy experiences like fine dining restaurants instead, it’s not unusual to be reimbursed up to $300 for a meal in exchange for a detailed review.
Some Things to Think About When Considering Mystery Shopping
1. Where You Live (or Work): Mystery shopping gigs are only worth your while if you live or work in an area with a lot of retail businesses. If you’re travelling an hour to get to a shop you’re probably wasting more money in gas than you make on the shop. The exception is if you were going there anyway.
2. Comfort Level with Paying Upfront: Mystery shopping companies rarely pay upfront, even if you are required to purchase something. Therefore, you have to be willing to pay out of pocket, and get reimbursed. Sounds simple, but know that companies can deny reimbursement if they feel a shop hasn’t been completed in the manner needed. For this reason confidence in your skills is a must. So is the ability to:
3. Follow Directions: Be honest with yourself here because following directions is 90% of what you’re doing. There are a few mystery shopping forums where users get tips and suggestions from each other. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read someone complaining about an unfair company not paying them when it was clear from their own comments that they did not follow directions. I once read where a shopper was required to order a specific steak at a restaurant, ordered chicken instead, and was angry that the company would not reimburse. If this is you, you will not make a good mystery shopper.
4. Be Timely: This goes along with following directions. Mystery shops are time sensitive. One usually has to arrive and/or depart within a certain time period. Interactions may need to be timed. Your evaluation must be submitted within a specific timeframe (usually 12-24 hours). If you think you would find this challenging then secret shopping probably isn’t your forte.
5. Write Proficiently: Okay. Here’s the deal. If you do not like writing, don’t mystery shop because the evaluations will be painful for you. Also, though you won’t need to write at Pulitzer Prize winning levels, your work can not be wrought with grammatical and/or spelling errors/text lingo. The company is looking for you to paint a picture of your experience with your words. If this makes you want to claw your eyes out, skip mystery shopping. Don’t do something that’s going to make you unhappy just for some extra money.
6. Be Selective: If you’re new to mystery shopping you might bounce around and try a lot of shops, small pay, large pay, long evaluations, short ones to get a feel. It’s normal. My suggestion after this period is to find your niche. Become clear in your own head what you do and don’t enjoy and the minimum you’re willing to accept. For me, I mostly focus on entertainment (i.e. restaurants, movies, hotel stays, bowling) which allows me to enjoy thousands of dollars in free or just about free entertainment every year. Every person is different. Find your specialty and get paid!
What about you? Do you secret shop? What tips do you have. Please share!