What Is Mystery Shopping? Ready-Set-Shop & Get Paid!


what is mystery shoppingWe all like a good mystery, don’t we? Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christies’s Poirot, Lost, and Twin Peaks, to name just a few, are watched by millions around the globe at any given day.

But do you know there is a mystery you could be playing the lead role in and get paid for it?

The mystery I am talking about cannot be watched on TV, nor would you be able to find an ebook to read on your Kindle. Today, I am not writing a review, per se, but a brief introduction how you could make some money in your spare time as Mystery Shopper.  


What Is Mystery Shopping?

Many corporations, business owners and managers use Mystery shoppers to help inspect their daily store interactions, monitor front line employee and phone effectiveness, and check their competitors’ pricing and sales strategies. They want to verify that their products are displayed, priced and stocked correctly.

However, Mystery Shopping is not limited to retail businesses. Service providers use mystery shoppers to monitor the work of their employees or independent contractors. There are plumbing, electrical or house cleaning services to evaluate the service provided.

Restaurant chains pay mystery diners to collect unbiased, fair and accurate reports about food quality, service, price; in short, they want to know about the dining experience of their customers.

Even Amusement Parks hire mystery shoppers to find out how people perceive their visit. The reasons for doing that are manifold. The companies want to learn about the competition, defining trends, developing new products and marketing strategies. In the case of service providers, they want to learn where and how improvements are necessary and how to better train their personnel.


How To Become A Mystery Shopper

Basically, everyone can become a Mystery Shopper.  You don’t need any specific skill or degree to apply. It is required that you have a stable internet connection and are able to fill out online forms, and/or write a coherent report, grammatically correct and without typos.

And the good news is: If you are unable to leave your house (for whatever reason), there are companies that offer “Telephone Mystery Shopping!”

Of course, the companies using mystery shoppers are not doing the hiring themselves. They outsource this tasks to outfits that specialize in hiring, conducting the snoops, compiling the individual reports, and deliver the end results to their clients.


Where To Apply To Become A Mystery Shopper


I have compiled a short list with some of the most reputable Mystery Shopper Companies to give you a head start.



There are a bunch more, too many to list here. But let me tell you that they are all BBB Accredited with A+ & A ratings but they are also members of MSAP:

MSPA-NA (formerly known as the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America) is the trade association representing the customer experience industry throughout North America

MSPA-NA not only serves as umbrella organization for all the mystery shopping companies, it also has its own fleet of thousands of GOLD or SILVER Certified Mystery Shoppers. The cost to become certified is $25 per year and could give you a big advantage. Certified Members do get priority for job calls over none certified mystery shoppers.


What Does A Mystery Shopper Do?

In short, you are visiting places of business to complete a specified task and NEVER to reveal your identity as Mystery Shopper. You may have to buy a certain product at a specific retail outlet, ask questions about the product, take a picture of the location where the product is on display, etc.

Or you may have to eat out for breakfast, lunch or dinner and report back about food and drink quality, waiting time, server behavior; you get the drift. Then you have to do some real work; writing the darn report. Some companies have you fill out a simple online form, whereas others require a very detailed report, including verbatim transcription of conversations.

Of course, you keep all receipts and attach to the report (you need a scanner to do that) That’s basically all there is to it.


How Much Money Can Mystery Shoppers Make?

There is no set rate for any of the jobs, and it varies from company to company. Some pay a flat rate for simple shops that range from $5 to $20, sometimes more than that. If a job requires you to travel, like visiting an amusement park, you may get a mileage allowance plus an hourly pay for a set time.

What is realistic? Well, during my research I found that the typical monthly income (after deducting the out-of-pocket expenses) is about $250 to $400. I found one report from a woman who was making $14,000 in the first year as Mystery Shopper.

Of course, it also depends on the area you live in. If you live in a big city, or close by, you have a better chance to get more jobs. If you live out in the boondocks where it takes a 15 mile drive to get a pack of smokes and a gallon of milk, your chances of being real busy as Mystery Shopper are rather slim.

Most companies pay you once a month with check or via Paypal. However, be prepared that it may take anywhere from 30 to 60 days before you are credited for a particular job you have done. The clients that are using mystery shoppers pay monthly, and you are at the low end of the food chain, so to speak. But you don’t have to worry, from what I’ve found out, non-payment is not an issue.


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Few Tips To Get More Jobs

1) Register With MSPA & Get Certified

You will get more jobs, and more of the higher paying jobs if you are MSPA certified. The training you get for certification qualifies you to get these jobs over none-certified shoppers.

2) Work On Your Writing Skills

Of course, the more jobs you do, the more experienced you will get in writing the reports. This is important because the companies have the right to refuse payment if the report is not complete. The back and forth until a report is accepted, cuts into ‘you’r getting a new job’ and hence the possibility of making money.

3) Don’t Decline Every Small Job Offer

You do have the right to decline job offers. However, don’t develop the habit of declining every small job that may come across your desk. You know the saying ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours‘. Take all the small ones and THEY WILL give you the big ones.  


Warning: Beware Of Mystery Shopping Scams

Is Mystery Shopping a scam? You don’t have to worry, the business is legit and most companies are for real. But unfortunately, there are  criminal elements in our society that are using the Mystery Shopper industry for their scams. What you should look for:

Company Charges A Sign-Up Fee

Never pay a company to become a mystery shopper. It is free to sign up with any reputable company

Certified Check In Your Name

If you receive mail or email with a ‘certified’ check to use for a mystery shopping job, report this immediately to the authorities. These checks are fake and will bounce, leaving you with paying back the money you’ve spent.

Always Check With MSPA

Before you register with a company, make sure they are a member of MSPA. If not, I recommend you forget about this company.


Where To Find Additional Information About A Company

Do your research before signing up, no matter what company it is. Read reviews from other mystery shoppers, in particular, look for complaints of non-payment. The best place to do that is a site called Volition Forums. It’s free to become a member and have access of all the information.


Are You Ready To Do Some Mystery Shopping?

I hope you found my little article about this very mysterious industry helpful. If you want to give it a try, just follow these 3 simple steps:

  • what is mystery shoppingSign up as member with the MSPA. It is worth the yearly fee of $25
  • Sign up with as many mystery shopping companies as possible. Start with the list I provided above
  • Do as many jobs as you can get, and are able to handle according to your schedule

You shouldn’t expect to make a livable income as mystery shopper. But hey, combining the mystery shopping jobs with your regular errands, and making a few hundred dollars a month while you are out and about anyway, is not a bad deal.


Wanna Quit Your Job And Be Your Own Boss?

I know how it feels being stuck in the good old 9 to 5 rat race and a job you don’t really like. Let me ask you this. Would you be willing to commit 2 hours per day for the next 3 months and build your own online business while still going to work every day? If so, I can show you how I got started, and how you can follow my path to financial independence.

Let me warn you though, this is not one of these “done for you” crappy programs you’ll find all over the web. What I am going to show you is how to really build a  sustainable and lucrative online business. It takes the willingness to learn, follow directions, commitment and work.

Take a look at my #1 FREE Recommendation and find out the details. The great thing is that you actually can join this remarkable program for free, enjoy the first 10 lessons of the Get Started course, and build your first website at the same time.

Then you decide if this is what you were looking for. That simple. So, come on in and take a free test drive.

That’s all for today folks. Like always, thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to let us know your thoughts about this article.

John Worthy



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3 Responses

  1. Peter Basin

    Hey john really good article here, if we just read the Title, mystery shopper looks like an easy job that paid well. But IRL of my own experience well its quite tough, and thank you about the Forum Volition will check it 😀

  2. Ms. Yoli

    Hi John,
    I found your page while searching for topics for my site. I’m a fellow WA(ian)! 🙂 Your story really inspired and motivated me to keep moving forward with this dream of mine and not succumb to nay-sayers or those with limited vision. They mean well, but have no idea they’re ‘dream killers.’ I’ve bookmarked your page and will return frequently for inspiration and more awesome posts. I love this Mystery Shopping one because I have been looking for something like this to supplement my income. See ya on the inside! 🙂

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