Things To Know Before Applying As A Mystery Shopper

Consumerism is almost a religion in the United States. Almost all states are reopening during a pandemic so people can shop at malls, dine out, and buy things. Shopping is an activity that is hard-wired into the genetics of Americans. Businesses know that too. It’s why the, “mystery shopper,” is an actual vocation.

Americans spent over $13.4 trillion on consumer goods in 2019.

Over 70% of the American economy is wholly dependent on consumer spending.

Those two statistics are why companies need the mystery shopper to gauge business conditions.

It’s the mystery shopper that helps businesses assess the effectiveness of their products, marketing, and business strategies.

Still, mystery shopping is a two-way street. Or, it  should be anyway.

Becoming a mystery shopper is not a lucrative endeavor by any means. If you’re lucky, you’ll better understand how consumerism works through the experience.

Interested? Here’s what you must know:

  • You won’t make a lot of money
  • You’ll never know who is hiring you
  • You may not qualify for many assignments
  • Scams are rampant

First, let’s fully explain the job of a mystery shopper.

What is a Mystery Shopper?

A mystery shopper is basically a consumer informant hired to shop and browse in businesses for the purposes of collecting data.

Mystery shoppers interact with employees, assess service conditions, buy products, analyze in-store product displays, observe consumer behaviors, and so on.

What you do as a mystery shopper depends on the assignment given to you. Your job will be to assess the effectiveness of a business’s product and/or its marketing strategy in a consumer environment.

So, you’re basically a spy for a company selling the service you’re evaluating.

However, putting on sunglasses and trying to act like James Bond will only draw attention to yourself.

You’ll just act normally and be observant during your shopping trip. You’re a, “mystery shopper,” because the store, restaurant, or car dealer you patronize have no idea who you are.

90% of dissatisfied consumers would rather patronize a competitor after the fact than express service dissatisfaction with management in the moment. This is why mystery shoppers are so important to businesses.

Mystery shoppers can offer businesses an unbiased view of how their products are sold and patronized in the real world.

After you’ve finished shopping, you’ll fill out an online survey and supply scans or pics of receipts. Or, you may write a report detailing your experience.

Then, you’ll be paid for your time.


Don’t Expect Big Bucks

The average mystery shopper makes about $8 to $100 per assignment.

Curb your enthusiasm. You will more than likely make a few dollars per assignment after filling out a survey.

There are $50 and $100 assignments, but not many. For those sums, you may be asked to test drive a luxury car. Or dine at an upscale restaurant.

When considering commute times and personal expenses, there’s only so much money you can make in a day while mystery shopping.

You could be paid via PayPal or check.

So, unless you’re mystery shopping 12+ hours daily every day, via short distances, don’t expect to make big bucks.

Depending on the gig, don’t even expect bucks.

Many mystery shopper gigs may reward you with gift cards or rewards points. You may be required to buy a product or pay for a service yourself. You’ll then be reimbursed after supplying a survey. The experience, reimbursement, and a gift card may be your only payment.

Anonymous Employer

You may never know who is employing you.

Most mystery shoppers are hired by third-party agencies working on behalf of the business paying you.

Why? Businesses want purely unbiased opinions and reports. If you knew who your employer was, why would you report negative information concerning their products?

Your employer may own several businesses, brand names, or retail locations. You’ll probably be sent to browse a product that can’t directly be connected to your employer.

Your job as a mystery shopper is to tell a business, your employer, what they need to hear. Not what they want to hear.

Ready to apply? Not so fast.

Many mystery shopper gigs have exacting and qualifying standards per assignments.

Simply put, you may not qualify for some mystery shopper gigs.

Exacting Employment Standards

You want to know why some people just can’t get a mystery shopper gig?

They may not shop a lot, or be attuned to shopping culture, or fit the standard of the gig requirements.

For example, if you are a Millennial, you can’t accept a mystery shopper gig requiring a senior citizen.

If you don’t have a car or don’t drive, how can you assess a gas station or car dealership?

Some mystery shopper gigs may require you to take crystal clear pics of a highway billboard. If you don’t have a car or a smart device with a great camera, you can’t do it.

Assess the requirements of the gig before applying.


No legitimate mystery shopper gig will require you to pay to participate. Beware any ad that asks you to pay up front.

Also, beware any mystery shopper ad that doesn’t require you to actually shop.

Any mystery shopper gig that can be done at home is suspect. If you aren’t asked to pay, such scams may mine your personal data or invade your digital privacy as you work.

Never answer mystery shopper ads that promise to pay $100-per-hour. Such scams play games with logistic times to promise you money you can’t realistically attain.

Mystery shoppers are paid for the surveys they provide. They are not paid by the hour. Some mystery shoppers pay for products and services and are reimbursed later.

Image a mystery shopper ad promising $36-per-hour. Mystery shoppers are paid for supplying surveys, not for the time they spend mystery shopping. Submitting a survey might take 10 minutes. So, you might make $6 total. Scam artists can technically promise you $36-per-hour while only paying for a fraction of an hour.

Getting Started

So how do you become a mystery shopper? Which gigs pay the most bucks?

Kind of like swimming, you kind of have to jump in and learn your own way.

Here are some of the better rated mystery shopping companies:

  • Best Mark
  • Intelli-shop
  • Market Force
  • Sinclair Customer Metrics

Remember, curb your enthusiasm. You’re probably not going to make a lot of money doing this.

Also, you’ll be doing a lot of traveling, walking, browsing, and shopping. The logistics and commuting time required means your earnings potential will be restricted.

The number of people who make good money mystery shopping are few. And such people probably have years of experience doing so.

Remember social distancing guidelines if you’re mystery shopping in a state that’s opening up after a lockdown.

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Posted in: Business, Career, Career and Work, Minimalism and Frugality, Money, Online Income, Personal Finance, saving money, Saving Money

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