So, you’ve heard about mystery shopping, and thought, “How nice would it be to get paid for doing things you enjoy?”
As you probably know, mystery shopping jobs are field-based marketing research strategy, where you act like an “undercover” consumer to assess a business’s customer service and compliance's with standards. You get paid for giving your evaluation and feedback, or you receive free services and items.
Mystery shopping helps companies improve the customer experience they provide and the performance of their employees. It’s not about spying or catching the employees but finding out what they need to improve on. As a secret shopper, it’s also important to know what’s the purpose of your assignment.
You’re now interested to be a mystery shopper, and understandably, you have a couple of questions in mind. Well, you’re in the right place! This guide is created to help you know more about how to become a secret shopper.
In this article
How Much Does a Mystery Shopper Make?
The first thing that would come to mind is how much you can earn from mystery shopping jobs. You can be paid by the hour or reimbursed for the expenses.
How long it takes to finish an assignment varies from 2-3 minutes to around 20 to 30 minutes. Some may take an hour or so. Sometimes, you may also be assigned a couple of shops in one day. You can do about 10 missions a month, more or less.
Some secret shopper jobs would not directly pay you but will reimburse you for your purchases, such as restaurant meals and salon services. It’s like getting for free the items and services you’ll buy and pay for with your own money anyway. Not to mention, you also get to experience other things that you wouldn’t normally do.
You can receive your payment within a week or two months after completing the assignment. If you want to earn more, you can sign up for multiple mystery shopping providers, and see what fits your schedule. You can also earn bonuses for referring friends to be a mystery shopper too. It can range from $5 to $50 per referral, provided that they signed up and completed an assignment within a specified period. It’s important to note too that mystery shopping will not make you rich quickly. It’s only an excellent side hustle that you can do to earn extra bucks, experience some services that you want, or get freebies of things you’d actually use like makeups.
Where Can You Find Mystery Shopper Jobs?
Companies that need the assessment don’t always hire secret shoppers directly. Mystery shoppers are usually hired by third-party providers instead.
Of course, if you want to go the extra mile, you can search for direct contracts with the brands, which could pay higher.
What industries do mystery shopping providers serve? Some of them are the following:
- Retail stores
- Grocery stores
- Car dealerships
- Amusement parks
- Movie theaters
- Gas stations
- Financial institutions
Restaurant assignments tend to have higher pay—you can eat more than $100 worth of food on some occasions. When it comes to hotels and resorts, you can enjoy a free stay and access to their facilities and amenities.
Some retail stores may not cost that much, and you’d only have to make a small purchase. Others would give you lots of freebies, from free lipstick to a whole set of makeup.
You can find different mystery shopping companies, such as BestMark, Market Force, and Sinclair Customer Metrics. They perform tens of thousands of secret shopping every month, so they’re a great place to start when you’re interested in knowing how to become a mystery shopper.
BestMark is one of the largest mystery shopping providers. It caters mainly to restaurants and hotels, but it also covers other sectors, such as banks, casinos and auto services. BestMark does over 10,000 mystery shops every month, so you have wide options!
Fancy doing a secret shopping job while traveling? You can do so with BestMark because it covers more than 13,000 cities and towns across the US and Canada.
2. Market Force
Market Force is among the 2017 Global Top 50 Research Organizations. From movie theaters to gas stations to grocery stores and more, Market Force has it—running over 100,000 secret shopping every month!
Are you always on-the-go? No problem! Market Force’s mobile app makes it easier for you to shop while you’re out and about. Whether you’re in the US, Europe or Asia, you can complete mystery shop assignments whenever you’re available.
3. Sinclair Customer Metrics
Doing mystery shopping for over three decades already, Sinclair Customer Metrics is where you should be if you want to go beyond the typical secret shopping. It has video shopping where you use hidden cameras. You think the typical shopping tasks get boring after some time? This is your chance to play as a spy and up the thrill of your secret shopping mission! It also has secret shopping via phone and assignments that make you survey the competitors.
Other companies that you can check out are:
You must ensure that the company is legitimate and actually provides mystery shopping jobs, not a scam. You can check their Better Business Bureau rating. It’s also better to choose one that’s a member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association to ensure that you’d only work with reputable companies.
To become a mystery shopper, you need to sign-up with the providers. The common process is simple:
- Fill out an application form
- Sign an independent contractor agreement
- Pass the qualifying test and complete a new shopper challenge
You must also be at least 18 years old and have no record of misdemeanors or any crime. Some would require you to have your own means of transportation and reliable internet connection.
Once you’re accepted, you can browse through their database of available secret shopper jobs. Then, you can apply to the ones you want to do or has piqued your interest.
What Tasks Do Mystery Shoppers Do?
Companies need the data to assess their services, customer experience, and performance of their employees. Some of the tasks involved in secret shopper jobs are evaluations of the following:
- Quality and fast service
- Cleanliness of the store
- Compliance with company SOPs (e.g., dress code, greetings, signages)
- Staff’s knowledge about the products or services
- Staff’s abilities to answer your questions
You may be asked to come to the venue on a specific day and time.
Is there any mystery shopping task that you can do at home? You bet!
Some assignments don’t require you to visit the store personally, such as for car dealerships or online shopping stores. You can do phone calls to assess customer service or schedule services online.
After completing a mystery shopping task, you need to send your evaluation report immediately. You might need to create an assessment based on a set of questions provided to you before the task, or you might only need to answer a simple survey.
What Makes a Successful Mystery Shopper?
While we mentioned that mystery shopping is only a nice-to-have side gig, not a full-time hustle, you still need to be good at what you do. Do you agree? So, that brings the question, how can you be a successful secret shopper?
First, a good mystery shopper needs to have the following characteristics:
- Keen eyes for details
- A sharp memory
- Efficiency in completing the tasks
- Unbiased evaluation skills
- Great analytical skills
Since you’re a secret shopper, you can’t take down notes or take photos while shopping. So, you must have a good memory to remember your entire experience and put it in your report. You must also be a great observant with analytical skills to take in everything that you need to assess.
If you want to do secret shopping as a long-term gig, here are some essential tips:
- Make sure you complete every task that you signed up for
- Join multiple mystery shopping providers to increase your options
- Pay extra attention to the specific instructions for your assignment
- Be flexible with the assignments you take, especially when you’re a newbie
- Know if your time spent is all worth it given the hassle or the pay from the provider
- Start with small assignments first and wait for your payment before you accept new assignments
- Don’t fall victim to scams
The more assignments you complete successfully, the more you become an established mystery shopper. That would open up new opportunities for gigs with higher pay, such as when you’re asked to act a certain way, like being a “difficult” customer.
How to Avoid Mystery Shopping Scams
One of the biggest pitfalls of mystery shopping jobs is when you encounter scammers. So, you must be able to spot the red flags. Here’s what you need to do:
- Never pay them anything just to get an assignment
- If they require you to pay a certification fee, leave!
- Don’t believe any guaranteed amount of income
- Be critical in choosing a provider and only work with a trustworthy and reputable company
Scammers are everywhere, waiting for people who can easily fall prey to their tactics. You need to be vigilant. A trustworthy company should not ask you to pay them before they give you secret shopping jobs.
Mystery shopping is an excellent opportunity to earn extra cash while doing the things you enjoy and getting the things you need for free. Remember, though, that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme, so you must set your expectations right.
While mystery shopping sounds easy enough to do, it also entails hard work and extra effort to be successful. Keep in mind this guide on how to become a mystery shopper, and you’re off to a good start!
If you’ve tried mystery shopping, share your stories with us! Leave your comments below!