Back when I had student loans, one of the things I did was learn how to become a mystery shopper so that I could make extra money. No, it did not make me rich, but it gave me a little bit of extra income, and it also allowed me to go out to eat and get free things that I probably would have bought anyways.
Mystery shopping also helped me pay off $40,000 in student loans in just 7 months.
I remember when I first heard of being a secret shopper. I was working at a retail store and we regularly had mystery shoppers come in to grade how we were doing. We never knew who the mystery shopper was, but we would get to read their report afterwards.
I thought it was so interesting that people were getting paid to shop!
Not long after hearing about it, I learned more about how to become a mystery shopper and actually became a secret shopper myself.
I regularly earned around $150 to $200 a month mystery shopping, and I earned free items/services as well, such as $100 to spend at restaurants (which I had to grade while I was there), makeup, and more.
Recently, many of you have emailed me and asked me the question “what is mystery shopping?” I know many of you have also been wondering how I was able to earn income through mystery shopping.
Because it has been a while since I talked about how to become a mystery shopper – the last time was back in 2012, I decided it was time to talk about it again and tell you about my experience and how to get started.
So today, I am going to answer your common questions and help you learn how to become a mystery shopper.
How to become a mystery shopper.
What's the catch with becoming a mystery shopper?
I know a lot of you might be thinking it’s too good to be true.
Is it really just getting paid to shop?
That would be the perfect world, right?
Mystery shopping requires work – you will have to keep your receipts, answer a survey, and report to the mystery shopping company about how your shopping experience was. This helps the store, car dealership, restaurant, etc. improve their customer shopping experience.
You can join Bestmark by clicking here. This is my favorite mystery shopping company, and the only one I used back when I learned how to become a mystery shopper.
Mystery shopping is great because it can help you make a little extra income, on your own time, as well as earn free products and restaurant meals.
No, mystery shopping is not a get rich quick scheme, and you most likely won't be able to turn it into a full-time gig. However, learning how to become a secret shopper can be a fun way to make some side cash, which can help you pay your bills, save more money, and reach your financial goals a little bit sooner.
How is a mystery shopper paid?
As you learn how to become a mystery shopper, you will need to learn how you are paid. Typically, there are three ways a secret shopper is paid for mystery shopping:
- Cash and reimbursement (you'll get paid to do the mystery shop, plus get the service/product for free).
- Cash payment (an example would be a phone call mystery shop when you don't buy anything).
- Reimbursement (an example would be a restaurant assignment – these typically don't pay except for free food).
Usually, you'll receive payment via direct deposit, check, PayPal, or gift card, around 2-4 weeks after you complete the mystery shop.
I was always paid promptly after I completed a mystery shop.
What are legitimate mystery shopping companies?
When I was first starting out as a mystery shopper, I found quite a few scammy mystery shopping companies that were not real at all. They solely existed to scam people out of their money.
I think this is a common scam in the mystery shopping world because so many people want to learn how to become a mystery shopper and “get paid to shop.” So, many people are lured in thinking that they can make easy money with any company.
I primarily used Bestmark for my mystery secret shops, actually I don't remember using anyone else. I'm not sure which other mystery shopping websites are good, reputable companies, but I know positively that Bestmark is a legitimate mystery shopping website. You can trust me when I say that. I personally received several paychecks from them and didn't pay them any money in order to complete mystery shops.
That's usually what separates the fake mystery shopping companies from the real ones – the fake mystery shopping companies usually ask you for money in advance, such as a sign-up fee to get started.
Due to that, when you are learning how to become a mystery shopper, I highly recommend doing your research and finding a company like Bestmark.
You can read more about common mystery shopping scams and their warning signs with what the FTC has to say about mystery shopping.
What types of mystery shops are there?
There are so many different types of mystery shops that you can complete, so be ready!
Above, you can see a screenshot I took of the Bestmark secret shop listings. The listings you see above are all secret shops that were available just one month ago, and there are TONS of other secret shops you can sign up for as well.
All you need to do is sign up to become a mystery shopper here.
Then, to apply for a secret shop, you just need to click on one of those listings, choose one of the available dates, and press “Request.”
The mystery shopping company will get back to you fairly quickly on whether or not you can do the mystery shop. Personally, I was almost always accepted, as there are TONS of mystery shops available and they are really in need of more mystery shoppers.
So, it's super easy!
There are mystery shops for lots of different things such as:
- Electronic stores (such as Best Buy)
- Car dealerships
- Movie theaters
- Makeup counters
- Phone calls (to survey the person who answers the phone and their knowledge of the store or restaurant)
What were my favorite mystery shops?
There are many different kinds of mystery shops that I accepted. At first, I accepted anything and everything, as I wanted to make as much money as possible to put towards my student loan debt.
I made good money, but eventually it wore me out from having to fill out so many reports.
My favorite mystery shops included:
- Online shop or phone call shop. I liked these because I didn't have to go in person and waste fuel or my time driving somewhere. With these you are usually grading the website, the phone call customer service, and/or how an item was received in the mail.
- If I had to drive for a mystery shop, I liked the ones that were close to my home or work.
- I loved doing makeup shops because I love free makeup. I received a lot of free makeup! That made these some of my favorite because I knew I would use the product I was getting.
- Restaurant shops, because I have to eat, of course.
Sometimes surveys take just a minute, but sometimes they literally take an hour.
Restaurant shops usually take a little longer than others because usually you are grading every little detail, from the cleanliness of the outside of the building all the way to whether you were offered a dessert.
If you are learning how to become a mystery shopper, you might be wondering about the types of mystery shops you can do, so here are some examples of ones I have done:
- Restaurants. These range from cheaper restaurants where I'm reimbursed for around $30 worth of food, all the way up to nice steakhouses where I would receive $100 of free food.
- Dealerships. Bestmark has a ton of dealership shops available, but the only secret shops I have done with car dealerships are ones where I make a phone call or schedule services online.
- I would do about 4-5 of these a week because these were the easiest shops. You don't have to drive anywhere and the surveys literally take one minute. And, I would get paid around $3 to $5 for them.
- They also have dealership secret shops where you go in and pretend you want a car. These usually pay around $20.
- Retail. I mainly did Estee Lauder secret shops, and I've done a lot of these. I've received foundation, lotion, toner, face wash, concealer, lip gloss and so on, all for free! These aren’t samples sizes either – I received over $200 in free makeup, plus paid around $10 for each mystery shop as well.
- I've also done a couple of Best Buy shops. These are easy too. You just survey a certain department (takes like a minute), and then you can just buy something small like a candy bar so that you can prove that you were actually there and performed the mystery shop. Best Buy shops usually paid around $13. Not a ton, but there was a Best Buy on the way home from work so I could easily pop in to mystery shop.
The highest paid shops I did were usually for restaurants. I've done a couple of nice restaurants where I had to eat over $100 worth of food. Crazy! I've also seen hotel mystery shops (where you stay at a hotel for free), but I was never able to do them because the days didn’t work for me.
One of the other things you should know if you are wanting to learn how to become a mystery shopper is what happens if you can’t complete the task when you are supposed to.
If you find that you cannot do a shop that you sign up for, all you usually do is contact your scheduler and say you need to reschedule or cancel. I don’t suggest doing this too often though. These schedulers will remember you, and if you're good to them, they will give you good shops, so remember that!
Mystery shopping money will NOT make you rich. I want to make that clear. It's just a nice little side hustle, where you can get things you want for free!
Also, if you join Bestmark, please say I referred you! My ID is MO4999. You can join Bestmark by clicking here.
Are you interested in learning how to become a mystery shopper? Did you know that people get paid to do this?
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