Mystery Shopping: What It Is and How You Can Make Money from It

Mystery shopping is one of those side hustles you wish you’d have tried out sooner, for its relatively risk-free and easy job description. Like all things, it requires enough work to actually make substantial dough from – but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be thanking all your lucky stars that you tried this venture!

Contrary to popular belief, mystery shopping is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s not something viable for long term and only a select few people turn it into a full-time gig. 

However, learning how to become a secret shopper can be a fun way to make some cash on the side, which in turn can help you out in bridging gaps in your financial goals. 

What exactly is mystery shopping?

If you run a company or know someone in the business, you’d also know full well how difficult it is to keep track of every transaction and employee. It can be hard to make sure everyone is doing their job and giving the utmost satisfactory customer experience at all times. 

Because of these, some people bring in what they call “mystery shoppers”. These people go in the store and have a look at specific things you might be concerned about, eg. employee conduct, display, customer service, product quality, etc. 

You will be a subtle observer of these concerning aspects and note your findings for later, when you bring in your observations to your employer and relay what you think of your pseudo-shopping experience.

But that’s only the vaguest description of mystery shopping, as it runs on a case to case basis and will primarily depend on the owner’s targeted concerns and what they want to be closely observed from an outsider’s point of view. There will be specific jobs offered to you which detail what you have to do exactly, and then you just have to go to the brand in question and carry it out.

How does mystery shopping work?

Like most regular tasks, mystery shopping will also require you to read through what is needed of you before accepting the job. The employer will detail the specifics of each assignment and you’ll have to choose a data you can go in the shop, within their given time frame. Most companies will also tell you how much you will get reimbursed and how much the fee would be.

Mystery shopping encompasses different types of shops such as:

  • Shopping for and purchasing specific products, like movie tickets, retail, etc.
  • Trying out services, like carpet cleaning
  • Dining out at casual restaurants
  • Pretending to buy things, like expensive jewellery, electronics, a new car, etc.
  • Calling to test a store’s customer service

By paying close attention to the details of each transaction, mystery shoppers provide a valuable service for companies through their findings, which help improve a brand’s customer service experience. 

The feedback they get from mystery shoppers can help them pinpoint flaws in their existing system and address other pressing concerns they might have.

After completing the assignment, mystery shoppers fill out reports in which they are asked various questions. Examples of these are how the worker responded to customer inquiry, the manner to which they responded, if they were welcoming, and the like.

After much of the grunt work has been done, shoppers can then submit their reports and wait to be paid.

How much do I get paid as a mystery shopper?

As you learn how to become a mystery shopper, you will find there are different categories to which these contract workers are paid. 

Typically, there are three ways secret shoppers are paid for their service:

  1. Cash and reimbursement (you’ll get paid to do the mystery shop, plus get the service/product for free)
  2. Cash payment (an example would be a phone call mystery shop when you don’t buy anything)
  3. Reimbursement (an example would be a restaurant assignment – these typically don’t pay except for free food)

Most mystery shoppers usually receive their payment via direct deposit, check, PayPal, or gift card, all within 2-4 weeks after they have completed their mystery shopping task.

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