Earn Extra Cash as a Mystery Shopper

If you enjoy going shopping, here’s a great opportunity to get paid for doing it!

In today’s competitive business environment, retailers are desperate to ensure that their shops and other outlets provide the best possible service to consumers.

To check this is the case, many now use mystery shoppers. These people visit stores anonymously – as ordinary customers, in other words – and report back on what they find. As well as physical stores, mystery shoppers evaluate websites and telephone services too.

Mystery shoppers are generally hired by specialist agencies rather than companies themselves. As a mystery shopper you will work for the agency on a self-employed basis and report back to them. The agency will pay you and (in most cases) reimburse the cost of any purchases.

This is a great opportunity for retired and semi-retired people who have some time available during the day. The work is generally interesting and enjoyable, and as well as being paid you will get a bit of fresh air and exercise as well!

Typical Tasks

Mystery shopping tasks are incredibly varied, but here are some typical assignments you may be asked to perform.

  • Visit a fast-food restaurant and order a meal. Time how long your order takes to arrive, check that the condiments area is well stocked, and visit the toilets to check for cleanliness.
  • Visit an electrical store and see how long it takes for a staff member to acknowledge you. Ask them about the different types of appliance they sell, rating their helpfulness and product knowledge.
  • Phone up a hotel and book an overnight stay, noting how easy the process is and how well the receptionist answers your queries. At the hotel evaluate the service you receive, how clean and comfortable your room is, the quality of meals, and so on.

Getting Paid

Payment rates vary, but you shouldn’t expect to earn a fortune. Although a few people do this as a full-time job, mystery shopping is best regarded as an enjoyable money-making sideline.

For a basic mystery shopping job that takes maybe 20 minutes to complete, you could expect to earn in the region of £8 to £12. Travel expenses may be paid on top of this (although by no means always).

  • One thing to bear in mind is that mystery shopping assignments often require you to make a purchase. This will normally be reimbursed, but the money may take several weeks to arrive. So if you can’t afford to be out of pocket during this time, this opportunity may not be for you.

In some cases, rather than a fee you may be offered a free or discounted product or service – a meal at a restaurant, for example. It’s up to you whether to accept such assignments. Obviously, a free meal at a nice restaurant is appealing, but you won’t make any money doing this type of job.

Where to Find Work

Mystery shopping is huge nowadays, and there are hundreds of mystery shopping agencies in the UK alone.

One leading company that works on behalf of many high street stores is Market Force. My fellow money blogger Emma Drew, a highly experienced mystery shopper, recommends Market Force as the first agency people starting out in this field should join.

To become a Market Force mystery shopper, visit their website and click on Register. You will be asked to enter some personal details and complete a short test of your spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Assuming you pass this – and it’s not exactly rocket science – you will be able to download their free app and start finding work near you. Then it’s just a matter of doing the jobs, filing your reports, and getting paid!

Some other mystery shopping agencies I have heard good reports about include Grassroots, Red Wigwam and Retail Maxim.

More Tips

Here are a few more tips for would-be mystery shoppers.

  • When you apply to mystery shopping agencies, they often ask you to write down why you think you would make a good mystery shopper. Saving this for your next application will save time in future.
  • Be sure to read any brief you receive carefully and fulfil the terms to the letter. This way you will avoid disasters, e.g. going to a shop on Monday and subsequently discovering you were required to visit at the weekend.
  • Try to schedule more than one assignment per day. If you’re making a trip across town for a mystery shop, check to see if there are any other shops nearby that also require visits.
  • Set aside time to make notes as soon as possible after completing an assignment, while the experience is still fresh in your mind. The more useful details you can provide, the better clients will rate you.
  • Don’t talk about your assignments. Most, if not all, mystery shopping agencies don’t allow you to mention their clients.

As mentioned earlier, for most people mystery shopping will be an enjoyable money-making sideline, but you can also save a lot of money on leisure activities by this means.

Mystery shoppers are also hired to assess hotels, restaurants, airlines, package holidays and even cruises – so if you enjoy travelling and eating out, you can save hundreds or even thousands of pounds on these activities. Naturally there’s a lot of competition for the most desirable assignments. Someone has to do them, though, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be you!

If you have any comments or questions about this post or mystery shopping generally, as always, feel free to post them below.

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