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You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Do something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” It sounds like great advice, but it’s tough to find a job that’ll pay you to have fun.
Luckily if you love shopping, getting a mystery shopping assignment might just be the answer to being paid to doing what you love.
While a mystery shopping job might not pay you enough to quit your day job, it can be a great way to make some extra money while doing something enjoyable.
After all, what could be better than shopping while getting paid to do it.
What Mystery Shoppers Do
Mystery shoppers are tasked with going into retail stores, restaurants, and other business posing as a customer and completing purchases of items.
Shoppers are are given lists of tasks to complete and information to gather during each shop.
At the end of the experience, shoppers report back to their employers about a variety of things related to their shop, such as how well they were treated, how knowledgeable the staff was about certain products, and how clean the store or facility was.
Reputable companies will not only reimburse shoppers for the goods purchased during the shop, but will also pay a fee to the shopper for their time.
To be successful as a mystery shopper you’ll need to be very detail oriented. A company will want to know as much information about the shop as possible.
Remembering names of employees, products, and specific details about the shop are important.
Having a good memory, keeping detailed mental notes, and being able to communicate them via a written evaluation form at the end of your shop is the most important trait that a mystery shopper can have.
Many mystery shoppers recommend filling out notes either on paper or on your mobile device as soon as you leave the store.
Remember, the better the details that you can provide to the company regarding your shopping experience the more valuable your shopping is, and the more likely you are to get more work from them.
There are all kinds of shopping assignments. The variety ranges from restaurants, clothing stores, banks, even entertainments facilities such as movie theaters and amusement parks. Try to find a company that will give you an opportunity to shop at places that are going to be fun for you to visit.
Watch Out For Scams
Usually the most difficult part of mystery shopping is finding a reputable company to work for. It’s good to know before you apply to be a shopper that there are a lot of scams out there, so you need to be careful.
Before we even get into the list of the most trustworthy companies, let’s look at some things that you should know about the various scams you might run into.
1. Be wary of any company that is offering to pay you large amounts of money as a mystery shopper.
Mystery shopping can make you some good side money, but it’s not going to replace your regular job. If you see an ad for a big paycheck, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.
Most sites pay between $5 and $50 for your time, depending on the type of shopping and difficulty of the task.
2. Never pay a fee to join a mystery shopping company. Like any other reputable job, you won’t be paying them to do work, they should be paying you.
3. Never wire anyone money. There are numerous scams where companies will claim they want you to collect details about MoneyGram or Western Union.
They will ask you to deposit a check or money order into your account and ask you to send money to someone using these services. These are scams, and the money you are depositing is not real.
While there are plenty of scams, there are a number of reputable companies out there, including those on this list. Here are some common things that might be asked of you from a real company.
1. It’s normal to have to pay for items during your shop out of your own pocket. For example, if you are tasked with buying a coffee at Starbucks, you will mostly likely have to pay for this on your own. However, reputable companies will reimburse you for this purchase.
2. You may have to provide a social security number to a company. Companies have to pay you, and that means getting your information for tax purposes. If you are using one of the companies provided in this article, there’s no need to worry about providing it, it’s just the terms of employment.
3. Companies will often ask a lot of questions during the interview process. Their trying to find the individuals that best find the demographics of their shops, so don’t be discouraged.
Here Are The Best Companies
Now that you know what to look for, here are some of the best places that we could find to work as a secret shopper.
A Closer Look is one of the best reviewed mystery shopper companies. It has been around since 1994, and their shops include retail stores, restaurants, and motels.
A Closer Look also states clearly before every shop exactly how much you will be reimbursed, so make sure when you’re shopping not to go over this amount.
Before becoming a shopper you will be required to pass a short 10 question test which last about 30 minutes. Once you do have a paying shop, you’ll get paid out the 3rd Friday of every month via check.
As with all of the these company qualification tests, make sure that you pay close attention to the details and the instructions, as they are trying to make sure that you can follow the shopping instructions accurately.
2. About Face
About Face is another company with a reputable name in the industry. Shoppers at About Face usually earn between $25 -$45 per assignment. Payments are made 45 days after your shop via PayPal.
If you like amusement parks and related entertainment, this is the company for you. Amusement Advantage specializes in theme parks, which means that you can make money while getting your roller coaster fix.
Users say that the pay for Amusement Advantage is typically not large, but usually covers the cost for 1 or 2 people at a park, which is a pretty good deal considering the cost of the paying for an amusement park on your own.
If you’re planning on going to a park anyway, this is great way to get a discounted day of entertainment.
BestMark is the largest mystery shopping company out there, and has great reviews from it’s shoppers.
According to their site, BestMark does more than 10,000 shops per month, and their clientele include many Fortune 500 companies, so you’ll have a great chance of finding a shop in your area and being able to do shop at a place that you’ll enjoy.
BestMark pays a flat fee based on your shop, and will reimburse you for the items that you purchase.
Confero is one of the oldest companies on this list, being around since 1986. It has good reviews from shoppers.
As with many of these companies, Confero rates it’s shoppers after every shop, so it’s important that you can provide accurate and detailed information about your experience.
Confero pays a varying amount depending on the complexity of the shop. According to their site, they pay on the 20th of every month via PayPal.
6. GBW (Also known as GAPbuster Worldwide)
GBW bills itself as a truly worldwide company, so if you don’t live in the U.S., this shopping company might be perfect for you. They have shops in over 100 countries.
GBW requires aspiring shoppers to pass a short 15 practice assignment. After successful completion of the practice shop they will pay according to the complexity of the shop you are assigned.
Shoppers are paid once a month via electronic funds transfer.
IntelliShop offers a chance to shop in a wide range of industries, so there’s a little something for everyone. They also offer internet and phone shops, so you don’t even have to leave your house.
IntelliShop has a great website which clearly lays out how to get employed as a shopper and how you’ll get paid working for them.
They typically pay shoppers between $5 and $10, and you are reimbursed the price of your shop. Payments to shoppers are made via PayPal on the 20th of every month.
Marketforce has been around since 1972, and it has a great reputation (it’s won the MSPA Shoppers Choice Award 3 years in a row), so this is a company that you should feel confident working with.
They also offers an app which allows you to schedule shops and enter your reports all from the comfort of your phone or tablet.
Perception specializes in providing mystery shoppers for healthcare services and doctors. It advertises itself as a company that helps facilities better understand patients opinions of their healthcare process.
Perception also occasionally hires for mystery phone shoppers, so if leaving the house isn’t your thing, it’s worth putting in an application and seeing if they have any phone shops happening.
If you want to help to make sure there are improvements in medical patient experiences, this is a great place to apply.
Pinnacle is a another specialized mystery shopping company, providing mystery shoppers for credit unions, banks, and other financial institutions.
They grade all of their mystery shoppers on a scale of 1-10 after they completely their shop, so if you want to continue to get assignments from this company you need to make sure that you’re consistently providing detailed reports and carefully following instructions.
Shoppers say that shops pay between $5 and $75, and that they pay once a month via PayPal.
11. Secret Shopper
Secret shopper is a well established company, which also offers the opportunity to finish your shops and do your reports via a mobile app.
Shoppers report that shops pay between $12 and $25, and that you’ll be paid via check on the 20th of every month.
12. Second to None
Second to None has been around along time (30 years), and has good reviews from shoppers.
According to their website, an average shop pays between $8 and $25. Second to None typically reimburses you for shops and pays out once a month via PayPal or direct deposit.
Another company that has been around a long time, Sinclair has been in business since 1976. In addition to regular brick and mortar shops, Sinclair also offers some phone shopping opportunities.
One of the downsides of Sinclair is that payouts come by check 60 days after the shop.
Phone Mystery Shopping companies
If mystery shopping sounds great, but you don’t want to leave the comfort of your couch, there’s plenty of options for phone and internet shops as well.
We’ve already mentioned a few companies that offer these options, but below you can find even more ways to shop from your own home.
ARC offers phone shopping and performance monitoring of call centers. According to reviews, the company pays anywhere from $3.50 to $12 per call, and phone reviewers get paid once a month via direct deposit.
Prior to becoming a mystery caller, you’ll have to participate in a training meeting where you’ll learn the basics of the company and how to perform a good phone shop.
15. Call Center QA
Call Center QA employs callers to evaluate the performance of call centers for businesses. Callers are tasked with contacting a call center hotline and detailing the interaction, similar to a mystery shop.
Employees say that before you can get paid for calls that you’ll have to perform and pass two unpaid test calls.
Once you pass the tests, you’ll be paid $5 per call. Reviewers also say that the PayPal payouts are very fast, usually within a few days.
Intelicheck has a lot of good reviews from shoppers, but their website doesn’t have a lot of information about the process.
From what we could find, Intelicheck seems to pay about $.90 a call to start, with the calls typically lasting between 3-4 minutes. While it’s not a lot, if you have some free time and would like to make some money from your living room, it might be worth checking out the website.
17. Yardi Matrix
Yardi Matrix specializes in calls to rental property managers.
As a mystery caller for Yardi Matrix you’ll be asked to call real estate properties posing as a potential renter and gather information about retail prices in different buildings and complexes.
Their website states that they want shoppers with great phone etiquette. Yardi Matrix positions are temporary, lasting 6 weeks each.
However, if you are a successful employee you can re-apply for the next cycle and if you are doing well you will most likely be asked to return, saving them from training another newcomer.
Yardi also asks employees to work roughly 10 hours a week at a rate of approximately $10 per hour, depending on how fast you are at making calls and getting the necessary information.
As you can see, there’s plenty of options to turn your shopping into money, and there’s really something for everyone out there.
Just remember that if you decide to use a company not listed here, be sure to do your homework. Check the reviews, and any ratings from the Better Business Bureau.
And with the number of options out there, if there’s anything about a company or a shop that makes you uncomfortable for any reason you should drop it and find something better.
Remember, even though you might not be able to make a living being a mystery shopper, it’s a perfect way to have some fun doing something you’d probably be doing anyway. (And if you’re looking for some other ways to make money from, check out some of our other recent articles here.)
Like many side jobs, the best plan is to sign up for multiple companies and do a few shops for each one, increasing the opportunity to find shops in your area.
And with anything, they better job you do, the more likely you’ll keep getting assignments.