Mystery Shopping needs time, money and gas. Is it worth it?

Wanted extra cash...

As a stay-at-home-mom I knew I was going to have a lot of work - cleaning, cooking and of course, taking care of my daughter. After a few months of doing this, I kind of got bored. Not because I wasn't busy and not because it's not fulfilling, but because I needed to do something else, sometimes. So, I looked for something to do and found mystery shopping...

Restaurants, Retail, and Financial Shops!

After a year...

I live in a "young" booming town. Well, it was until the recession - but, it's still booming, a bit. The population is small at only about 100 000. So, when I applied to mystery shopping companies and got accepted into their programs, I found I was being emailed by all of them. Interesting, I thought.

It was in fact. I was able to do shops for restaurants including big name companies like Earls, Pizza Hut, KFC, Moxie's Grill and McDonald's; business shops like Canadian Tire, SportChek, Save-On-Foods and Sobeys; and even banking shops. Restaurant shops often reimburse you for the set amount for the meal and a fee, usually $10. But, in my town because I was the only shopper (at first,) I could wait just a few days or weeks and get a bonus for the shops - maybe another $10 to $30 more for the same job. So I did that.

I found out, after checking out tax information, that as an independent contractor I could actually claim deductibles on my tax return. I basically have my own business - wow, I thought, I am self-employed. You can deduct the cost of office supplies; the use of electricity and gas (ie. you must use a computer and you are working at home when you write up the evaluations); internet and phone costs (even cell phone plans); car insurance; depreciation costs on capital costs like computers, printers, the desk/furniture that you use for the business; and a few other costs. Naturally, if the meals have been reimbursed you can't deduct the cost of meals.

In 2009, I made (and/or saved,) including the cost of meals and other shops, about $2300. I thought this was great because I like eating out, and my husband and I would not have eaten out if it weren't for the mystery shops. Yes, they do take time to complete (because of the time you use to go to these businesses and the time it takes to complete the evaluations online) and you need money first before you can get money (not just to pay for the meals, or to purchase items, but for gas too,) but because I got the bonuses high enough and some of my costs are tax deductible - including the accounting fees at H&R Block. 

Another reason I think it was worth it was seeing the changes that actually took place. The service industry businesses I mystery shopped for responded to my evaluations by fixing the things that made me have a poor opinion of their business. I was really happy to see that businesses cared about customer opinion and feedback. I never thought I'd be taken seriously but I was. With this and my savings, I have to conclude that it was worth it.

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Comments 8 comments

Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California

Good hub! I've wondered about Mystery Shoppers, received emails but unsure what it entailed.


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago Author

Thanks Missi! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Very interesting. Earning money while going to the restaurant seems pretty good. Rated up.


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 6 years ago Author

Thanks hypnodude! It's worth it if the evaluations don't take too long to do. And, after doing a bunch of them, I've become selective on which ones I do.. time is money after all.


Colleen 4 years ago

How do you know which companies are legitimate? I have been trying to find Mystery Shopper jobs in Calgary.


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 4 years ago Author

Hi Colleen,

For one thing they don't pay extremely well. So it's a scam usually if they say it's $25/hr, etc., because you don't get paid hourly (unless it is a merchandising job.) There are bank, retail, grocery, automobile, restaurant and fast food shops. You could google them but often the types that might show up are sites that ask you to pay them to see who these companies are. It doesn't cost anything to join the actual mystery shopping companies. It's just hard to find out who they are... I do know.. but I can't post it here, lol, it's all suppose to be "anonymous/secret."

If you do find one, you usually have to "apply" before they let you join them. They ask you to write about a recent positive retail/restaurant customer service experience and a negative customer experience describing details about the experience. And, they usually have a web form that lets you click the types of shops you are interested in doing. They also ask if you have access to a computer, scanner, camera, cell phone, vehicle.

And, they ask you to tell them a little bit about you. Most do not ask you for SIN because they pay only by sending you a cheque or via PayPal. They don't really need your SIN.

Hope that helps!


emily 3 years ago

just wondering what company you worked for?


DebtFreedom profile image

DebtFreedom 3 years ago Author

One of them is Premier Services. There's a bunch.

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