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Best Home Business Ideas That Earn Significant Income

Updated on August 30, 2012

Supplemental Income

Are Mystery Shopping Opportunities Worthwhile?

Mystery or Secret Shopping can be a part-time or a full-time occupation; however, it is usually part-time and good assignments with regular work can be very difficult to find.

Ads in local newspapers, particularly those aimed to the college market promise vaguely that earnings will be $125 per day. This is a rare occurrence, but with Mystery Shopping Seminar Training and Certification (a couple hundred dollars all together, often) larger-ticket assignments present themselves occasionally. CAUTION: one moderate-fee shop is the hotel/motel shop wherein a shopper uses her own credit card but walks out on the final bill and is charged accordingly. This may endanger her ever being able to book a room at that hotel chain again. So, there may be drawbacks.

However, there are a few professional mystery shopping and polling companies that can help you supplement monthly income substantially while establishing other home businesses; or, when you are between jobs outside the home.

If you have spent time on the Internet, you likely have been invited to participate in some sort of online survey. These offers may be real or fictitious, but a few offer moderate payments up to $25 or so. Many "paid survey" schemes require you to subscribe or to purchase larger-ticket products and services first. A related activity, paid focus groups, can pay up to hundreds of dollars, but only one time.

You can go to to read about many legitimate Mystery Shopping companies that really pay you what and when they say they will pay, if you perform the required work in the exact way prescribed. Some pay within two weeks and some take 6 weeks to 3 months for payment, but they do pay.

Do not ever pay a mystery shopping company. Those on Volition will not ask for money or sell shopping directories.

Perhaps you'd rather accumulate some brand of Bonus Points that can be redeemed for gifts, gift cards, or cash. Some survey or email programs can lead to this activity as well, but after the first year of participation, you likely will run out of offers to accept that pay Bonus Points.


Many surveys target people aged 18 or 21 through 49 years old only. It seems that very few want to talk to 50+ year-olds, It's because the marketing belief is that people over 50 have their minds made up and won't buy new things. That may be partially correct, but they also have seen most of the scams and less-effective products and services already and don't want to waste any more time and money - even if the new things are good.

However, plenty of people over the age of 50 are eager to try new things, like Baby-Boomers. They still like to experiment with new things. NASA has even briefly operated a training program for seniors from 50 to 80+ in one study. One man and his son trained in that program and the story landed in the local news.

Mystery Shopping

A search for "mystery shopping" in a major search engine will yield a huge number of results. Some companies suspended the use of mystery shopping companies since the minimum wage increased and the Great Recession, but they made a comeback.

Mystery Shopping can help increase business by providing:

  • Ability to identify weaknesses in client and shopping processes via monitoring.
  • Better understanding of the perceptions companies create in the public eye.
  • Creation of better customer service focus, motivating staff to provide good customer service.
  • Improvement of staff moral - as good customer service is recognized and rewarded and poor achievers are given training.
  • Increase shopping and client recruitment and retention, as a result of improved customer service and products.
  • Opportunity to ensure one's organizational standards and policies are met or exceeded. Most companies want to exceed nowadays, through "continuous improvement."

Significant Differences

It is important to differentiate between online survey/opinion events and mystery/secret shopper opportunities, since there are clear differences.

Opinion campaigns represent filling in surveys based on feedback you can provide for products and services. Frequently these are based on profile criteria that you establish with the marketing company. Be prudent about logging personal information online. It is safer and more effective to register in your hometown with a local market research company; but, large mystery shopping companies protect their shoppers from Identity Theft.

Mystery or secret shoppers go to business establishments like movie theaters, restaurants, and retail stores and monitor service based on criteria that is given them by the mystery shopping company. These opportunities can also be very enjoyable since it is possible to visit restaurants for free food, see the latest movies, stay in a hotel and be reimbursed for the cost, etc.

Beginning the Right Way

There are some important criteria to follow when selecting survey/poll campaigns in which you want to participate. Start by choosing a few sites that offer paid surveys and then read carefully what they are offering. Some sites will provide direct access to the marketing companies that put forth the surveys. Then browse the database and apply for the surveys you like. Some sites act as intermediaries -- the "go between" connecting the marketing company and the participant. These sites have agreements with large marketing companies from which they receive surveys. These sites distribute surveys through registered users. In this case, you will have to wait for polls to be sent to you to complete.

Not all opinion polls pay cash or anything at all. They might provide a free product, a product sample, or a service, coupons, or even discounts at certain merchants, free trials, or free 2-for-1s (take a friend with you for free). There are also polls that only hold a contest based upon survey completion and these can be difficult to win.

How Do You Receive Money?

Another important criterion of participation is how you will receive the cash and who is paying. If you have joined a go-between site, you are usually paid by that site, not the one sending the survey. If you joined a database of companies seeking survey participants, you may be paid by the surveying company. Regardless, you should be aware of what the payment is and how you will get it. Some pay only through PayPal. Be sure to check your contact details very carefully. Make sure that your personal information matches what you originally submitted. The don't be surprised if you receive more junk mail and junk email regularly. Some companies provide your information to other companies, some do not. It will/should be in the fine print.

There are some fraudulent survey websites that attempt to lure you to participate in cash paid surveys, only to receive your personal financial information. Your personal financial information can later be sold to many other companies or used for Identity Theft.

Focus groups with marketing firms pay larger amounts than online opinions and surveys, but you may not be able to find them in your area. Check you local classified section in the newspaper for announcements.

Comments and Suggestions

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    • profile image

      Mystery Shopping Companies 

      10 years ago

      A simple rule to remember.

      No legitimate mystery shopping company will EVER ask you for money.

      The majority of mystery shopping scammers ask you to send them money up front in exchange for some greater amount being returned to you after the shop is complete. Real companies don't ever operate this way.

    • profile image

      becky nicholls 

      11 years ago

      Thank god there is peoplelike you patty to warn people of some of the pitfalls and scams out there , its hard enough trying to get a job to work from home these days to fit in with the children. regards becky

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      The only survey thsat ever paid me anything was Your2Cents -- and not much at that.

    • Live N Learn profile image

      Live N Learn 

      11 years ago from Las Vegas

      Many thanks for the information. I was thinking of getting into online survey jobs lately but because I'll be careful now that I read your hub.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Central Ohio is a big shopping site I think and a test market, so I know a few people that do a lot of mystery shopping. One woman in Virginia made $1,000 per month for awhile with it, but had to drive a lot. Fortunately, she was getting very good gas mileage from her car. I don't know how much money can be made with mystery shopping but there are some high-end jobs that pay $50 each. MOst pople I know do it part-time.

    • mgwhite profile image

      Mary White 

      11 years ago from Mobile, AL

      I can second that Volition is a great site. Be careful of scams - avoid the companies that try to charge money to help you find mystery shopping gigs. If you put in a little bit of time on Volition signing up with the legitimate services, you'll find out about a ton of legit mystery shopping gigs (assuming you live in an area that is heavily shopped).

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Learnt a lot of new things here. Never heard about mystery shopping; thanks, Patty!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Yes, I have found surveys that pay actual money hard to find. Sometimes they get to the end and you recieve a message "Ooops! Sorry! Our quota is filled."

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      11 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      As you pointed out it is very hard to make any legit money doing surveys etc. That old saying 'tread careful it's a jungle out there' is very true especially when trying out schemes that seem to be too good.... This from is experience that I say this

      Great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy


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