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Mystery Shopping

Updated on August 5, 2015

Mystery shopping is a fun, extremely easy way to add a few extra dollars to your income. A lot of people, however, seem to go into mystery shopping thinking it is a get rich quick scheme, or they will be going on vacations and get paid for it. No, mystery shopping will not make you rich. In fact, I think it would be difficult to make a living off of mystery shopping alone, but with perisistence and hard work it just may be possible. While some people may receive offers for a plane ticket or such, you're not going on an all expense paid two week long cruise. Some people genuinely believe that all mystery shopping opportunities are scams. Now, while some mystery shopping opportunities are scams, there are also some legit mystery shopping companies as well.

Signs it's a scam

  • It seems too good to be true (it probobly is)
  • Promises of a high cash payout (they don't pay you $300 for one assignment that involves eating at McDonalds)
  • They charge you money to be a mystery shopper for them


No, not all mystery shopping opportunities are scams, but some are. There are a few strategies to use when mystery shopping to identify the scammers and the legit ones. First of all, if it looks to good to be true, it probobly is. There was a scam going around for awhile where a company would get your information when you applied for a mystery shopping job. This company would then mail you a check for a thousand or two (I can not remember the exact amount.) They would include a nice little letter informing you that this was your first assignment, and you were supposed to cash the check, open a western union account, and blah blah blah. Once you cashed the check, the bank would give you your money, which you would then wind up owing back to the bank, and the person behind this scam got your bank information. See how that works? Now, a mystery shopping company is not going to ask you to do something like that and mail you a random check for a couple grand. A majority of mystery shopping jobs require that you pay for the item, and then they reimburse you for that. Another way to identify a scam is that a legit mystery shopping company will not charge you to be a mystery shopper. Finally, to avoid scams, check out This is a spectacular website for potential mystery shoppers. It provides recruitment boards, available jobs with links to the site where you can become a mystery shopper for that particular company, information on how to become a certified mystery shopper, and is an extremely safe site in regards to scams.

Do you have to be certified to be a mystery shopper?

No. While some companies may prefer that you are a Certified Mystery Shopper, it is not a requirement for all mystery shopping companies.

What qualifications do I need to be a mystery shopper?

There is a bit more to mystery shopping than simply buying a product, and saying it was a great experience. First of all, you will need to have an eye for detail, and a relatively decent memory. You will be expected to remember the names of the people that helped you in the store (manager, cashier, etc.) and particular things about the location, such as cleanliness, whether or not employees were in uniform, etc. That may sound like a lot, but it's quite easy once you do it a few times. Also, before mystery shopping you will be provided with a sheet that you are expected to fill out. This lets you know what you will need to look for and remember. You can even fill out the sheet in your car or make notes on your phone provided you are not seen doing anything that would give away the fact that you are a mystery shopper.

Technology. Now in order to be a mystery shopper, you need to have some basic knowledge of technology. Communication is done via e mail, so you will need to have an e mail, as well as access to a computer. After the mystery shopping is complete, you will also need to be able to properly upload a copy of the receipt. This can be done via scanner, phone, or however you choose to do it. Once you become a mystery shopper, the companies you do assignments for can provide assistance if needed.

How much money do you REALLY make?

This one often depends on the person, and the jobs. While one company may only pay five dollars and reimbursement for restaurant shop, another company may pay you ten. Some companies believe that being reimbursed for what you bought (a new shirt, a meal, etc.) is ample payment and only provide reimbursement. Mystery shopping companies also provide a limit for reimbursement. If you are doing a mystery shop at Macy's, they may only give you a ten-fifteen dollar spending limit. Going over that limit is typically okay, but you will only be reimbursed the maximum limit allowed.

How do I get started?

Once you have decided to give mystery shopping a try, my personal advice is to visit the link above, and apply at as many mystery shopping companies as possible. Many mystery shopping companies will not require you to do assignments. You have the option of receiving an e mail, and selecting the assignments you wish to do. If you are an independent contractor for several different companies, you will have more options and are more likely to come across assignments in your area as well. (Please note how I stated specifically INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. You will not be considered an employee for these companies, and it clearly states this in the terms and conditions. Read the fine print.) Good luck!


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    • writingmom profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Good hub! I am a mystery shopper too! I love it!

    • Angel198625 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Lynn 

      7 years ago

      Thanks billy, and thanks for the tips BestMark! BestMark was one of the first mystery shopping companies I also did shops for :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

      I think the best way to keep making more mystery shopping is by signing up for every mystery shopping company you can and checking the forums so you have a lot more shops to choose from. I currently shop for BestMark and MarketForce and check Volition's forum.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well that was interesting. I had no idea how you went about doing this. I have heard of mystery shoppers but I had never heard how one became a shopper. Thanks for the info!

    • Angel198625 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Lynn 

      7 years ago

      Yes I have done mystery shops before, and the experience in itself was fun. Also, I have taken my children with me if allowed and still been able to pull of a successful shop. I feel that one is on a person to person basis and the ability to multitask, as well as depending on the shop. Thanks for the great comments though, and I actually got one of those checks in the mail as well. It stated that the company also used my bank, so if I would have tried to cash it, they would have done so, and I would have fallen for that scam. It seemed to good to be true, so I googled it, and found out it was a scam!

    • RichardPac profile image


      7 years ago from Sunny Florida!

      I had to chuckle when I read your article and saw the photo. I have done many mystery shops and the woman in the grocery store with 3 kids is very unrealistic when it comes to the documentations and concentration it takes to pull off a success shop. Great info though! Awesome advice on how to avoid a scam. I was fortunately enough to do a mystery shop for a rather large upscale hotel chain, now that was fun!

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 

      7 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      Interesting! Have you been a mystery shopper? I think it would be a fun reason to shop! Voted up and interesting!

    • montecristo profile image

      Angel Caleb Santos 

      7 years ago from Hampton Roads, Virginia

      Good hub. Well made with lots of good information.


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