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mystery shopping the smart way how to become a mystery shopper

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Get paid to shop!

get paid to shop

Mystery shopping (or secret shopping) is a great way to get paid to do what most of us already love…shop! Yes, companies will pay you to come to their stores, restaurants, hotels, and make sure the employees are doing what they are supposed to do.

As someone who has lots of experience in this field, I will share with you:

  • how to become a mystery shopper
  • what to expect on a job
  • how much mystery shoppers get paid
  • how to make the most money as a mystery shopper
  • what companies are legit
  • options to work from home as a mystery shopper


I have made $1,000’s as a shopper. And this is one of my favorite side hustles. So, pay close attention. You’ll be the best mystery shopper in no time!

What is secret shopping?

what is mystery shopping

The job of mystery shopping also called secret shopping, is when companies pay to have people come into their business, pretend that they are a regular customer, and evaluate their experience with that business. Shoppers evaluate things such as customer service, making sure prices are posted, displays, and cleanliness. Typically, the shopper must complete a report after the visit, then submit it to the hiring entity.

For this job, people are usually hired as independent contractors by a company that is hired by the business that needs evaluating. (ie. Best Buy will pay a company to find shoppers, and that company will do all the communication, and distributing payments between the shopper and the business). Basically, the mystery shopping company is the “middle-man.”

There are two types of shops reveal, and non-reveal. Let me break those down:

  • Reveal: At some point during the job, the shopper will reveal to the employees that they are a mystery shopper.
  • Non-Reveal: The shopper does not reveal that they are a mystery shopper. Instead, the employees will find out (usually from their manager) that the shopper was there after the report is submitted.

Most jobs are non-reveal. Hence, the name, mystery shopper.


What to expect during an assignment…

mystery shopping

These days, secret shopper jobs can be done from home or at the location of the business. Working as a shopper from home is a great option for social distancing.

If you are doing a job from home, you will likely be asked to make a phone call, request home delivery, get a home service quote, or do a virtual tour. I have also seen jobs for virtual tours of daycares and senior centers. I have also done phone shops for catering and restaurant reservations.

When doing the job, expect to pay for any goods or services that require payment at the time of service, then get reimbursed. This is why it is important to make sure you are working for a legit company. I will provide you a list of legit companies below.

Shops at a location often include:

  • hotels
  • restaurants
  • stores
  • cruises
  • parking lots (valet and self-parking)

Sometimes, even though you are at the location, you will not even have to speak with an employee. Some companies will allow you to just take photos, or check the prices of items at the business.

Typically, jobs on location will ask you to do a specific task, such as:

  • Order food at a restaurant.
  • Stay at a hotel and order room service.
  • Shop at a gas station.
  • Buy from a store, or restaurant, then return it.


As you can see, there are a variety of requests that are asked of shoppers. So, before you take a shopping job, take a look at what they will want you to do. That way, you can be sure that you are comfortable doing it. Some people are not comfortable returning items to a store. I had one job where I was asked to ask for a specific ingredient in a salad, then change my mind after the employee added that ingredient. Awkward!

After completing a shop, expect to complete a report. They are sometimes simple questionnaires, and some involve answering open-ended questions. Make sure you take notes during shops that will require you to complete questionnaires. When taking notes, you must do it discreetly so no one realizes you are evaluating them. But expect to answer detailed questions such as the amount of time (minutes and seconds) it took for your food to come once it was ordered, or for a detailed description of the employee, including height, clothing, and even eye color.


Tips to make the most money…

make money as a mystery shopper

When you are thorough in completing shopping jobs, the company will likely trust you more. That means they will call you for more jobs and you will make more money.

Here are some things to help you become more successful at the job:

  1. Turn in your assignments in a timely manner.
  2. Make sure your reports are detailed and free of grammatical errors. I use the free program, Grammarly on my computer and iPad.
  3. Do more than one shop in a day. Map your path to find the shortest route to save time and gas money. More jobs=more money.
  4. If possible, do shops for more than one location of the same business. That way, the assignment, and reports will be similar, if not identical. This will make your job a lot easier since you’ll know what questions need to be answered.
  5. Save the receipts you get during your shops. You can turn them into free gift cards with apps such as Fetch Rewards and Shopkick. Check out my free gift card hacks to find out more!

These are the methods I use. And I have been told by people that give out the assignments that I have a reputation for being reliable. My reliability is also the reason why I sometimes get first dibs for jobs. The people that give out assignments will often remember you, and reach out via phone, text, or email to offer assignments. Now, I rarely submit for jobs. The jobs are offered to me.


How to find legit mystery shopping companies…


When looking for a legit company to shop for, never sign with a company that will require you to pay them. If they ask for money, run! It’s a scam. If they are legit, they will pay you. While most companies will require you to pay out of pocket for goods and services, then be reimbursed, you shouldn’t pay them to join their company.

The below companies are reputable companies. I have experience with all of them. So, I will give you information based on my experience with these companies. Just know, average pay will depend on your area.

  1. Bestmark: Bestmark typically pays me $10-$35 for jobs. They pay bi-weekly via direct deposit. Most of the Bestmark jobs I have done were in retail stores.
  2. Coyle Hospitality: They usually pay me $15-$150 for jobs. They pay monthly (at the end of the following month) via direct deposit. Most jobs I have done with Coyle were at restaurants and hotels. I have also done phone jobs for them. Hotels are their higher-paying jobs. Their jobs are usually in high-end places. Expect to visit 5-star places.
  3. A Closer Look: They usually pay me $15-$125 for jobs. They pay monthly (at the end of the following month) via paper check. Most jobs I have done for them were at bars, restaurants, and valet parking lots. The highest-pay job I had with them was at a bar. I got paid $125 to be there for 90 minutes, then write a detailed report which took about 45 minutes. They seem to have a lot more virtual options since the pandemic.
  4. Easy Shift: They are affiliated with AppJobs, a legit company with which I am linked. AppJobs not only has Easy Shift but many other jobs that can be done in apps. On AppJobs, Easy Shift is listed as a mystery shopping app that pays about $6 per job. (They have many other side hustles that you can do in your pajamas). Their jobs usually include quality assurance such as scanning prices in a store. So, you likely won’t have to talk to any store workers. The great thing about them is that they can pay within 48 hours after a job is approved. That’s the fastest I have ever heard. And they pay it via PayPal. So, if you need fast money, this is a great option.

It is very easy to apply to these companies. Once you’re in, you can start submitting requests for jobs. You must be approved to do a job. So, be patient. It will depend on the availability of jobs. And when you are starting out, expect to be passed over for some jobs. Experienced shoppers are given priority. And the more experience you get, the more likely you will be able to get the fancier jobs such as hotels and cruises.

When I do these jobs, I keep the receipts so I can earn free gift cards.

Follow the tips that I gave you, and you will be getting paid to shop. You can do it as an extra gig, or even a full-time job. If you would like more information on becoming a mystery shopper, check out my playlist on YouTube:



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