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The Truth About Mystery Shopping

If you’ve ever considered becoming a secret shopper to make extra money, you probably have a lot of questions. How much do mystery shoppers make? Are secret shopping jobs legitimate? Are there scams related to mystery shopping? Keep reading, because we’re about to answer those questions and more.     young woman doing some mystery shopping in a clothing store

 What is Mystery Shopping, Exactly?

Many types of businesses, including retail stores, fast food restaurants, and car dealerships, use mystery shoppers to get feedback about their products and services and improve the customer experience.

The mystery shopper usually spends time in the business, interacts with the staff, makes a purchase, has a meal or takes a test drive, (in the case of auto dealerships), then writes up a detailed review of their experience from start to finish.

How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Make?

Pay rates for mystery shopping vary widely, but usually mystery shoppers are paid a flat fee per shopping event; anywhere from $5-$25. In some cases, retailers will also reimburse all or part of the price of the item purchased. Restaurant mystery shops often pay for your meal only, without any additional pay.

Keep in mind that in addition to the time it takes you to shop, you’ll want to factor in travel time to and from the location, as well as the time it will take to write up and submit the review. Mystery shopping won’t replace a full-time job, but it is a good way to make extra money on a flexible schedule. Forbes reports one woman made $14,000 in a year being a mystery shopper in addition to her full-time job as a legal secretary.

Can Anyone be a Mystery Shopper?

Different types of businesses want to receive feedback from a wide range of demographics, so just about anyone over the age of 18 can potentially get into secret shopping. There are certain traits and skills that allow mystery shoppers to be successful. These include:

  • Being detail oriented
  • Having the ability to multi-task
  • Possessing strong face-to-face communication skills
  • Being able to write clearly and concisely
  • Having a flexible schedule

Is Mystery Shopping a Good Way to Make Money Fast?

Being a mystery shopper can evolve into a lucrative part-time job, but it won’t start out that way. Once you register to become a mystery shopper, it can take a while before you’re sent on your first assignment. And once you complete assignments, it can take up to a month or more to get paid. So if you’re looking for short-term, quick cash, it’s not the way to go.

Are All Mystery Shopping Opportunities Legitimate?

Unfortunately, as the popularity of mystery shopping has increased, so too, have mystery shopping scams. When getting up and running as a mystery shopper, you’ll want to take care to only register with legitimate secret shopping agencies or directly with retailers. Some signs a potential mystery shopping opportunity may be a scam include:

  • Being asked to pay up front for classes or training
  • Promises of high-dollar assignments
  • Being asked to purchase big-ticket electronics using your own credit card
  • Receiving unsolicited emails or text messages with mystery shopping offers

To avoid mystery shopping scams, be careful, do your research, ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to walk away from an opportunity if anything seems suspicious.

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