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What Is a Mystery Shopper? Can You Really Get Paid to Shop?

What Is a Mystery Shopper? Can You Really Get Paid to Shop?

Have you ever wondered what is a mystery shopper or what does a mystery shopper do?  I was curious if this was a legit job so I decided to try out mystery shopping to find out.

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For years I had heard about mystery shopping.  It was one of those side jobs that I knew existed, but I didn’t know anyone personally who was a mystery shopper. 

Mystery shopping didn’t seem like a legit job.  I sometimes heard warnings against it but again, nobody I knew had any personal experience with being a mystery shopper.

I came across articles like this one about a mystery shopper who made $14,000/year

Mystery shopping has been a great side hustle to fit into my already busy life of caring for my toddler, being a search engine evaluator, working part-time outside of the home, and now blogging.

What Is a Mystery Shopper?

A mystery shopper is hired to pose as a shopper and interact with employees in an outlet to evaluate customer service. 

You are given specific tasks to do while you are in the outlet, sometimes specific people to talk to, and things you need to look for and report on. 

After your shop you will fill out a (very detailed!!!) report on your entire experience there, sometimes including exact conversations.

Clients include restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores, car dealerships, casinos, financial institutions, hotels, resorts and more.

For certain shops you are asked to purchase specific items in the store. 

Sometimes those things include ordering pizza or a meal in a restaurant.  This is one of the perks of mystery shopping – you get paid to do the shop and at times also get food or an oil change for your car or any variety of things in addition to the pay.

There are also phone and online mystery shopper jobs so you can work while at home in your pajamas. 

I have only worked the in-person shops so far because I’m not a big phone person (I hate talking on the phone) but I want to try the online mystery shops.

If you want to skip ahead and apply now to be a mystery shopper, click here.

Related content: Flexible side hustle ideas: how I made $2,300 while my toddler napped

Mystery Shopper Skills

What skills do you need to be a good mystery shopper?

I’m glad you asked. 

These are some of the skills you should have to be a good mystery shopper:

  • Be detail-oriented
  • Good written communication skills – this will be very important when you fill out the report. You need to be clear or it’s possible you will be asked questions after a review of your shop report.
  • Have a good memory – you can’t write down your interactions with an employee in sight. You have to remember a certain amount before you can get to a place where you can write down notes to jog your memory later when you fill out the detailed report
  • Be discrete – you are a secret shopper and you need to keep it that way. Don’t bust your own cover. This is probably the closest you will ever get to being a spy so enjoy that and be discrete.
  • Have good inter-personal skills – you aren’t just going into a store and buying something. You are interacting with employees in the store so you need to be friendly.
  • Be punctual in all aspects of the job – when you said you would perform the shop, in submitting your report, and submitting your invoices.

How Do You Get Paid As A Mystery Shopper?

You get paid per shop, not per hour. 

Your first mystery shopping gig you will probably be a bit slow and maybe slightly confused (I was!) but you will get faster. 

The more mystery shops you do the more comfortable you will get and you will be able to make a good hourly rate.

Most mystery shopping companies that I have seen (including the ones I worked with) pay through PayPal. 

You will set this up with them when you are hired by the mystery shopping company. 

Once you have completed shops, you fill out an invoice and send it to them with details about your shops. They usually direct pay you to PayPal within a certain amount of time depending on their terms of payment. 

You will get an email notifying you when the payment hits your account. 

Some mystery shopping companies pay by mailing you a check or direct deposit to your bank.

Related content: how to make an extra $500 this week

Cons Of Being a Mystery Shopper

No job or side job is perfect and mystery shopping is no exception. 

The main downside to being a mystery shopper is the turn-around in getting paid. 

If you need to get paid quickly, mystery shopping is probably not the best side job for you. 

It can take a couple of months to get paid for your previous shops. 

Just keep good track of your time worked and the terms that they should pay you by (net 30, net 60, etc.). 

I made a note for myself in my journal on the date I should be paid by and I would have contacted them if I hadn’t been paid by a certain date. 

This was never an issue for me but I liked to keep track of dates just in case. 

How to Become a Mystery Shopper

You will fill out an online application with a mystery shopping company

Be aware that some rumors are true and there are mystery shopping scams out there

You should not have to send money or pay to become a mystery shopper. 

They should not be sending you money before you perform any shops either. 

There are many mystery shopping companies out there and it would be impossible to review all of them.  This mystery shop company is legit and reputable and is one of my favorites that I have signed up with.

Related content: 

Final Thoughts On What Is A Mystery Shopper

If I’m curious about something, I really like to try it out myself and get experiential knowledge.  Instead of just wondering what is a mystery shopper, I became one.

If as a kid you dreamed of becoming a spy, mystery shopping is probably the closest you will ever get to that.  My first shop I found it a bit weird because of this.  I felt a bit strange spying on people and pretending to be a shopper. 

I got over it though and got more comfortable the more people I talked to in the store.

Would I do mystery shopping again? 


I am still signed up with a few mystery shopping companies. 

If the right task comes along, something that I find interesting in a good location and where the date fits in with my life, I would do another mystery shop.

Apply here to be a mystery shopper

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Alicia Byrne

Sunday 21st of June 2020

Thank you for pointing out that a good mystery shopper needs to have a good memory so that he/she can remember all the details. After reading your article, I think that being a mystery shopper sounds like a fun side job. I will definitely share this with my friends who might be interested in becoming a mystery shopper.


Monday 22nd of June 2020

Thanks Alicia! Mystery shopping is definitely a fun side hustle!

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