There are plenty of ways to make some extra cash by taking on a side job. But some of the best gigs require you to have a car, specific skills or expensive equipment, such as cameras or computer software.
Becoming a mystery shopper often comes up as an easy way to make some supplemental income. If you like to shop, what better way is there to make some money than to get paid to shop? The trouble is that mystery shopping is sometimes just that — a mystery. Many people question whether it’s even a legitimate job.
If you’re curious about what a mystery shopper does and if you need to go out and buy a wig and dark glasses to be one, here’s everything you need to know about the side hustle to finally answer the question, “Is being a mystery shopper worth it?”
What Is a Mystery Shopper?
A mystery shopper is a person hired by a retailer or marketing research company to shop at one or several locations and report back on the overall customer experience. It’s one of the few job opportunities in which you can bank on your shopping skills.
Some things a mystery shopper may be asked to report on include:
- How they were treated in person and/or on the phone
- The in-person and/or online sales process
- Store appearance and quality of the displays and merchandise
How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average pay for a mystery shopping side hustle is $20 per hour. Meanwhile, Indeed reports that the average pay is $18.64 per hour. The amount you might earn depends on your level of experience, the company hiring and whether you’re a full-time, professional mystery shopper or just working on occasional projects.
7 Mystery Shopping Companies To Consider
After researching dozens of mystery shopper jobs, a closer look at some of the companies showed that many hires were disappointed with their jobs or were not paid as agreed. It’s important to use caution when accepting a mystery shopping job. Do your research about the company and see what others have to say before you agree. Here’s a look at seven legitimate mystery shopping companies.
Founded in 1986, BestMark is one of the largest and oldest mystery shopping companies around with over 600,000 mystery shoppers. You’ll be referred to as a field representative or as an evaluator. The average hourly rate for a BestMark mystery shopper is $13, according to Glassdoor, but it depends on the assignment. BestMark does not hire shoppers full time. Instead, you’ll work for yourself as an independent contractor.
Applying for BestMark mystery shopper jobs is simple. Visit the website to set up an account and submit a job application.
IntelliShop hires mystery shoppers for a variety of top brands. Once you’re approved, you can find out about opportunities via email or by checking the job board.
To increase your chances of getting hired for the best assignments, focus on earning the highest possible rating you can get. You will be scored after every job, based on whether you were on time, whether you followed the instructions and the thoroughness of your reports. You can also increase your rating to access the best jobs by accepting jobs that offer a Hero Citation, which is a note on your record that lets coordinators know that you’re a reliable shopper.
To get started, visit the IntelliShop shopper hub and apply to join the team.
3. Market Force
Market Force is a good way to break up mystery retail shopping work. Many of its assignments are food-related, although it has a large client base. Some of the companies you may get hired for include those in the following industries:
- Grocery stores
- Gas station convenience shops
- Health and wellness
- Financial services
To become a Market Force mystery shopper, you’ll need to fill out an application.
4. Service Evaluation Concepts
Service Evaluation Concepts provides elite mystery shopping to brands, including Aveda, Cartier, Macy’s, Kroger and Lego. SEC mystery shoppers undergo two levels of certification. Its brand agents are shoppers who have been tested and certified in SEC’s policies and procedures. Certified brand agents also have demonstrated understanding of specific client engagements. As a result of their advanced training, certified brand agents receive privileged status for work and higher earning potential. Uncertified mystery shoppers, referred to as research participants, can also perform mystery shops, but they’re unable to select assignments — they only work if an SEC project liaison specifically selects them.
SEC pays $10 to $50 or more per assignment. In addition, you’ll receive free food or products related to the job.
As with any online job, you should never pay to get work first — don’t sign up for certification until you’ve established a track record with the company on other jobs. Visit the SEC assignment page to preview the work in your area. To apply to become a research participant, you’ll need to enter some basic information, including your contact info.
5. Secret Shopper
Secret Shopper has been providing companies mystery shopping services for over 25 years. Secret Shopper pays $15 to $25 per job on average. Some jobs only provide you with a free meal or reimbursement for the item you have to purchase. It may not be the highest-paying service, but it may still be worth your time to gain some experience in the mystery shopping world or get the opportunity to visit a casino resort for free or try lunch at a new cafe on someone else’s dime.
To sign up as a secret shopper, choose your country and complete the online application.
6. Signature Worldwide
If you’d rather work from home, you can still make money as a mystery shopper when you work with Signature Worldwide. A current opening on Signature’s website indicates the job pays $10 per hour, paid bimonthly.
The company provides telephone mystery shopping services to companies in an array of industries, such as:
- Construction and equipment rental
- Hotels and resorts
- Casinos and spas
- Apartment leasing
- Assisted living communities
- Party rental
- Medical offices
- Government agencies
- Diet centers
7. Sinclair Customer Metrics
Sinclair provides its clients with in-person, phone and video mystery shopping services. You may be hired to mystery shop the client’s location or one of its competitors to provide intelligence. Sinclair Customer Metrics focuses on banking, grocery stores, restaurants and retail. One of Sinclair’s mystery shoppers reported to Indeed that they earn $10 per hour.
To apply, you’ll need to fill out an online form for new shoppers, complete a survey and review the terms and expectations for your role as a shopper. You’ll need to take the Sinclair New Shopper Challenge, which is a questionnaire that confirms you have read and understand the terms.
Mystery Shopper Scams To Look Out For
As with all online job-related offers, there are scams you need to watch out for.
Good To Know
Be wary of any online shopper jobs that promise you’ll earn thousands of dollars per month or promise to send you a check upfront. In addition, any mystery shopping websites asking you to pay money upfront are also probably a scam.
The Federal Trade Commission has other good tips on what to avoid:
- Don’t wire money.
- Avoid newspaper help wanted ads.
- Skip companies that require you to pay for training first.
- Don’t pay fees to access mystery shopping job listings.
Is Being a Mystery Shopper Worth It?
Working as a mystery shopper is a flexible alternative to a 9-to-5 job. You can learn more about the businesses in your local area and hone your observation and customer service skills. You’ll need to watch out for scams, but if you invest some time reading and researching the best mystery shopper websites, you could find a new way to earn some supplemental cash.
Daria Uhlig contributed to the reporting for this article.
Information is accurate as of Jan. 2 2022.