The Truth About Mystery Shopping

Updated on: by Miranda Grimm

The Truth About Mystery Shopping

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As the one of the leading sources for flexible job leads, gets a lot of people asking about Mystery Shopping.  Is it a scam?  Is it legitimate?  Can I really make a living shopping?

The answers are:

Yes, there are some scams.

Yes, there are many that are legitimate.

But the most important thing to know is that mystery shopping should be seen as supplemental income.

Some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores. They want to find pertinent customer service information such as: speed of service, quality of product, knowledge of employees, etc.  Most of the time these companies use mystery shoppers to get the information anonymously. They assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed and can keep the product. After completing an extensive questionnaire on the experience, they are paid a fee.  Many professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best.

If you are interested in becoming a mystery shopper, you should know that most mystery shopping assignments usually pay between $1.00 and $80.00, with the majority falling between $10.00 and $25.00.  But the fun part is shopping and keeping the products.

Tips for Becoming a Mystery Shopper

Go to the Experts:

Find your local Mystery Shopping Company through reputable associations that require the companies to uphold ethical standards.  Associations like the Mystery Shopper Providers Association (MSPA) list over 250 screened Mystery Shopping Companies in the U.S.

If They Don’t Screen Don’t Shop!:

Avoid companies that don’t screen prospective shoppers or say that there are no requirements to work for them.  Most mystery shopping companies work for specific industries or companies that are looking for a specific type of shopper.  Their clients want to use the information garnered by mystery shoppers to help their customer service programs as well as their marketing programs.  Most reputable mystery shopping companies will be looking for specific consumer demographics to fill needed positions.  Also, most mystery shopping firms give applicants a test. The test can cover basic skills like spelling and grammar, but also more subtle attributes like keen observational skills.  Their clients want detail-oriented people who can follow explicit instructions. They need people who are observant and can collect the data the companies have requested.

They Pay You!:

Avoid companies that ask you to pay them to start.  Mystery Shopping companies are being paid to find the demographic match for their clients and facilitate their mystery shopping program.  They should not look to their mystery shoppers to make money.  Never sign up for companies that ask for a credit card or banking information to apply.  In fact, members of the MSPA are forbidden to charge shoppers.

Research the Mystery Shopping Company:

Go to the Better Business Bureau website and complete a quick check.  We recommend avoiding companies with low scores.  But if the company you are thinking about applying to has a low grade and you are still interested, research why they have a low grade.  Is it because they are a new company with very little history or is it because of consumer complaints? If consumer complaints are noted, inquire with the company about their score.

Can You Drop In?: 

Make sure the company has a physical street address and a working telephone number.  We always tell people to be cautious if there is no way to contact or visit the actual corporate office.

-Partial Excerpt From The Couch Commuter:  Finding Work from Home Jobs by Noelle Frieson

Read More: The Top 19 Legit Mystery Shopping Companies To Work Remotely

About Noelle Frieson:

Noelle Freiman of JobProsper.comNoelle Frieson is the author of “The Couch Commuter:  Finding Work from Home Jobs” and the Founder and CEO of, a low-cost membership service that identifies and screens legitimate flexible and work from home jobs. Frieson currently has a weekly radio show, Trending with Noelle Frieson, on WKMB The Buzz and had a daily jobs segment on WPIX Channel 11 Morning News in New York City in 2011 and 2012.  Frieson has been featured in numerous media outlets across the country.

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Max Jones

July 5, 2017 at 12:35 pm

I’ve always been curious about secret shopping, and how it works. I’m glad that you talked about a secret shopping trip paying out on average between $10 and $25, but that you get to keep the things you purchased. I’m going to have to see if my wife and I could give secret shopping a try and make a few extra dollars one of these days! Thanks for the info!