You could get paid to shop as a mystery shopper.

You could get paid to shop as a mystery shopper.

I love shopping. I love making money, too…so I have more money to shop with. So I guess it’s only natural that I’m a part-time mystery shopper for several companies. I have found that you will not get rich as a mystery shopper, but it can be a nice second income, and you may even get some free items in the process. Here are my tips for a successful mystery shopping career:

1. NEVER pay money to mystery shop. Many ads will offer to hook you up with mystery shops for a fee. Don’t do this. There is lots of info available online about reputable mystery-shopping companies, and you don’t have to pay any money to get it.

2. Sign up. There are a ton of companies out there. The ones I like are Sinclair (, Customer Service Experts (, and Shoppers’ Critique ( Go to their websites and sign up as a mystery shopper. You may have to jump through a few hoops and answer some test questions to get registered, but it’s not that hard.

3. Check frequently for opportunities. Most companies will email you with shops in your area when they’re available. They can go quickly, so look at your e-mail frequently. The first to respond usually gets the shop.

4. Take it seriously and follow the rules. If you commit to doing a shop on a certain time and date, and in a certain manner, then do it. Flaking out on a job is the quickest way to ruin your reputation as a mystery shopper. Also, some shops have rules about how you conduct the shop; sometimes you are not allowed to bring kids, or you must be under a certain age. Don’t skirt the rules, thinking no one will ever know. Many times, stores have cameras at the registers, and you can get busted that way.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a bonus. I do a lot of my mystery shopping in a relatively small town. There’s one particular company that often approaches me to do a shop in a nearby town that’s even smaller. They don’t have many shoppers there and have trouble filling the void. So when I get offers for that town, I ask for a bonus. Sometimes I’ll get as much as $20 over and above the regular shop fee. So if you notice that a scheduler has trouble filling a shop that’s a few towns away from you, offer to do it for a bonus. Doing this helps absorb the extra gasoline costs and the extra time I must take to do the shop.

6. Enter your data quickly. When you’re done with your shop, usually you will be asked to log into a secure website and enter your observations. Don’t put off doing this – most stores are very eager to get the results of the mystery shop, and delaying it will only irritate them. I aim to enter all my shops within 24 hours.

7. Consider MSPA certification. Sometimes, demand for a particular shop is high, like shops at high-end retail outlets and restaurants. If you want to stand out from the crowd, consider getting certified by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. You can get a Silver certification by paying a small fee pf $15 and taking a quiz (you get study materials beforehand). They also have Gold, which costs $99, but in my experience, most mystery shopping companies don’t care whether you’re Gold or Silver – just that you’re certified. And some don’t care about MSPA certification at all. But some do. Visit for info on how to get certified.

8. Don’t expect to get rich. I would say I make an average of $12 per month from mystery shops, not counting the value of the merchandise I bring home and am reimbursed for. I could probably make more if I lived in a larger metro area.  But I still think it’s a fun moneymaker.

Photo courtesy of Dan4th via a Creative Commons license.