Can I really make money as a mystery shopper?
Dave, I get e-mails about sites promising to get me mystery shopper jobs if I pay them a fee. I love the idea of getting paid to shop, but I don't want to get scammed. Is mystery shopping for real, and should I pay to join one of these sites?
According to Cathy Stucker, author of the quite interesting Mystery Shopper's Manual, mystery shopping is a legitimate way to earn extra income. But you do not have to pay anyone to apply for mystery shopper jobs.
Mystery shoppers are "undercover customers." They are sent to stores, restaurants, banks and many other kinds of businesses to report on the customer experience. Businesses use this information to identify training needs, reward good employees, and even to determine raises and bonuses. As a mystery shopper, you typically work for mystery shopping companies that have been hired by businesses to evaluate their service.
Mystery shopping companies do not charge you to apply. Some people are willing to pay for sites that list available assignments, but you can get free mystery shopper job information directly from the mystery shopping companies that will hire you. The assignments you see listed on the pay sites are often the shops that companies couldn't fill with the shoppers already in their data bases, so they may be low-paying or in remote areas. That means that the job information you get from the mystery shopping companies for free is often better than what you get when you pay a site claiming they will get you mystery shopper jobs.
The best way to get mystery shopper jobs is to apply to several mystery shopping companies. Make your applications complete and professional. For example, DO NOT USE ALL CAPS. You will start getting notices of available assignments. Apply to as many companies as possible to get more opportunities. There is a quick start plan and a list of more than 100 legitimate, free mystery shopping sites in The Mystery Shopper's Manual.
Mystery shopping is not a full-time job for most shoppers. Many people rely on mystery shopping to provide extra income to supplement a salary or retirement income. The most desirable (and highest-paying) assignments go to shoppers who can be counted on to do their shops on time, completely and correctly. Although your first assignments may be for fast food restaurants or similar establishments, when you do a good job you become eligible for more and better mystery shops.
Thanks for debunking some of the mystery shopping scams out there, Cathy, and I do have to say that her book is a really good - and surprisingly inexpensive - resource for people interested in learning more about this space...
Additional resources for people interested in mystery shopping:
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