Frugal IdeasJobs & Money

My Experience Mystery Shopping: Can You Really Make Money As A Mystery Shopper?

Photo of author

By Andrea

I had a friend who did mystery shopping for a living.

Can you really make money as a mystery shopper or secret shopper? Here's what you need to know...

It seems every week she was visiting and “grading” a different place.  She got to check out hotel rooms.  She had free restaurant meals.  She also got to purchase a few cool things and she was reimbursed for them.

Over the years, I have tried mystery shopping a few times. My hope was that I would have the kind of success with mystery shopping as my friend enjoyed.

Here’s how mystery shopping went for me, plus some tips for making money as a mystery shopper…


My First Experience As A Mystery Shopper

My very first mystery shopping assignment was many years ago.  I was asked to apply for a job at a major department store.

I drove a half hour to the store.  I filled out the application according to the mystery shopping instructions (which asked me to downplay my education).

I was called back for a job interview, and I was interviewed.

It actually worked out extremely well, except for my severe discomfort in lying about my experience and interest in the job.

If I remember correctly, I got about $75 for a few hours work.  The only problem with that particular mystery shopping assignment is that such jobs were few and far between, and the company never did have another job in my area.

I moved and lost contact with that company.

My Other Mystery Shopping Experiences

A couple of years ago, I tried mystery shopping again.

There was one job where you had to order a pizza, then you had to cut the pizza according to directions and take pictures from all angles.  You then got to eat the pizza.

You also had to do online training for this assignment and spend about an hour writing a detailed report and sending photos to the company.  In all, this mystery shopping assignment took over 2 hours and the pay was about $10.  Plus, I was reimbursed for the pizza.

It was fair work, but just seemed like too much trouble for me.

Later, the same company sent me to a pizza buffet store to have lunch.  Again, they reimbursed me for my expenses.  Again, I had to fill out a very long survey and report back.  The entire ordeal took about 3 hours.  I was paid $10 plus lunch.  It was definitely not worth it for me.

Other mystery shopping assignments included buying greeting cards, asking for random items at a home depot, and mock shoe shopping.

I always thought the pay was low for the amount of work and reporting they wanted back.  It basically equated to minimum wage or worse.  In addition, you were warned that if you made a single mistake, you would not get paid, so that made it a bit intimidating as well.

I eventually gave up mystery shopping.

Is Mystery Shopping A Scam?

My assessment of mystery shopping is that it is not a scam, in most instances.

While there are mystery shopper companies out there that are not legitimate, there are also many legitimate mystery shopping companies, and you can occasionally get a good job as a mystery shopper.

You cannot, however, count on mystery shopping to support your family, because most mystery shopping assignments pay little more than the opportunity to get something for free.  Mystery shopping is much better seen as a hobby than a job.


My Advice Before You Start Mystery Shopping

These days, there are many mystery shopper websites and online ads for mystery shopping which state that you can make a small fortune doing mystery shopping.  Don’t you believe it!

These ads will also request a small fee for information on how to find mystery shops.  In most cases, they will give you old, invalid, and outdated information.  In the end, they will be the only ones making a small fortune.  So, by all means, resist the urge to pay money for the opportunity to work as a mystery shopper.

Here’s a comprehensive listing of nationally known and reputable mystery shopping companies.

How can you tell if a mystery shopping company is on the up-and-up?… Companies belonging to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association go through an approval process and agree to uphold ethical standards. You can learn which companies are members at the MSPA website.  — Scambusters