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The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started With Mystery Shopping

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Getting paid to shop seems like one of those jobs that’s too good to be true.

But in all reality, there are many opportunities for you to get paid to mystery shop.

The world of mystery shopping can be enticing for people who want to make some extra cash in their free time, however, you must do your research before jumping on board with a mystery shopping company.

There are plenty of mystery shopping sites out there, but only some can be trusted.

In this guide to getting started with mystery shopping, we’re going to explain what mystery shopping is and show you how you can make money in your free time.

We’ll go over the most popular and trustworthy mystery shopping companies and show you how you can get started.

What Is a Mystery Shopper?

A mystery shopper is someone who anonymously shops at a store and provides feedback on their shopping experience.

Mystery shoppers are used by companies to collect shopper data to improve the overall shopper experience.

Mystery shoppers are given a set of tasks they must complete and a list of items they must purchase.

Through completing these tasks and purchasing select items, third-party research companies can advise companies on in-store best practices and ways they can improve their customer experience.

By evaluating your in-store experience, like the location of items, the helpfulness of staff, and the cleanliness of the store, you provide valuable insight for companies.

Plus, you’ll be paid for each one of these anonymous shopping trips you take.

How to Become a Mystery Shopper

Woman searching through rack of clothing
Next up in our guide to getting started with mystery shopping: How to get started.

Becoming a mystery shopper is fairly straight forward — you find a reputable mystery shopping site, sign up, and begin shopping.

The challenging part is filtering through every site out there to make sure you’re not getting yourself into an online scam or shady situation.

Luckily, we’ve gone through and vetted several mystery shopping sites for you.

As long as you stick with one of these companies, you should be safe from any online scams.

In order to have consistent opportunities and an abundance of work, we recommend signing up for as many of these companies as possible.

They’re all free to join and will open up more doors to make money in your free time.

After signing up for one of these services, you’ll be able to browse through opportunities in your area.

Once you’ve found one you like, then the only thing left is to hit the store and complete your shopping assignment to receive payment.

Things to Consider Before Becoming a Mystery Shopper

Before we get into the companies that you can apply to in this guide to getting started with mystery shopping, let’s first go over some considerations you should make before becoming a mystery shopper.

1. You Won’t Make Much Money at First

If you’re looking to make any amount of money right off the bat, then you won’t have trouble finding low-paying opportunities.

The difficult part is working your way up to the higher-paying opportunities.

Priority will be given to the most experienced mystery shoppers, therefore, you’ll have to build up a resume before being able to land the premium paying assignments.

2. You Must Pay Taxes

As a mystery shopper, you’re considered an independent contractor.

This means that if you start making a substantial amount of money, you’ll need to track your income and expenses to be fully prepared for tax season.

3. Your Payment Depends on Your Performance

Just because you completed the assignment doesn’t mean that you’ll be paid in full.

You’ll need to have an eye for detail and give adequate informational answers in order to be paid the full amount for your assignment.

If you try to cut corners and rush through assignments, it will be reflected on your paycheck.

As long as you are thorough, honest, and give valuable feedback, you shouldn’t need to worry about not getting paid.

4. You May Need to Cover Upfront Costs

It’s important to realize that you’ll be required to purchase items on your shopping assignments.

Many of these services will compensate you for your purchases, however, reimbursement may not come for one to three months after.

This means that you should be willing to spend some upfront cash before you are compensated at a later time.

On the other hand, you should be cautious of services that require you to pay a fee.

5. Avoid Mystery Shopping Scams

Paying for items that you purchased in store is one thing, but paying an upfront fee is something that should be avoided.

Legitimate mystery shopping companies will never ask you to pay a fee, pay for anything in advance, or wire money.

These are all clear signs that you’re dealing with an online scam.

As long as you stick to the companies we mention below, you’ll be in the clear.

Some signs you can look for to check if a company is credible are Better Business Bureau certifications or membership to organizations like the MSPA.

Reputable Mystery Shopping Companies

Now that you have an idea of what mystery shopping is all about, let’s shift gears in this guide to getting started with mystery shopping and look at some of the most reputable companies we’ve encountered.

You should be able to find plenty of mystery shopper jobs through one of these trusted sites.

Secret Shopper

Secret Shopper is one of the most reputable mystery shopping services out there.

This service gives you three different opportunities to complete mystery shopping assignments — online, on-site, or over the phone.

Through these three lanes, you can get paid to evaluate a range of industries including banking, automotive, healthcare, dining, hotels, and casinos.

Depending on your assignment, you can expect to evaluate websites and mobile apps, complete in-person shopping assignments, and perform recorded telephone audits of customer service call centers.

Based on popularity and reputation alone, Secret Shopper should be seriously considered when deciding which platforms to sign up for.

Apply here: https://www.secretshopper.com

Perception Strategies

Perception Strategies is a healthcare mystery shopping company that focuses on improving the patient experience for healthcare companies.

Since the main focus is on healthcare companies, the “shopping” experience is that of a patient rather than a customer.

Some types of mystery shopping tasks you can get paid to do range from placing phone calls to customer service numbers to scheduling a scripted in-person appointment at a hospital or doctor’s office.

With your feedback, healthcare companies can reduce patient pain points, gather competitive intelligence, and optimize the overall patient experience.

Companies also get an overall view of how patients perceive their brand.

Apply here: http://www.perstrat.com/shopper-app

Sinclair Customer Metrics

Sinclair Customer Metrics is a customer research company that provides brands with mystery shopping data.

Sinclair performs research for a range of companies and doesn’t focus on one specific industry.

With Sinclair, there are multiple opportunities for you to get paid to shop.

One is by performing mystery shopping trips at a company’s store.

You can also do competitive research by shopping at a brand’s competitors.

Some of these trips may even be monitored on a hidden camera that will be provided to you.

You can also place mystery phone calls instead of shopping in person.

This is even more convenient as you can place a call from home and get paid without ever needing to leave the house.

Apply here: https://www.ssanet.com/NewShoppers

Quest for Best

Quest for Best is another mystery shopping service that works in a broad range of industries.

The only thing you need is a way to get to your shopping assignments, a stopwatch, and any additional equipment that’s required depending on the assignment.

After taking a quick look, we found plenty of current opportunities that span fast food restaurants to grocery stores to movie theaters.

Getting paid to go out to dinner and a movie doesn’t sound half bad in our opinion.

In order to sign up, you’ll need to create your profile at the link below.

You’ll then be notified once available opportunities become available.

Apply here: http://shopper.questforbest.com

Pinnacle Financial Strategies

Pinnacle Financial Strategies gives you the opportunity to make money by visiting your local community banks and credit unions.

Pinnacle offers both in-person and work-from-home shopping opportunities.

Some examples of in-person shopping opportunities include visiting local branches to evaluate the service, opening up a bank account with a teller, and visiting competitor’s branches.

In some cases, your shopping experience may even be recorded on video.

You can also complete shopping assignments from home over the phone or online.

For example, you can call up customer service numbers, chat over an online messaging app, or email companies as part of your mystery shopping assignment.

Apply here: https://www.sassieshop.com

Additional Mystery Shopping Services

Beyond the mystery shopping companies mentioned above, the following mystery shopping sites are also reputable options that will enable you to make money in your free time.

Like the rest of the services we covered in detail above, all of these services are legitimate companies that can be trusted.

As we mentioned before, your best bet is to sign up for multiple services to increase the number of available shops.

Find Your Mystery Shopping Job

We hope this guide to getting started with mystery shopping has cleared up some of the confusion surrounding this unique job.

Mystery shopping is a fun and interactive way to make extra money in your free time.

While mystery shopping shouldn’t be considered a full-time job, you can still pick up assignments that pay you whenever you have time to spare.

In addition to mystery shopping, you can also pursue other market research opportunities like product testing and focus groups.

Both of these opportunities can go hand-in-hand with the secret shopping gigs we’ve covered.

Give some of these services a shot and let us know how your experience went.

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