I recently came across an expert mystery shopper named Nicole Wiseberg, who writes the blog Nicole’s Nickels. So much about mystery shopping is a mystery so I pounced on the opportunity to de-mystify the job, which is a great way to supplement your income in these troubled times.
How long have you been a mystery shopper?
Since April 2008.
How much money to you make mystery shopping?
Easily $300 a month. That is for about 6 hours of work.
If I want to be a mystery shopper how do I get started?
All at one time sign up for 10 mystery shopping agencies because you never know which ones will have shops in your area. The more you sign up, the more shops are going to come your way. Start small, do a $10 or $15 assignment to start off with. If you don’t follow their directions they’re not going to pay you. So if you’re not a detail-oriented person or follow directions well, mystery shopping may not be for you.
Should I ever pay to become a mystery shopper?
Never pay to join a company. The ones that you pay for are a scam. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association of America lists legitimate companies.
Can you give me an example of a typical assignment?
At a grocery store I had to find where there was an empty thing on the shelf and ask for that product to see how the employee would deal with it. Another time I had to buy a pet toy and see if the employee gave me their pitch for dog food. It is often companies testing their employees. Sometimes competitors test each other. Some places have in-house mystery shoppers.
How long does it take to fill out a mystery shopping survey after visiting a store?
For a pet store, I might get paid $7 for the report and get $5 a reimbursement for buying a product. If I am going to pet store anyway, I ask a few extra questions. The report for the pet store may only take 10 minutes. So I earn $12 for 10 minutes.
What types of shops have you mystery shopped at?
Theme parks, zoos, delis, bakeries, grocery stores, pet stores and restaurants.
What is the payment structure?
There are two ways you get paid. Fees and reimbursements. Some companies just reimburse you. Others pay you a fee for the survey and reimburse you up to a certain amount to buy something. For restaurants I may get reimbursed for up to $150 worth of food. Sometimes they specify what you have to order, like at least one appetizer, two different entrees, and one alcoholic drink. For fast food, they tell you exactly what to order with no substitutions. You are better off tax-wise with just a reimbursement. Payment is income, which is taxed.
How quickly will I get paid if I become a mystery shopper?
Some take 90 days to pay, others send you a check within weeks.
Why do companies ask you for your social security number to join?
It’s for tax purposes. If you earn over $600 in a year, they have to send you a 1099. Some let you give your social security number when you get closer to earning $600.
How do you get the better paying assignments?
They give you one and if you do okay, they give you another. If not, they kick you off the system. A lot of companies want you to earn your way up to higher-paying assignments. Do three really well written reports to establish yourself. They keep an internal ranking of you. They rank you for reliability, precision, and detail.
Why do you like mystery shopping?
I think it’s a great way to earn money. For people who are detail-oriented, when you see something in a store that bothers you, here is your chance to report it to someone who cares. Also, we eat out a lot so if I’m going to eat out I may as well spend an hour on the back end doing a survey and eat free. My frugal mindset is if I’m going to do it I might as well get paid for it.
What are some pitfalls of mystery shopping?
You have to submit a very detailed report about what you did and scan in your receipts and submit it within 12-24 hours after you visit a shop. You want it to be really soon or you will forget.
Do you end up buying more stuff because you are out in the stores more often?
I don’t do a lot of stores. I do a lot of restaurants. That’s my own preference. I pick stores I shop at.
What is your day job?
I am a lawyer.