Have you heard of Mystery Shopping? I'd heard of it but never met anyone who did it, and certainly never tried it. For the sake of the blog, I decided to give mystery shopping a try. I don't like to recommend anything to you without testing it out myself. This was pretty fun!
How it Works
Each company lists their “shops,” and allows sorting by zip code. Some companies let you auto-schedule, meaning you choose the shop you want and do it. Others ask you to click on the shops you'd like, and they email you if you get scheduled. I set a limit for myself of 10 miles, plus I started with stores I would shop anyway. That way, if for any reason I wasn't paid, I wouldn't lose much. I'm lucky that there are a lot of shops in my area, maybe because it's a big city. I'm sure it's different for those who live in other states/areas.
- Look at the list of available shops and choose based on the locations and dates. You receive confirmation of your assigned shop(s).
- Read through the paperwork of questions and observations (for some shops it can be 12 pages!). Since you can't carry the paperwork with you to the shop (I leave mine on the front seat of my car so I can complete it as soon as I get outside), I prepare a few post-it notes with the details I need to look for and include it with my shopping list.
- Go to the store/location. Observe environment, cleanliness, customer service, etc. and each shop usually has specific tasks that you need to follow. With my grocery store shop, for example, I had to purchase an item at the deli. Then I completed the paperwork/notes in my car afterward.
- At home, I would scan in my receipt and report my shop using the company's online form. The same questions from the paperwork are online, and you just click in your answers. You submit the report along with your scanned receipt, and payment usually occurs in the middle of the following month. For the grocery shops, I was reimbursed for the deli item and also paid a fee for doing the shop. Some companies only offer a fee; read the opportunity carefully.
Where to Sign Up
Since there are tons of mystery shopping companies, I did a little research online, lurked in a Mystery Shopping Forum for a while to see what people were saying about some of the companies out there. Not surprisingly, there are pros and cons to each company. In general, I got the sense that some of the big complainers hadn't followed their directions and that's why they were denied payment. I decided to sign up with MarketForce and give it a shot. I did three grocery store shops in January, then waited to see if I got paid in February before reporting back to you. Good news–I was paid! And I was happy enough with the experience that I'm trying it again in February. I also signed up with two more companies to increase the number of available shops this month:
- Interactions (also called Insights)
- Bestmark (this is my referral link, so I will earn a % if you sign up and complete a shop)
If you're good at remembering details and being discreet, I think this is a great way to earn a little extra income. I reduced my “hassle” level by giving myself a limit of miles and type of shop. For example, I avoided the fast food shops for two reasons: 1) they're extremely detailed and you have to time so many different elements (ordering, waiting, cooking, etc.) that I was afraid I'd make too many mistakes; and 2) I don't want to eat all that fast food. Some people actually make a full-time income doing mystery shopping by driving a lot of miles and scheduling 5-8 shops for multiples companies each day. I couldn't do all that! I found it easy to squeeze an extra errand in among other daily activities, and I benefited from choosing the same shop three times in one month; once I knew the paperwork I just repeated the same tasks in three different stores. I was paid/reimbursed $55 for three grocery store trips that I would have made anyway, so I was very pleased with the experience.
Have you ever tried Mystery Shopping? We'd love to hear your experience!
Read the rest of the Make Money Monday series.
Original image from 401Kcalculator.org