How To Become a Mystery Shopper

Think about what your dream job might entail. Could it perhaps take you to new destinations? What about shopping for free? Fine dining on the company’s tab? If so, you may want to consider becoming a mystery shopper. It’s like being a spy for the companies that you love!

Granted, mystery shopping is often times more about being reimbursed for these activities than making a lot of money, but why not get paid to play if you can? A good mystery shopper can expect to make approximately $100 a month on top of their reimbursements.

Goodies that Mystery Shopping Can Bring You!

Since the pay is nothing to write home about, you’ll be focusing on the awesome freebies which often include:

  • Food (restaurants as well as grocery stores)
  • Car rentals
  • Hotel stays
  • Parking passes
  • Glasses
  • Clothing
  • Movie tickets
  • Theme park admission
  • Books
  • Pet food
  • Casino credit

How to Get Started as a Mystery Shopper

Do an internet search for “mystery shoppers”, and only check out the ones that are free to sign up for. There is absolutely no reason to pay for entry into this world of product sampling! Once you’re affiliated with one (or more for a higher chance of getting jobs) of these websites, you can expect emails detailing current shops in need of fulfillment. There are also message boards available on some websites alerting shoppers to apply.

Mystery shopping companies will have you fill out an application before acceptance. Along with the application, you will be required to submit a writing sample proving that you can write reports while using proper grammar and spelling. You can make the process easier by saving one solid writing sample on your computer to pull from, rather than creating a new sample for each application.

*Check to see if the company you’re signing up with is affiliated with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. You can even become a certified shopper!

Qualities of a Good Mystery Shopper

  • Honest
  • Excellent writing skill
  • Ability to be objective
  • Prompt
  • Patient
  • Quick on feet
  • Detail oriented
  • Organized

What to Expect on the Job

The usual list of things to take note of are wait times, cleanliness, friendliness of staff and employee names. The details will then vary depending on what type of business you’re shopping.

Chatting it up with employees may take some creativity, depending on the questions detailed in the assignment. Have fun with it! Feel free to create a new persona, so long as you keep key facts straight- if you’re asking about baby food options, have an answer ready in case the sales person inquires about the age and weight of your child.

Tools of the Trade

Create a makeshift detective kit for your jobs. Include things such as a pencil and paper, a watch with a second hand for precise timing and a cell phone with camera capabilities. These items can be easily concealed in a small handbag.

You will also need consistent internet access and a vehicle with which to travel to jobs. Public transportation is an option if you take appropriate time management measures. Don’t forget about “costumes”, meaning that some shops may ask you to dress for the occasion. Fine dining locations sometimes require upscale outfits so you’ll fit in seamlessly.


Don’t be discouraged if your initial shops are for low budget clients. The more shops you do, and the better your reports, the higher-end your future shops will be. Companies actually listen to what you have to say. Take your time when typing up a report and avoid the biggest rookie mistake, which is leaving out details. This report is given back to a client so that they can learn from their mistakes or continue making customers happy. They need to know everything about your experience!

Don’t ruin your reputation as a mystery shopper by fabricating details. Companies that hire shoppers have a keen eye and are usually able to weed out the insincere reports. Also, remember that your receipt is tangible proof that you’ve completed the shop within the timeframe that was allotted. Be certain that the timestamp on the receipt matches the time detailed in the report.

Managing Your Shopping Projects

Once the shops start rolling in, you’re going to need to keep track of the assignments. This will come in handy during tax season. Once you earn over $500 with any given company, you will be required to fill out specialized tax forms (see: How to Prepare an Income Statement). Documenting each job as you complete it, including payment and mileage, will save you a headache down the line.

If you’re able to take on multiple shopping jobs at the same time, try to schedule them in way where you can complete several in a single outing. You will feel accomplished while saving time and gas.

Work smart, not hard. This is a side job that you’re sure to love!

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