Mystery Shopper Jobs: Deciphering the Mystery

Legit Mystery Shopper JobsUnemployment rates have been in the 9 to 10% range for months.

With thousands of Americans still claiming unemployment every week there are many people coming to the end of their ropes. Unemployment is running out, the rent is due, and they’ll do just about anything to make ends meet.

That’s when the offer comes in. A new gig that can help you make extra money that you can do on your own time whenever you want. It’s time to go looking for mystery shopper jobs.

What Does a Mystery Shopper Do?

Mystery shopping is one of those things most of us have heard about, but probably don’t fully understand. It’s pretty simple. To test our their customers’ experience in their stores companies will hire individuals to come in and test out the retail environment.

These people, mystery shoppers, get paid to go to the store and act like a customer.

The employees at the store don’t know mystery shoppers are coming, and have no way to identify them once they are in the store. It’s kind of like being paid to be a shopping spy.

The mystery shoppers may have been given money ahead of time to purchase certain items, or they might have a budget where they can spend a certain amount of money and get reimbursed the cost of those purchases.

While browsing through the aisles the mystery shopper is taking mental notes on the friendliness or customer service of the staff, the cleanliness of the store, and how easy the checkout process is. They may have an item shipped to them to return to judge the return process for the firm.

It sounds like a dream job. You’re getting paid to shop. It must be great! …but all is not well in this industry.

Mystery Shopper Jobs Scams

There is a large appeal to mystery shopper jobs. Again, getting paid to shop? Who wouldn’t want to do that? But as with any business there are bound to be scams. The three most common scams are:

  • Mystery shopping companies that require you to pay to complete an application.
  • Companies that promise to make you thousands of dollars as a mystery shopper.
  • Companies that send you a cashier’s check, an application, and other paperwork. You’re told to deposit the cashier’s check (for several thousand dollars) and wire most of the money to an account. You wire the money, the check bounces, and you’re left liable for the amount you wired.

You should never pay to complete an application in any industry. That’s just asking to never see that money again.

While it is true that you could eventually earn thousands of dollars in mystery shopping, this most likely isn’t going to be a full-time job. There simply isn’t enough work. Even if there was enough work you usually won’t make enough money to be able to support yourself by just working full-time as a mystery shopper.

Find Legitimate Mystery Shopper Jobs

So you’re not scared? Still interested in pursuing this part-time opportunity? Fair enough. The first two places you should look are an excellent FTC website on mystery shopping. The FTC does a really nice job of explaining the scams and facts behind mystery shopper jobs.

The second resource is actually one the FTC links to. It’s the website of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. The MSPA is the place to go to find legit companies offering legit mystery shopper jobs.

How Much Money Will I Make as a Mystery Shopper?

You can definitely make money as a mystery shopper. Unfortunately it is highly unlikely you’ll make a ton of money. It’s even less likely you’ll be able to consistently earn enough money to work full-time as a mystery shopper.

In fact you may not find many mystery shopping assignments that pay more than $10 or $20 to do a full report on your experience. (Maybe it is more clear why it is nearly impossible to work full time!)

The real benefit most mystery shoppers find is all the free services they receive at no charge. Why? Because it isn’t just retail stores that need mystery shopping. Your bank gets mystery shopped. Your oil change shop gets mystery shopped. The local copy and print store gets mystery shopped.

So if you use those services you may end up getting free service from one of those companies. That’s the real benefit at the end of the day.

Kevin Mulligan is developing a freelance writing career focused on personal finance.

Photo by Jinx!

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Last Edited: July 21, 2014 @ 10:41 pm