Mystery Shopping

I have been mystery shopping since 2006.  I have been paid to eat out, see movies, grocery shop, go to the zoo, the museum, the circus, take test drives, look at apartments, make phone calls, buy a cell phone, get oil changes and even stay overnight in hotels.  There are legitimate companies that will pay you to shop retail stores and establishments, but as in almost anything these days, there are scammers who will try to steal your money.  I get asked questions about mystery shopping all the time, almost as much, if not more than questions about couponing.  

I will start by saying this:  

Legitimate companies will not ask you to pay a fee to join.

Let me reiterate.  

Legitimate companies will not ask you to pay a fee to join.

Secondly, no legitimate company will send you a check and ask you to cash it.
Ever.  Now a legitimate company will give you an assignment, ask you to pay for your meal, item, or admission, submit a receipt and a report, and then, as long as the instructions were followed precisely, issue payment per the contract usually anywhere from 30 to 90 days.  Each company is different, and some pay twice a month, some pay in 30 days, some in 60, it all depends on the company and the contract.  

A mystery shopper is an independent contractor, meaning you are not an employee, and you will have to pay your own taxes.  Mystery shopping companies will ask for your social security number, because by law, they are required to send you a 1099-MISC if you make over $600 with their company during the year.  If you do not want to give out your social security number, you can obtain and EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS here.  You will need to keep records of your expenses, and your income.  Things like mileage, a printer, ink, paper, internet and a cell phone are all business expenses. 

A few other tips that I can offer are:

   1.  Open a new email account strictly dedicated to mystery shopping.
        Yahoo, GMail, Hotmail, AOL

   2.  Open a Paypal account.
        Most companies pay by Paypal or direct deposit to your bank account.  

   3.  Read and follow all of the instructions you are given.  If you are confused, ask your contact to clarify the instructions. 

   4.  If you cannot complete a shop that you have scheduled, let your scheduler know ASAP, or you will jeopardize your future chances of shopping with that company, or for that scheduler again, as schedulers sometimes work for multiple companies.  Emergencies happen.  Life happens.  I was doing a shop at a grocery store with my then five year old in tow.  She was running up an down the aisle, and I just told her to stop when she tripped over her own feet, hit her face on the cart and poked one of her bottom teeth through her lip.  She got stitches, and I obviously could not complete that shop; I was not very inconspicuous that day with a screaming, bleeding little girl.  My scheduler understood, and appreciated that I let him know that I couldn't get the shop done.  

Below are a few links to help get you started mystery shopping.

Mystery Shopping Mama - A Blog all about mystery shopping

MSPA - Mystery Shopper Provider Association
You can get certified her for a small fee

Volition - The oldest website 

Jobslinger - 

List of Mystery Shopping Companies:

A Closer Look










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