Mystery Shopping: 5 Things You May Not Know

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Ever wonder if you can make a bundle as a mystery shopper? Linsey shares 5 things you need to know about mystery shopping.

Mystery Shopping: 5 Things You May Not Know | Life as Mom

Mystery shopping is one of those part-time, money-making ideas that people are either very enthusiastic about or insist is a scam. I have experience doing mystery shopping (sometimes called “auditing”) for many years, and I can assure you that – when done for the right company – it is a very legit way to earn some extra cash, products, and services.

It always surprises me, however, that mystery shopping continues to be sold as a quick and easy way to make lots of money. In reality, it’s like a lot of other jobs. It takes work!

Here are some of the things I’ve learned over my time as a mystery shopper that everyone should know before they get started:

5 Things You May Not Know About Mystery Shopping

1. It takes money to make money.

Unfortunately, you are getting paid to shop, and shopping takes money. If you don’t have $5 to your name, or driving across town to buy a non-essential fast food meal will put a significant damper in your budget, this gig may not be for you. Mystery shopping companies do not pay you until your shop is complete, so it’s up to you to finance the endeavor until payday.

2. Not all the shops are that glamourous.

Yes, the more experienced shoppers get asked to try hotel stays and even all-inclusive cruises. Because of the number of people who flake out on shop assignments, however, these are never given to newbies. (And you still have to finance that cruise in the beginning!)

Some of the least exciting jobs I’ve done include carpet cleaning or checking to see if a doctor’s office had the correct number of brochures in the waiting room.

3. Pay is meager. Expenses can add up.

The average pay for a shop that may take you an hour (shop time plus filling out the form) may be no more than minimum wage. Some pay even less because you are getting a free value meal out of the deal in addition to your $5-10 fee.

While some shops pay bonuses for those that need done quickly, don’t expect it to replace your day job.

Mystery Shopping: 5 Things You May Not Know | Life as Mom

4. Shop reports are boring.

If you love filling out surveys, you probably won’t mind much, but I really didn’t enjoy the 7-page reports I filled out for one value meal. Everything from the temperature of the patty to the name of the cashier to how clean the bathrooms are will and should be reported.

By the end of a 10-location project in my area, I never wanted to rate another box of fries based on “saltiness” again!

5. Despite the drawbacks, it can be a blessing.

There were times when I really did need to stay overnight in a hotel and a shop was available. Yes, I did have to pay out of pocket, but getting reimbursed 60 days later along with a $20 bill made it a little less painful for my budget.

I liked to perform shops that fit into my daily life naturally, so that they felt less like work and made the extras cost us less in the long run. If you can work mystery shopping into your routine, it can be a valuable hobby that gets you extra cash and pads the family budget.

Have you considered mystery shopping?

There are many legitimate companies that are looking to hire right now. If you are interested in learning more, visit the MSPA-NA website, sign up with legitimate companies at, find the best shops with the JobSlinger job board, or see my tips for earning more money as mystery shopper.

Linsey Knerl - 125Making “small-town rural” cool again, Linsey loves to share personal stories in the entrepreneurial, home education, and frugality space, while doing all the things you would do on a 4-acre homestead. See how she balances her work-at-home life with 6 littles on the house at the FAQ for WAHMS:

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