Mystery Shopping- Is it a scam?

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Let me first say that I LOVE Mystery Shopping!! YES there ARE legit Mystery Shoppers and I’m going to tell you how to not only avoid being SCAMMED but also the companies I’ve personally used and trust! Although we don’t do mystery shopping any more since we’re so busy with my blog, had kids (some shops require only 1 or 2 people to attend but not all) and my husband’s school we did use to do it quite a bit! You’re not going to make tons of money and get rich – but it allowed our family to go out and eat, go to a movie, or go bowling (or other fun activity) when we otherwise couldn’t have afforded it. Let me also add that if you EVER pay to be a mystery shopper or pay to learn how to mystery shop- you have been scammed!!!!

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What is Mystery Shopping?
Simply put, mystery shopping is when you follow directions from a company to shop somewhere without the employees knowing you are there to do a job. If you were to go to a restaurant for a dinner mystery shop, and all the employees heard you talking about how you were getting your meal free because you were doing it as a mystery shop- then you are no long a mystery shopper! Anonymity is the KEY here! Companies want to know how friendly their employees were, if they were doing their job, how customers felt about their service, etc – WITHOUT alerting their employees they are being tested. Usually you will have to remember specific things while you are shopping (the name of your server, if the bathrooms were clean, etc) to fill out a form later AFTER you’ve gone to your shop.

Does it cost anything?
A good reputable mystery shopping company will NEVER ask you to pay any sort of fee. (unless of course you are applying for some super special sort of certification which is mostly unnecessary unless you make hard core mystery shopping your living!) You WILL have to pay for the cost of the restaurant or retail shop that you are at, but you will be reimbursed per companies standards if you correctly complete your shop (and are working with a reputable company of course). I know – this was really nerve wrecking for me when I started out since I was worried about actually getting paid! But the companies I mention below I’ve used multiple times with NO problems with timely payment. Most of my shops are reimbursed the following month on a set date. For example if we went out to eat in February I would be paid in March depending of course on the company that you are working for.

What sort of things can you do as a mystery shopper?
The list is endless!! You can do anything from pretending to buy a house, or a cell phone, eat at a restaurant, order pizza, try to buy alcohol without an ID, go bowling, shop at a craft store- any company can ask any sort of task to mystery shop! Every company is different, and each assignment has very specific rules that must be met. You may need to remember the name of an employee, or check the bathrooms for cleanliness, cut a pizza a certain way and take a picture, or simply go bowling and order food at their expense! When you apply and receive your instructions it will come with a very detailed list of what they want you to do. Note – you MUST be able to follow their directions absolutely perfectly or you will not be paid! 

How can I find out more about these mystery shops and jobs that are open?
I always refer people to They are the largest association of mystery shopping companies. Anyone listed on their site IS legit and reputable. There are many other great companies that are reputable which are not a part of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association)- but that is the best place in my opinion to start.

There is not one company that provides all mystery shopper jobs. MSPA is a collection of many different companies represented, and if you are applying for a job you must apply to that company directly. Here is one company that is my favorite- I do most of my jobs with them:
Sign up here- You must sign up at both- one is the scheduling department:

We’ve done a TON of bowling shops and restaurant shops which were awesome to do!! Our shops paid us back for a bowling game for 2 people w/shoe rental and extra $$ to buy food from the little cafe shop inside!! This makes for GREAT  date nights, or you can even bring your kids (we just had to pay for anyone more than 2 bowling). We’ve gone on some pretty nice restuarant shops too – sometimes with kids, sometimes without. Right now near us there are opps for valet parking and for oil changes! Some shops specifically require kids, some shops specifically say NO kids – it all just depends what the brands are looking for so make sure you READ everything in the job description before applying!

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  1. hippie_mom says:

    I was a skeptic at first too, but I love it now. There is something rewarding in knowing that your customer service experience is going to be remembered (whether good or bad)

    New follower from Surfin' Saturday!

  2. What did you do about the SSN info? I don’t give out my SSN to anyone. Did you do it for this?

    1. Grace in order to be paid by anyone you do have to use your SSN otherwise you can’t be paid so I highly recommend being extremely cautious and doing your research before choosing a company! You would be considered a “contractor” or “self employed”.

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