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How to Be a Mystery Shopper and Earn Extra Income

I write on a variety of subjects. My passion for writing has not changed no matter what career choices I have made or jobs that I’ve held.

Earn an extra income and even some new merchandise too!

Earn an extra income and even some new merchandise too!

A Legitimate Side Hustle

DO NOT believe that every offer to become a mystery shopper (also referred to as a secret shopper) is a scam. It just isn’t true.

In fact, I have personally worked for over a dozen different mystery shopping companies. I’ve earned an extra income, all while having fun.

Based on my positive experiences, I will give you all the details I’ve learned for you to determine if mystery shopping is something that you would like to try, including how to get started and a list of legitimate mystery shopping companies that I have successfully worked with.

What Is Mystery Shopping and How Does It Work?

  1. Businesses Request the Work of a Mystery Shopper Through a Marketing Research Company: Businesses, usually retailers, hire marketing research companies (mystery shopping companies) to contract for a specific job.
  2. Marketing Research Companies Hire Mystery Shoppers: The marketing research company hires workers (mystery shoppers) on a contract basis to pose as a customer.
  3. Mystery Shoppers Work on a Contract Basis for the Marketing Research Company: The mystery shopper is an independent contractor who works for the market research company on a contract basis and is assigned to evaluate specific aspects of the business, especially customer service, regulation compliance, and employee integrity.

Two Types of Mystery Shops

  1. Most mystery shops are UNREVEALED, meaning they are a SECRET.
  2. Some mystery shops are REVEALED, meaning whether or not the assignment begins as a secret, at some point during the shop, the purpose is revealed.
How about an all-expense-paid vacation?

How about an all-expense-paid vacation?

Types of Businesses That Use Mystery Shoppers

A variety of worldwide businesses use mystery shopping, including restaurants, fast-food chains, stores, financial institutions, pizza shops, hotels, manufacturers, gas stations, movie theatres, call centers, travel services, colleges, retirement communities, medical facilities, bowling alleys, apartment complexes, and more.

Assignments can be as basic as making a phone call from home or going through a drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant. They can also be time-consuming (with a much higher pay rate) and require you, for example, to take an all-expense-paid, week-long vacation to evaluate your overall experience.

The Mystery Shopper's Pay

A mystery shopper’s pay varies depending on the specific job. You may receive a free meal at a fancy restaurant, all expenses paid. You may have to purchase an item at a store that you get to keep plus receive an additional fee too. The shop job may have a set pay rate, such as $20, to complete the shop. One of my favorite jobs I’ve done many times is to evaluate a bowling complex. I take a couple of friends with me, and we have a blast for free. Always check out the payment details of the shop job before you apply.

There are a couple of companies that I have worked for that send a paper paycheck in the mail. Most transfer your pay into your PayPal account.

Tips for Becoming a Successful Mystery Shopper

  • It is important to always be professional, give attention to detail, and utilize good organizational skills.
  • Be sure to completely understand the instructions prior to going to the mystery shop.
  • Providing an on-time, accurate, and detailed written report of your experience is critical to your success. This is usually done online and in a questionnaire format, where the mystery shopper thoroughly completes an evaluation. Reports/evaluations usually have a time frame when they must be submitted, usually within 24 hours following completion of the shop.
  • Build a positive reputation with more than one company. Not all companies have jobs available on a regular basis. Gain experience by working for many companies.
  • Make a good, lasting first impression.
  • Communicate! Immediately notify the company if you are unable to complete a shop so they may quickly offer it to other shoppers. Always contact them if your report is going to be late. And definitely let them know ahead of time if you do not understand the instructions for your shop.
  • Mystery Shoppers receive ratings for each job completed. The better your ratings, the more job options will be available to you.
  • Make sure to always keep all receipts. Many companies will not accept your report without the required receipts.
You will need internet access and an email address.

You will need internet access and an email address.

What You Need to Get Started Mystery Shopping

To get started, you must have internet access and an email address. Most mystery shopping jobs require you to visit a specific location, and therefore, you will need reliable transportation. That’s it!

Some jobs require the use of a fax machine, scanner, or digital camera. These things are not necessary to get started, although you might find more jobs available to you with these additional equipment options.

Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA)

Although some people think of Mystery Shopping as a hobby, the MSPA recognizes it as a profession. They offer two certification programs: silver and gold.

After my first year of successfully conducting dozens of mystery shops, I decided to obtain the Silver Certification. Although it is not necessary, having this certification allowed me to apply for additional jobs that were only available to certified mystery shoppers.

Keep in mind—You do not have to acquire any certification to search and apply for assignments in the MSPA database. There are many jobs available that do not require any type of certification.

Click HERE to go to the MSPA website.

Now that you have a better understanding of the mystery shopping industry, it’s time to register with mystery shopping providers. I have personally worked for the mystery shopping companies listed below.

ACE Mystery Shopping

Bare International

Best Mark


Beyond Hello


Quest for Best

Service Performance Group

Shopper’s Critique International

Trend Source

Give Mystery Shopping a Try

Mystery shopping is a great way to earn additional income. It’s also a great way to obtain free goods and try things, like an expensive restaurant or a fancy hotel, which you might not be able to afford otherwise. Have fun!

Important Note: There has been great discussion with questions and answers in the comments section too. If you scan the comment section below, you will find more important information on being a Mystery Shopper. Thanks for stopping by!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 11, 2018:

Hi Satin,

I wouldn't worry about a company being in the Akron area (I'm in Cleveland). Mystery shopping companies can be anywhere as long as they are reputable. Good luck!

Satin Smith on October 08, 2018:

Looking to get into mystery shopping, thank you for the heads up on scams..

Can anyone offer some good & fair paying companies to apply for in the akron/canton area...

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on June 04, 2016:

Thank you so much vulawoffice!!!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 17, 2015:

Hi Kimberly,

The companies I have listed are those that I have personally shopped for so ~ they are legit. It doesn't mean there are not other great companies to work for. But I only felt comfortable sharing those that I have worked for and received my pay. I started mystery shopping about 10 years ago. It really can be a lot of fun. Let me know if you try it. Thanks for stopping by,


Kimberly Vaughn from Midwest on March 16, 2015:

Hi sharynslant,

I was wondering how long you have been mystery shopping? And, do you only shop for the companies you listed?

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 13, 2013:

Hello normbermoy ~ so glad to hear you enjoy Mystery Shopping. It certainly is like no other job out there. Best wishes and may you make tons of money having fun!


norman bermoy from Bremerton, WA on October 13, 2013:

Helloooo Sharyn, thanks for the info it was very informative. I have recently gotten into Mystery Shopping and I love it. I feel like James Bond when I go on my shops. I am still very novice only a month into it so I would appreciate all the tips and tricks of the trade. Thanks.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 12, 2013:

Hi Mo ~ There IS a lot of information here if you ever do wish to try mystery shopping. Please keep in mind that unsolicited emails could possibly be a scam. You are better off trying the companies that I have linked in this article and/or do some research where you go directly to a mystery shopping website and obtain information from them. And just another reminder - legitimate mystery shopping companies will not charge you a fee to join. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing this article too.


Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on February 10, 2013:

Hi Sharon, I've seen a surge of secret shopper e-mails lately. Your tips and suggestions are helpful and the comment thread alone offers quite a bit of insight. This is one of those jobs I've considered and never jumped on it. Now I know who to go to for info.

Useful and shared

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 09, 2013:

Hi kikalina ~ thanks for the compliment. It really depends on what type of jobs you complete. Some are really worth the time and effort. I appreciate you stopping by. Take care,


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 09, 2013:

Hi SRae ~ you are welcome. One of my main reasons for writing this is for people to know there are many legitimate mystery shopping companies out there to work for. Thank you for your feedback.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 07, 2013:

Hi DDE ~ You are welcome! Thank YOU for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 07, 2013:

Hi Penelope ~ So you do not have "mystery shopping" where you live. Interesting. Thanks for your feedback. I do hope that this information does help others not be reluctant to try this out. Take care,


kikalina from Europe on February 07, 2013:

Excellent hub. I did some mystery shopping and overall felt it wasn't worth the money for me

Shelia Wadsworth from Central Pennsylvania on February 07, 2013:

Sharyn, thank you for sharing this information. I've thought about trying this before but was afraid that I would be scammed. Very informative.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 07, 2013:

A well-advised Hub on mystery shopping thanks for a well informed Hub

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on February 07, 2013:

This is very interesting. I'd always wondered how it REALLY worked. It's not something I could do where I live in Europe but it'd be a great way to make a little money and with your useful information I'd be less reluctant to try.

I'm voting for this hub!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 18, 2012:

Hi Tina ~ It's great to hear someone on the other end of mystery shopping. I think some people think that mystery shoppers are looking for negative things, but in general, that is not true. The whole point is to reward great customer service. You should give it a try. Thanks so much for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 18, 2012:

Hi anglnwu ~My opinion is that if you are receiving the email without initially asking for information, chances are, it might be a scam. The legitimate companies I worked for are ones that I searched out. They did not come to me. Once I applied, then I started receiving emails from those companies. And each and every one, I have my own I.D. and password. And I never would be given a job without my knowledge. You are in charge of the jobs you choose to complete. And you never have to complete any job until you sign up for it and it is confirmed. But don't be discouraged by emails that might be a scam. There are plenty of legit companies out their to work for. Thank you so much for your feedback.'


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 17, 2012:

Hi Peter ~ Glad to hear you have tried mystery shopping. It can be a lot of fun and yes, you get paid. Thanks so much for stopping by.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 17, 2012:

Hi CC ~ Thanks for the compliments. I think you should try it. Seriously, especially writers who can type fast, it's a great opportunity because completing the online report would be easy. Thanks for mentioning reading the comments. There really is more information to be found :) I appreciate your feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on November 16, 2012:

Hello Justateacher ~ I agree, Best Mark does have very interesting shops. It is one of my favorite companies that I have worked for. Funny that I just got a hair cut. I have never seen hair cut shops. Thanks so much for your feedback and good luck checking out the other companies.


Tina Truelove on November 15, 2012:

Great Information. I worked for Chick-fil-A while I was in college and served a mystery shopper, though I did not know it until her report was filed. I provided her with a great experience and made "brownie points" with my boss! Since then, I have often thought about doing it. I have bookmarked your hub. Maybe I'll get a chance to sign up and give it a shot. I would be more enthusiastic if I could determine a steady monthly income. :) Thanks for the great information!

Voted up and shared. :)

anglnwu on November 15, 2012:

I remember I once had emails asking if I want to be a mystery shopper. They even give me specific assignments before I gave them my answer. I thought that was a scam. Reading your article sheds some light, thought, I've to wonder if email offers are legitimate. Thanks for sharing your experience .

petertebin from Maryland on November 15, 2012:

Great Hub... I have done some in the past nothing recently. Voted up and you can make a few bucks here and there as well.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on November 15, 2012:

Still thinking about doing this. Great insights and awesome advice again - and this time I read through all the comments and gleaned even more information. Awesome stuff!

LaDena Campbell from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on November 15, 2012:

Sharyn- I have been shopping for Best Mark and they are a gay company to work with.At first I was worried about it being a scam but the only problem I have had with them is trying to stop! They always have interesting favorites are the free dinners and haircuts! I will have to check out some of the other companies you mentioned....great hub! Voted up!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 26, 2012:

Hi Ben ~ I appreciate you stopping by. Please send me a private email to with your email address and I will chat with you there. I am leery of any problems if I was to give the exact information out here online. Thanks!

Ben on August 25, 2012:

Can you give me a hint as to which company shops with Dave and Busters? I signed up for the companies you listed but I don't see any open Dave and Busters opportunities.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 08, 2012:

Hi Kelley ~ although I'm sure there are scams out there, Mystery Shopping in general is a very legit business. That's why I felt it was necessary to give links to all the great companies I have personally worked for. I hope you do try it, it's a lot of fun. Thanks so much for your votes and sharing.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on August 07, 2012:

Hi Cyndi ~ Mystery shopping can really be a lot of fun. For the most part, you are your own boss and can schedule "shop jobs" only when you have the time to complete them. Thanks for your feedback!


kelleyward on August 07, 2012:

I always wondered if this was a scam. I'm glad to hear from your personal experience. I'm going to give it a try because I am definitely a shopper. Voted up, useful, and shared! Kelley

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 07, 2012:

What a valuable resource! I've never looked into mystery shopping but with your expertise, I might entertain this idea as a money-making option. Your tips are sound, your advice is extensive and you have personal experience. This is awesome!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on July 25, 2012:

Hi Monica ~ I'm glad you found this resourceful. Mystery shopping can really be a lot of fun. I hope you try it. Thanks so much for stopping by.


monicamelendez from Salt Lake City on July 25, 2012:

Wow great resources. I have read about this in the past but I haven't talked to anyone who has actually done it!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on April 27, 2012:

Hi Matthew ~ I totally understand becoming more selective. Exactly what you said about the $7-8 jobs that require at least an hour plus travel time plus gas too. If it's convenient to fit them in, maybe, but usually I also feel it's not worth it. I have become way more selective and usually choose the jobs that are something that I would like to do but cannot afford. I never heard of the two companies that you mentioned but prompt reimbursement becomes a factor in what I choose too. Thanks for your feedback!


Matthew Levitt on April 27, 2012:

Thank you. I am a shopper (I haven't worked for them all yet, but I am registered and receive their emails) for all but one of them. Coincidentally, I just happened to sign up with that last one the same time I posted that on your blog.

Selecting only the jobs you want has become more of an issue for me. I continue to become more selective. Some shops that require a half hour visit and a half hour write up and then only pay seven or eight dollars are just not worth it to me. Also, I am paying more attention to the timeframes for reimbursement. Feedback Plus and QAMS are two of my favorite companies for prompt reimbursement.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on April 26, 2012:

Hi Matthew ~ Thanks for stopping by. I understand working mystery shopping jobs "sporadically." That is the beauty of it. You have no responsibilities to take on any jobs that you do not want to complete. You can pick and choose what works for you. Regarding your question, I think it is best instead of giving you the specific company to say that it is definitely one of the companies that I have recommended here in my article. Good luck to you!


Matthew on April 25, 2012:

Hi Sharyn,

I have been doing mystery shopping for several years. I work for about 10-15 different companies (most of them very sporadically), but I have never seen a D&B mystery shop; although I am very interested. Can you give me a hint which company they use? Thanks.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 16, 2012:

Dear D&B Employee ~ While I respect your opinion, I must disagree. But allow me to explain. I actually have done "shop jobs" for Dave & Busters locally. The intent of mystery shopping is NOT to look for the wrong doing but to hopefully reward employees that correctly do their jobs. Never does a secret shopper have control over someone getting fired from their job. If employees are doing their jobs as they should, they would have no problem worrying about if they are being "watched."

I believe you should speak to your superiors about your feelings as you describe here. No one should feel like their jobs is on the line every time they clock in (as you describe). Please understand that many employers do not let the employees know that there will be "secret shoppers." D&B is giving you the respect to let you know ahead of time. Do not worry if and when someone may be a "secret shopper." All customers should be treated the same. Thank you for stopping by - I wish you the best of luck.


D&B Employee on March 16, 2012:

I thoroughly disagree with secret shopper. Dave and Busters is one of these companies that uses secret shopper. These secret shoppers have the power to fire someone just on one 5 minute encounter. This secret police feel makes people hate coming into work, where the employees are always forced to look over their shoulder. This is especially true for Dave and Busters because the atmosphere is supposed to be fun and energetic, however knowing your job is on the line every time you clock in destroys the atmosphere the company wants their employees to convey.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 14, 2012:

Hello LaThing ~ I appreciate your feedback very much because you point out that of course we all need to be aware of scams out there but my intent in this article is to help those interested in mystery shopping avoid the scams and know exactly where to go to get legitimate work. I do hope that you give mystery shopping a try. Good luck.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on March 14, 2012:

Hi Tammy ~ wow, what a wonderful compliment. Thank you so much. I am so glad to know that these ideas have helped others. That is very cool!!!


LaThing from From a World Within, USA on March 13, 2012:

Thanks for sharing this with us. Always wondered about it. As far as the scams are concerned, everything online has to be checked out first..... They are all kinds of scams out there, but this hub gives us an idea where to go if we want to do it, and avoid the scams.

I would love to try it out when I have time :)

Voted up....

Tammy from North Carolina on March 13, 2012:

You have given some of the best work at home tips ever. They have paid off. Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful ideas!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 24, 2012:

Hello alocsin ~ I agree. Having the list of reputable mystery shopping companies that you know for sure are legit will certainly be helpful for many. It's too bad that the scams out there have to make such a bad name for so many things nowadays. Thanks so much for your feedback and votes.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 24, 2012:

Hi Marcy ~ I am thrilled that you liked this. Thank you so much for sharing it too. I hope it helps a few others make some money while having fun.


Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 23, 2012:

Thanks for the advice here but I think the most valuable part of the hub is the list of reputable firms. As you know, lots of scamming going on with mystery shopping. Voting this Up and Useful.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on February 23, 2012:

Fantastic hub! Voted up, useful and shared with a large group of job-seekers I work with. Thanks for the info!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 16, 2012:

Hi Dale ~ You have made some really important points in your comment. One, there are many jobs out there that do not actually require "shopping." Great point. And two, I believe many people think this type of work is more for woman. The truth is that there are many men doing this work. In fact, there are jobs specifically designed for men only to complete. BestMark was one of my favorite companies that I worked for. Thank you for your comments and votes. I hope my list provides you with additional opportunities.


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 16, 2012:

Hello Dee ~ Good thing your "alarms" went off. You should never pay anything to work for a mystery shopping company. You did the right thing. If you are still interested in trying mystery shopping, I definitely recommend the companies I have successfully worked with. And also, if you have not already, read through the comments - especially my responses to barbergirl. There is much more insight there that will give you the confidence to get started. Thanks for your great feedback. Best wishes to you!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 15, 2012:

Perspycacious ~ I respect your comment discussing mystery shopping scams. Of course, it is important that everyone does their homework as you state. However, with my detailed article here, I have already done the homework to assist others in having the best possible experience as a mystery shopper. As I have stated, I personally worked for the companies I listed. None of them are scams. Thank you for your feedback.


Dale Hyde from Tropical Paradise on Planet X on February 14, 2012:

Lots of excellent info and link there in the hub! I will be checking out some of the links as I am already doing this for BestMark, and it is nice to get those checks every couple of weeks in the mail. :) I do most of mine online and phone calls, very little in person shopping. The online and phone calls don't pay very much, but those small amounts do add up and you can do them from the comfort of your home. Voted up, useful and interesting.

Dee aka Nonna on February 14, 2012:

Like so many of the others who left comments, I have thought about doing this more than once. I even checked into a company about a year or so ago, but they asked for money. It just didn't feel right and my little internal alarms when off. As a result, I didn't try them or anyone else.

Thank you for providing so much information---and because you have done this it makes it just that much more credible. You are a wonderful, wonderful gem. Voted up, useful and awesome.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on February 14, 2012:

BEWARE of the scammers (per other hubs including mine) who pretend to be one of the legitimate companies, tell you to take your fee for the assignment from a check they mail you which can be verified as coming from a legitimate account with funds to cover the amount of the check. All good, so far? The check turns out to be counterfeit, the assignment bogus, and (if you completed the assignment the way it was described) someone in Nigeria or Timbuktu just walked into a Western Union office and picked up real money---yours, over which the FBI has no jurisdiction except to tell you how many times a day they get calls from "Mystery Shopper" scams!

I did my homework, didn't get scammed, but it cost me time and $12, rather than making $250 "for a couple of hours work."

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on February 04, 2012:

Hi Audrey,

Yes, I did get a little lengthy in my comments, ha, I just want to help :) I am not really sure what constitutes a "senior" nowadays. I feel like I am some days. But regardless, absolutely, it doesn't matter. Try it, you may find that it is exactly what you needed to have some additional fun. Thanks for your wonderful comment and votes. I hope you have a great weekend!


Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 04, 2012:

What a sweetheart you are! You not only write a first-class very informative hub, but answer every comment in full detail. I'd love to do this and will check out each link you have so graciously provided. One question...are seniors hired?

Thank you Sharyn, my friend. Have a beautiful day/evening. Voted up and more!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 31, 2012:

Hello Rania ~ I am not sure what you are asking. If you are interested in trying Mystery Shopping, check out the links I provided above. Have a great day!

RANIA on January 31, 2012:

Im looking for mystery shopper any one help

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 28, 2012:

Hi Pras,

Thank you for your insightful comment. Yes, there are mystery shopping scams out there and one should always be careful. It's sad, because it really takes away from those companies who are legit and where you can really make some money and have fun too. I'm so glad to hear my article changed your mind. I, too, hope this helps many who have been leery before. Thank you my friend for your comments.


prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on January 28, 2012:

It sound legitimate job. Actually, I heard about for several years ago. But I found many negative opinion about this job, especially for us who pay first to get this job. But my sight about mystery shopper has changed after reading this hub and your personal experience. I believe that you help many people with this hub. Rated up and success for you!

Blessing and hugs, Prasetio

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 27, 2012:

Hi Stephanie,

Mystery shopping can be a lot of fun and you make money too. I have no doubt that others have also been concerned about "what is legitimate?" I'm glad you appreciate the list I've included. Thank you so much for your votes and share!


Stephanie Henkel from USA on January 27, 2012:

This looks like an interesting idea. Like others, I have looked at ads for Mystery Shoppers, but was always concerned that they would not be legitimate. Your article is so useful, and I especially like that you included names of companies that you have personally worked with. Voted up and shared!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 22, 2012:

Hi Brett,

Thanks for your feedback. Of course, there are many ways to make an extra income, but Mystery Shopping is truly one of the fun suggestions. I appreciate you stopping by.


Brett C from Asia on January 22, 2012:

A great 'out of the box' suggestion for earning some extra money,

Thanks for SHARING.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 18, 2012:

OMG, you are K-WAZY B(in a really good kinda way). I LOL'd! Thank YOU!!!!!!!!!!

b. Malin on January 18, 2012:

I had to let you know Sharyn that I just wrote a New Hub entitled, "This One's For You Sharyn"...go check it out...and hope you like it dear friend.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 16, 2012:

LOL Ardie! I would love to hear your two cents! I really bet you would be good at this. I'm sure there are tons of these types of jobs in the Akron area. Go for it and let me know how it goes.


Sondra from Neverland on January 16, 2012:

Okay I am bookmarking this so I can be a mystery shopper! I would love to visit a place of business and give my 2 cents back to someone who could commend a good employee or experience or bring hell down on the overly nasty and rude employee in the filthy store :)

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 14, 2012:

Good morning Maria,

I'm so glad you liked this and bookmarked. It really is a great idea for going out to restaurants, some that could be quite costly, and having a great dinner for free. Thanks for your feed back and votes I hope you have a wonderful weekend too!


Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on January 13, 2012:

Dear Sharon,

I am glad I finally had a chance to check out this detailed, useful guide to a subject that has long intrigued me. I intend to bookmark and keep the possibility open, as I sure love dining out 'here and there'!

Voted UP & UABI-- have a great weekend. Hugs, mar.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 11, 2012:

Hi Julianna,

You are very welcome! Thanks so much for checking this out. Good luck and have fun with it!


Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on January 11, 2012:

Sharyn, Thanks for the information. I have checked out all of them that you provided and found a few that would fit my schedule. There are a few that will pay up-front while others you have to wait for reimbursement, but I believe it should really be a lot of fun. Thanks bunches! :) Thumbs Up! :)

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 09, 2012:

Thanks Stacy,

I agree. Great conversation and insight. I like the bullet idea. I already did add a "blurb" but may add the bullet point idea as well. Thank you for your time and support :)


Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on January 09, 2012:

NO - thank you. I have been looking into this for awhile and I never found any that you didn't have to pay for. To me that is a scam so I always backed away. Yet I knew it was available because when I used to work, they would hire mystery shoppers as well. So this cleared up so many questions! The other option you can do is up in the hub... and a bullet point of topics brought up in the comments. There is such good information down here! I would hate for people to miss it because they didn't have time to read through the comments! :)

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 09, 2012:

Hey Stacy,

Yes, typically you pay first and get reimbursed in to a PayPal account. I had a credit card that I used specifically for mystery shopping. But keep in mind that some shops require that cash be used. It's all part of checking the "integrity" of the business. Either way, always get receipts. When I "shopped" a lot, I created a spreadsheet so I can track everything.

Regarding registering, you have to go through a registration process to get started but again, never pay anything to register. Then you will start to receive emails about job offerings in the area where you live. I have never had a problem taking my name off an email list to stop receiving notifications. They all have an easy link at the bottom of the emails if you are no longer interested. I still get email notices from some that I haven't worked for in years. But whatever type of job it is, they usually tell you that in the subject line. So I like to check out the subject to see if I'm interested. Also, keep in mind that at times, these types of emails go into your spam folder. If you do want to see them, you may have to change that.

Family stuff: I have seen jobs where you can take the family to the zoo or an amusement park. I've seen ones that specifically want you to shop with a child. I did a job once where I had to evaluate a nursing home. It was perfect because at the time, I was going to look at nursing homes for my grandma anyway. So I got paid to do it.

Companies I would recommend you start with: That's difficult because I really think you need to try quite a few. Depending on where you live, some may not have many jobs to offer. Once you get started, you'll see what I mean. You'll want to receive a variety of notices. You are NEVER obligated to do anything until you actually "apply" for a specific shop. If the shop you apply for is "awarded" to you, then it's your responsibility to get it done. Or let them know immediately if something changed and you can't do it.

Service Performance Group is the company I've done the bowling shops for if you are interested in that. The shops are at Brunswick lanes (a chain), not sure if you have those where you live.

If I HAD to recommend a few more, it would be Bare International, BestMark, IntelliShop and TrendSource. These are the ones I've done the most shops for and had the most opportunities. But I have never had problems with any companies that I listed.

Good luck Stacy! Hey, I think I need to add something in the body of the hub that says READ COMMENTS TOO, MUCH MORE INFORMATION DOWN THERE :) Thanks for your questions, I hope the answers will help you and many others.


Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on January 09, 2012:

Very much so... I have always been interested in it and if it means free experiences that I wouldn't have otherwise done... that is even better. We are always trying to look for fun stuff to do with the family so I am good for that. I am assuming though you pay first and then you get reimbursed? Is that correct. So if you don't have much money to start off with you need to work your way up to it. I really think I am going to go for this. I just want to start with a couple... of the companies you listed... which do you think would be the best couple to choose with. I clicked on one and noticed I had to register and if it isn't something I plan on continuing, I don't want a bunch of emails. Thanks for your help. A few extra bucks here and there never hurt anybody and being a stay at home mom, I have the time if I want. When I decide to work out of the house, I might not. Not to mention, it might help spread the dollar a little further! :)

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 09, 2012:

Hey MM,

How are ya? Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm glad you appreciate the tips and information. Please do - let me know how it goes if you do try it. Thanks,


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 09, 2012:

Hi Stacy,

You should back away if a mystery shopping company is asking you for money to sign up. Legitimate ones do not charge a fee.

You ask how much income I've made, well, that is kind of difficult to answer. I started doing this way back in 2007. At that time, I constantly was taking on mystery shopping jobs. Back then, the amount of pay through any one company could not exceed $400 or it would have to be claimed on taxes. I'm sure the amount is different (higher) today. I tried to look it up but couldn't find it (yet). So, I purposely worked for many different companies and avoided going over the $400 limit. That year, I probably made about $3,000 PLUS all the goodies, i.e., dinners, entertainment, etc. And I did not have to pay taxes on it. Over the years I've continued to take on jobs with the same companies (listed above) that interested me. It's hard to say how much I've made. But I will give you some examples:

Many times, I've done shop jobs at Dave & Busters (family entertainment arcade, restaurant, lounge). I take a friend with me, we each have a drink in the lounge and then take a table in the restaurant for dinner. I believe the limit was $80 that we could spend total which was plenty to cover a great dinner and beverages. Then, we also got "free money" to play in the arcade as well. Once I complete the written report, I received an additional $10. So in total, I got about $110 (mostly in free stuff).

I've done many restaurant jobs because I find that it is a great opportunity to go out somewhere nice with a friend and it doesn't cost anything but my time. It depends, some restaurant jobs simply pay for what you spend (with a limit). Some offer an additional pay to complete the job.

I've done simple jobs where you go into a shop (whether it be a donut shop, bagel shop, etc.) and you purchase food and a beverage and evaluate the customer service, store cleanliness, etc. Your food is paid for and then you receive an additional fee for completing the report. But I have found that these simple jobs are not very lucrative because of what you get for the time involved plus your gas expenses. Most jobs do not pay for your gas and travel time. So you have to take this into consideration.

I've mentioned above the bowling shops and also the hotel lounge shops that I've enjoyed.

I realize this is a really long answer to your question. Definitely, someone could make this a full time job scheduling all types of shops throughout the day. It really depends on what you want (and need) and how much time you have to put into it. For me, I of course could use the extra income, but I look at it as a way to do some fun things that I would otherwise not ever be able to afford.

Wow, did this at least kind of answer your question :) Thanks so much for your feedback Stacy. Have a great day!


Movie Master from United Kingdom on January 09, 2012:

This is something I have thought about many times, but didn't where to start!

Great information and advice, thank you for the tips and voted up.

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on January 08, 2012:

I have always wanted to try this but so many times when I have done the research they often want money down so I have backed away. That was going to be my first question and then you had it noted right toward the bottom. I might have to look into this. Overall, how much extra income would you say you have made from mystery shopping?

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 08, 2012:

Hi Lisa,

The cool thing about this is that you can work when you want and only IF you want. Thanks for stopping by!


lisadpreston from Columbus, Ohio on January 08, 2012:

I wanted to do this. I think I'll check into it again. Great hub!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 08, 2012:

Hi Marie-Renee,

Glad to meet you. Spy-ish, lol. I guess you could think of it that way. I think of it like acting "normal" - just a normal shopper/consumer paying (much) closer attention to what you are observing. You just go about the shop very "nonchalant." When you do a restaurant shop, most require that you take at least one other adult with you. In this case, you definitely appear to just be "out to dinner." Thanks so much for stopping by and your great feedback!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 08, 2012:

Hey B,

So glad you stopped by. Thank you so much for your supportive feedback! There's always a lot of "leg work" with something like this because people are reluctant when they hear even one negative story. And researching can get confusing and time consuming. That's why I purposely focused on the fact that there are legitimate mystery shopping companies out there and you can absolutely earn additional income. If you do try it, let me know how it goes. Take care,


Renee on January 08, 2012:

Thanks for sharing this...i have been interested how this mystery shopper goes about doing the jobs...sounds really spy-ish, lol...seriously, really sounds interesting and I guess a lot would love to get paid for something we all love to do - shopping. voted up!

b. Malin on January 08, 2012:

I also wondered how to get started as a "Mystery Shopper" and your Excellent, Detailed, Description and Advice are Wonderful. I'm sure Everyone will be Bookmarking this Hub. You've done a real service here on Hub Pages Sharyn. Great Information, you certainly deserve the Accolades!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 08, 2012:

Hi marellen,

You are very welcome! It's so great to see you. You might enjoy this. Give it a try. Start with a simple job and see if you like it. Good luck!


marellen on January 08, 2012:

Hi Sharyn.....I thought about this but have never approached it. You make it sound effortless and fun. I can use some extra cash.. Maybe I should give this a try. Your hub was very informative. Thanks for all the info.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 08, 2012:

No problem CR, you don't have to be a good bowler, just a good mystery shopper lol!

capricornrising from Wilmington, NC on January 08, 2012:

Now that list looks like fun - except that I'm an abysmal bowler...

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 08, 2012:

Hi Lord ~ Thanks for stopping by and bookmarking too :)

capricornrising ~ Hello and thank you for your great feedback. Keep in mind that it is not all "shopping" - you could do dinners, bowling, vacations, etc.

Martie ~ Absolutely "play as we work"! Thanks for your support and feedback.

Pamela ~ Thank you so much for your feedback.

Have a GREAT SUNDAY everyone!

Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on January 08, 2012:

I would much rather do this than sit on the phone for five minutes answering survey questions to let a store know how they are doing. Great article. I knew this existed but didn't know the details.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on January 08, 2012:

Mystery shopping sounds like one of those play-as-we-work jobs. I would consider this if ever I need to find another job.

Excellent writing, Sharyn. Voted up an inspiring.

capricornrising from Wilmington, NC on January 08, 2012:

Wow - this is great! I absolutely loathe shopping, but I'd certainly do it for extra cash. Terrific hub, Sharyn!

Joseph De Cross from New York on January 07, 2012:

What a wonderful share from MissOlive; We can be mistery shoopers like we are as writers! Bookmarked Sharyn's!


Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 07, 2012:

Hi Dave,

Mystery shopping opportunities are world wide. And might I add that although more shops are done by women, there are plenty out there that specifically want a male to do the shop. Thanks for stopping by - have a great nite.


Dave from United States on January 07, 2012:

Wow, I was unaware that this was so widespread. It's good see that opportunities like this are actually viable, and not just something else on the Internet designed to scam people. Voted up and very useful indeed.

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on January 07, 2012:

Hello PMommy ~ Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. I hope many find the list of legitimate companies to work for helpful. Of course, I'm sure there are many out there that are legitimate as well. Have a great day!

Hi Pooh ~ Thank you for your great feedback. I agree, you can find lots of jobs near a big city. Since I live so close to Cleveland, I get notices for jobs all the time. And true, you could do a breakfast shop, then do a store or two and make plans for a dinner shop as well. For those who might be interested, I've done shop jobs at fancy, expensive restaurants. Total bill would come to over $100 which I could never afford otherwise. So I get to dress up a little, a friend and I have a great meal for free, and it would take me maybe 1-1 1/2 hours to complete the report when I get home. I always take long to complete the reports because I am so "picky" and have to check everything several times. But either way, in this case, it is a really good "pay." Thanks Pooh for your support!

Anamika ~ Bare International is a good company. They are the company that I've done the "lounge" jobs that I mention above to Susan. They are good because they pay for whatever you are purchasing plus give you a salary. Thank you so much for your feedback and giving readers information about Mumbai! Mystery shopping jobs can be found all over the world. Take care!

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on January 07, 2012:

I have done work with Bare International and they are good and regularly give assignments. If anyone is from Mumbai, they can try the Shaw Hotels also. It's really fun to do mystery shopping. The mystery element adds to the thrill. I don't do it anymore as I have too many other things which requires my attention. But I have really enjoyed my experience as a Mystery Shopper. Hub Voted up!